Showing Rabbits: What the Judge is Evaluating
Once your rabbit is on the show table, and it’s their turn to be judged, it can be very difficult to tell what the judge is evaluating if you haven’t read up on the subject. Some judges will walk you through every single thing they’re evaluating, and others will only say one or two things of substance. It really just depends upon the judge.
Disqualifications are the first thing the judge will begin evaluating. There is a fairly exhaustive list below of things for which they are watching.
If the rabbit looks close to being under or overweight for the breed, the judges will weigh the rabbit. Minimum and maximum weights vary greatly by breed, so it is important to track each of your rabbits’ weights at home in a notebook and to weigh them before bringing them to the show. If they are under or over weight, many judges will still offer comments about the rabbit so that you’ll know how your rabbit will do on the show table within the proper weight range.
Judges will also use various sorting methods to keep track of rabbits that they like. Some will place them in a different cage, and others will place coins or chips in front of rabbits. I still haven’t figured out exactly what each judge does to sort them because it seems like everyone does it a little bit differently.
So, what are they looking for as far as disqualifications and faults go?
They are evaluating for the American Rabbit Breeders’ Association (ARBA) General Faults and Disqualifications.
General Fault or Disqualification: A condition which eliminates the animal from further competition
Fault: A condition which would lower or subtract total points from your rabbits score
General Faults for All Breeds include:
- Rabbits in molt
- Hutch stains
- Abnormal tail carriage
- Bad ear carriage
- Poor eye color
- Excessively fat or flabby condition
- Poor flesh condition
- Stray white hairs in a colored coat, usually considered excessive if three or more are present in a group cluster
- Any sign of sickness or disease such as tumors, hernias, infected cuts, discharges or smells from the eyes, nose, ears, and genitals
- Missing body parts, including missing testicles in males or a split penis, missing toenails or finger nails, missing toes or fingers, or any other missing body parts
- Overweight or underweight for the breed based upon the ARBA Standard of Perfection
- Unacceptable colors such as wrong eye colors, too many white hairs in a colored rabbit, toenails that are the wrong color in certain colored rabbits, color where white should be or white where color should be. They’re also looking for smut colors, colors that aren’t pure colors, and wrong colors on the underside of the belly, legs, and tail.
- Tan patterns and smut colors are not allowed on Himalayans, Californians, or Pointed Whites
- Tattoos that are absent, in the wrong ear, or that don’t match the entry, or that are too blurry to read
- Wrong breed or not a pure breed of the breed being judged
- Wrong age rabbit for the class being judged (for example, a senior entered in a junior class)
- Wrong sex (entered as a doe when it is a buck)
- Wrong color for the breed
- Deformed legs, legs that are too fat or too thin, feet that are crooked and/or bent (crooked legs are called “cow hocked”)
- Poor ear carriage such as lops that have helicoptor ears that won’t lie down or ears that won’t stick up erect on top of the head (you’ll see this in some of my Rex babies if they’re born in the summer because the heat makes their ears grow faster than the cartilage can develop so one ear might hang down until they get older, but eventually the ears will both stick up)
- Malocclusions, which has to do with the way the teeth are formed in the bite. You want the top teeth to lie over the bottom teeth. If the bottom teeth overlap the top teeth, your rabbit has a malocclusion. This is a genetic disorder, and these rabbits should not be bred.
- Eyes that have spots in them or don’t match, or that have whites showing in the eyes
- Sore hocks that are bloody
- Rabbits that are in very poor condition, including sore hocks, matted fur, underweight due to nutrition rather than age, or hutch stains that cover the whole body
- Tails that are missing or cork screwed (twisting to the side instead of standing straight up)
- Bad table manners such as biting the judge or refusing to pose
- Blindness or clouded cornea, which can sometimes be seen due to a blue or whitish tinge to the eye
- Dewlaps in breeds that do not allow them at all
- Torn ears, which can happen from mom or litter mates chewing on them when they are babies or getting them caught on something in the cage
- Pest infestations such as fleas, ticks, ear mites, or lice
- Poor flesh condition such as looking flabby (this could be due to a doe that has been bred, lack of exercise, or too much food.
