Owning rabbits as pets is a lot of fun, but if you want to really get to know more about the breed you own and learn more about breeding high quality rabbits, you should consider showing rabbits. You’ll get to know lots of other rabbit lovers while learning more about the breed of rabbit you own. And, as a bonus, you may see other rabbit breeds at rabbit shows you never knew about, and that may end up meeting a new breed that you want to bring home. Showing rabbits will also help you learn about what the American Rabbit Breeders’ Association calls the written Standard of Perfection, which helps you understand what great, purebred rabbits should look like.
Showing rabbits is a lot of fun because you get to know other rabbit owners. I’ve learned a lot from the shows we’ve attended, and I’ve gotten to know some new life long acquaintances who have been more than willing to help me become a better rabbit breeder. It’s also a lot of fun to compete against other rabbits to see how yours measures up to others.
You can join a local 4-H club or look up other rabbit clubs in your area either by visiting the American Rabbit Breeders’ Association website or by finding them in FaceBook groups.
In the Oklahoma area, there are a lot of FaceBook groups dedicated just to rabbit breeders in our area and the surrounding states. And, you can find some of these groups that are dedicated just to your breed of rabbit. The easiest way to find them is to type in your rabbit’s breed followed by the name of your state. And, just see what pops up and ask to join the group.
You can also type in ‘rabbit shows’ plus your state name, and this will bring up FaceBook groups that will very likely have show flyers posted in their News Feeds. This is the main way that I hear about upcoming rabbit shows in my area.
In order to enter a rabbit show, your rabbit must have been purchased from a breeder of purebred stock, and it must have a pedigree going back 4 generations.
What are Rabbit Shows?
In the United States the American Rabbit Breeder’s Association (ARBA) is the leading authority on rabbit showing. You will find multiple ARBA sanctioned shows all over the US, but those aren’t the only kind of rabbit shows you can attend.
There are also many non-sanctioned rabbit shows out there for you to enter that follow very similar procedures to enter your rabbit.
Many rabbit shows charge an exhibition fee to exhibitors who want to show their rabbits. Some of these shows have awards ranging from cash awards, to coupons, ribbons, medals, trophies, plaques, etc.
You will find that the locations of rabbit shows are varied, from fairgrounds to small agricultural barns or even places like retail centers.
Rabbit shows will often break their shows up into two showings based on the age of the exhibitors, such as youth and open (which can include both youth and adult). And, most shows will break it out even further within each age group by rabbit breed.
Local rabbit shows are much smaller than the regional and national competitions. Local rabbit shows might have a total of 200 rabbits entered whereas a regional or national show might have thousands of rabbits entered.
Local Shows “Carrier Shows”
These are the shows that my kids and I tend to attend the most. They’re only a day to a day and a half long at most. And, you can bring your rabbits the day of the show.
You keep your rabbits in their own carriers for the duration of the show, and you only remove them from their carrier when your breed is called up at the judges table. You then place each rabbit in a judging coop located on the judging table. The coop opens from two sides of the table. You place your rabbit in through one door, and the judge removes it for judging from the other side of the table using the other door.
The rabbit is judged in comparison to its breeds standard of perfection, any DQ’s are noted, comments are made by the judge (so listen closely as they state these aloud) about the rabbit and written down in a sort of shorthand, and they are scored. They are then placed back in their coop, and the next rabbit is judged and so on until all rabbits of that breed have been judged.
If you have a lot of different colors (called “varieties”) within the breed, the judge may move the rabbits around first to group all of the different varieties together for easier comparison.
Awards are then made first for each variety. The winner of each variety is placed in another group of coops and they are compared together to determine the best of breed.
National and Special Shows “Cooped Shows”
We have not attended any national shows yet as our schedule has just not allowed us to make the ones that have been near our area. These shows last longer than local shows, some up to a week.
At these rabbit shows, rabbits are placed in coops, or holding cages. One of my issues with these shows is that since the rabbits must be left in holding cages, I don’t have as much control over people touching my rabbits.
People can be very rude at shows like this if they are held in places like fairgrounds where there are other fair-related activities taking place. They will bring their kids with them, and the kids are sometimes very bad about poking at the rabbits or grabbing their fur, or even opening up the cage doors and sticking their hands in the cages.
Rabbit shows are very stressful for your rabbits, so I haven’t attended these larger shows mainly because I’ve been concerned about how well my rabbits might handle them, and to what diseases or illnesses they might get exposed during the trip since there are so many more rabbits there.
Hobby versus Profit
Let me just clarify that the showing rabbits by itself is not going to make you much, if any money, by the time you consider all of your travel-related expenses for them.
BUT, if you also breed and sell rabbits, it is to your benefit to show rabbits, because rabbits who win awards sell for more money and so do their babies.
What is the Standard of Perfection?
The Standard of Perfection is a list of characteristics that describe for each breed what makes a perfect rabbit. Rabbit breeders use these guidelines to select rabbits from each line of their stock that will be bred again to continue to refine their stock to conform to the Standard of Perfection.
Other rabbits that do not help move their stock closer to this Standard of Perfection are sold to other breeders who might see a trait in one of your rabbits that will help them move their own line closer to the Standard of Perfection as well.
How can this be? Well, for example, if you have a rabbit that is too small in weight for the Standard of Perfection, but have another breeder that is almost too large in weight but has some really great traits you want him/her to pass along, you could breed these two together to get closer to the weight range you need. Or, a rabbit in your stock my have shoulders that are too short, but someone else might be able to breed that rabbit into their stock where they might be struggling with having rabbits whose shoulders are too long.
The closer a rabbit gets to matching the Standard of Perfection, the higher their rabbits will score on the show table and the more awards they will win.
You can buy a Standard of Perfection guide on ARBA’s site. It is published every 5 years and costs $10.