So you’ve been keeping rabbits for a while and everything’s going really well. You’re animals are glowing with health and you’re confident about handling them and taking care of their daily needs, and you feel the time is right to take it to the next level.Showing rabbits is a great way to meet like-minded people and learn more about these beautiful animals, plus you can learn lots of useful tips from other people in ‘the fancy’, as it’s known. If you’re considering showing rabbits there are a few things you need to know and a few things you need to do before you can take your animals to shows and start brining home the rosettes. As long as your pet is introduced to showing gradually the he’ll become very comfortable with the whole process and may even enjoy himself!
Anyone who wants to show a rabbit officially must be a member of the British Rabbit Council (BRC). Any rabbit you are planning on showing must be registered and display a ring on its leg bearing the owner’s name. This ring will either have come with the animal if it was bred to be a show rabbit and the breeder will have transferred ownership to you, or you can register it with the BRC yourself if it hasn’t already been registered. If you are buying a rabbit especially for showing it’s important that you find a breeder that can provide you with a suitable animal.A list of shows can be found in ‘Fur and Feather’, the official magazine of the BRC, and many have ‘pet’ sections which are aimed at beginners. Entrants to the ‘pet’ sections do not have to be registered with the BRC so these classes are a great way of enjoying showing without registering with the BRC. They will give you the chance to experience a show, without registering and without the pressure!
Once you’ve had a good look at the show schedules either in Fur and Feather or online on the British Rabbit Council website, you must make sure you get your entry in on time. This is usually around one week before the show. Many organisers accept telephone entries but some insist on postal entries, so allowances must be made to get your entry in on time. The pet sections can be entered by anyone and are usually divided into classes such as ‘Boy’s Pet’ or ‘Girl’s Pet’. Animals are usually judged on temperament, cleanliness, condition and health. Once you’ve registered with the BRC however, you are free to enter the main shows and will have the thrill of watching your rabbits get judged by very experienced fanciers and perhaps even winning a section.There will usually be classes for breeds, ages and genders and each class is divided into four sections – Lop, Rex, Fur and Fancy and different judges will oversee different sections. Many shows will also feature a junior section, for fanciers under 16, however young fanciers must still be registered with the BRC. Generally speaking, the junior sections have fewer entrants which mean younger entrants have a greater chance of winning, which will hopefully encourage them to keep on showing. Many junior classes offer a large trophy or an attractive prize and junior fanciers can also take their rabbits into the mains shows if they wish.
When they arrive at a show all rabbits should be scrupulously clean, well groomed and their nails should be short and neat. Grooming involves removing any mats or knots in the fur, and in long-haired varieties grooming could start up to a week before the show. All of the animal must be thoroughly brushed, including the hard-to-reach areas such as the inside legs, under the chin and around the backside.Any staining or dirt should be removed with unscented or baby shampoo – anything else could produce an allergic reaction as rabbits have very sensitive skin. An allergic reaction could cause bald patches or sores – not what you need when you’re planning on showing your rabbit!Rabbits can be transported in a cat box or a special wooden showing box. This should be lined with clean bedding and a water bottle should also be provided, as should food. Your rabbit could be at the show for a long time and will need both food and water. You should also take your grooming equipment with you as he’s bound to get some bedding in his fur while travelling. You might also like to wear a white laboratory coat. Many fanciers wear these at shows to protect their clothes from rabbit droppings and urine as well as any nibbling.
You should arrive at the show about thirty minutes before judging starts. Take your rabbit out of the box, groom it for the last time and find the correct pen for it. Booking in forms are normally left near the entrance of the show – find the one with your details on it and it will have the correct pen number. Once your rabbit has been penned, fill in the booking-in form with your animal’s ring numbers, hand the form in to the secretary and pay your entry fees.Once judging has started stewards will collect individual rabbits from the pens and hold them on special judging tables for the judges to view. The stewards will hold on to the rabbits until the judging is completed, when they will return all of the animals to their pens. It’s very exciting watching your rabbit being judged but it’s wise to stay quiet and certainly don’t let the judges know which one is yours.A ‘book steward’ will be given the results and will post results cards on the pens of winning animals. This helps entrants keep track of successful animals and to see if they’ve won anything themselves. Once the judging of all sections and classes has finished, the judges will get together to choose a ‘Best in Show’ animal and present trophies to all winners. If you have received any prize cards now’s the time to take them to the show secretary to collect your prize money!