- Poor coat condition such as molting or bald spots, coat discoloration, or uneven hairs or color in the coat
- Poor color or markings such as solids that are not dark and deep enough in color (suggesting fading); or in breeds like Dutch that have distinct markings, the lack of distinct lines between colors or that might have poor color in them
- Ear cankers, clobbers, pot belly, abcesses, vent disease, scurvy, mange, scales on the skin or base of fur
- Pigeon breasted
- Testicles that are hanging improperly – juniors must have either both or neither showing and seniors must show two normally descended testicles
- Any exhibitor with a foreign substance on the rabbit’s fur or caught dying, plucking, trimming, or clipping the fur of an animal will result in the disqualification of the exhibitors entire entry from the show under ARBA rules. Foreign substances are covered in my other article, Rabbit Grooming Basics.
- A rabbit that deviates from the breeds’ Standard of Perfection so drastically that it is not representative of the breed (a mutt or one with too many DQ’s).
While there may be some initial instant disqualifications, usually you will not see any DQ’s until the judge is judging your rabbit. Initially, he/she is just looking to remove any rabbits that will definitely not place. You will need to remove your rabbit from the table immediately if it is DQ’d.
Of the remaining rabbits, the judge will start out by calling out the rabbit’s ear number. Because you do not want to influence the judge’s comments of the rabbit, it is important that you not indicate ownership of the rabbit. You can move forward and write down comments, however.
Comment or Remark Cards
At most of the shows that I’ve attended, a comment card is completed for you, but the comments are very, very sparse and based upon how quickly the clerk can record what the judge says.
I like to take a clipboard or notebook to record the comments myself.
At most shows, this is the comment or remark card that will be used. Before the show begins, you’ll be given these for each of your rabbits and asked to complete as much of the information in the top as possible for each one.
What You Need to Fill In:
- Ear No. – Your rabbit’s tattoo number
- Exhibitor – Your name
- Show – A, B, or C show
- Variety – Solid/Broken and Color
- Sex – Circle Buck or Doe
- Age – Circle Senior, 6-8 months, Junior, Pre-Jr
- Fryer/Meat Pen/Fur – These are different shows that are sometimes offered and are judged immediately following the initial judging for the breed.
Leave everything else blank, and the clerk will fill it in as the judge makes their comments.
Number In Class/Number of Exhibitors – Most clerks will fill this in for you. This is an important number if you are trying to get a “leg” for your rabbit because if there aren’t enough colors in your variety and aren’t enough exhibitors/rabbits entered, you don’t have enough to compete for a “leg”.
Recording Comments – The clerk will fill out the comments for you, but they will only check the box of very good, good, fair, and poor. Anything else you want recorded as far as their comments go will be up to you to write down.
You want to write down anything the judge says about why he/she likes this particular rabbit so much. They will always say things like “I really like this rabbit’s XYZ” or whatever. Those are the things you really want to write down because you know your rabbit has done a good job when you hear something like that.
Recording Awards – The clerk will work with the judge to fill out the awards that are awarded.
Multiple Copies – Once the judge is done with their comments, the carbon copy will be placed over the top of the cage of your rabbit. The original will be kept with the show clerk.
When to Take Your Rabbit Off The Table
You can remove your rabbit and get your comment card when the judge has finished making comments. If you’re unsure what to do, just watch the other exhibitors around you, or ask them if it is okay to remove your rabbit.
Since the judge is still evaluating rabbits for awards, it can be confusing if a rabbit that has been placed already is still on the show table.
Make sure you check the ear number of the rabbit you’re removing to make sure that it is YOUR rabbit. Breeders can sometimes make a mistake and remove the wrong rabbit.
Next, the judge will place the remainder of the class of rabbits in the same manner. Once the top five rabbits are left, national breed club sweepstakes points are awarded, based on their placement and number of rabbits shown. The first place rabbit is generally left on the table for further competition with the rest of the class.
Once the Best of Breed is awarded, the judging for your rabbit’s breed is complete, and they will move onto judging for the next breed of rabbit.