Showing Rabbits

Feb 5 22:00 2004 Sarah Giers Print This Article

So, you have either decided to raise rabbits or are ... it? That's ... Rabbits are special ... that will steal your heart in an instant, and nothing is more ... than seeing

So,Guest Posting you have either decided to raise rabbits or are considering it? That's wonderful! Rabbits are special creatures that will steal your heart in an instant, and nothing is more satisfying than seeing your hard work as a breeder who is trying to improve the breed pay off when a home bred bunny wins a prize at a show. However, getting to that step requires some effort.


Before you get started, you obviously have to decide what breed of rabbit you wish to raise or show. Each breed of rabbit is a wonderful breed, and each has its good and bad points. Before choosing a breed, make a list of what you can realistically have and what you need. If you don't have much space, it might be best to get a smaller breed. If you want to use your rabbits for dual purpose showing and meat or fur, get a commercial breed such as New Zealand, Satin, Rex, or Californian. Ask yourself the following questions:

1. How much space do I have to keep rabbits?
2. Do I just want to show, or do I want to use rabbits for meat and/or fur as well?
3. How will I get rid of my culls (the rabbits that you can't keep)? Will I sell them, give them away, use them for meat/fur?
4. How much of a challenge do I want? [Some breeds, such as marked breeds, are far more challenging than others].
5. Do I want a lot of competition or do I want a rarer breed?
6. Do I want a laid back breed or a more energetic breed?
7. Do I want a breed that produces a small amount of babies per litter or a large amount?
8. Do I have time to spend on a lot of grooming or extra care?
9. What do I like?
10. Anything else you can think of.

One you've answered those questions, start researching breeds. Go to a local show [show dates and locations can be found by going to], and ask breeders about their breed. Watch the judging of breeds that you are interested in. Make sure to ask a lot of questions from the breeders.


Once you've picked a breed, get the equipment you will need for it. Get the right size cage, food dish, and water dish or bottle. If it is a wooled (long-haired) breed, you will need a brush. You will need nail clippers as well. Talk to breeders of your breed and ask what, if any, special equipment or care your breed needs.


Once you've decided which breed to raise, the fun really starts. Now you get to find a bunny or two! Go to breeders of your chosen breed and ask them to show you what to look for in a good show rabbit of that breed. Purchase the American Rabbit Breeders Association (here on out referred to as the "ARBA") Standard of Perfection which can be found at most shows, then study your breed's standard. Also look at general faults and disqualifications from competition. I can't emphasis enough how important knowledge of your chosen breed is.

Once you have a good understanding of your chosen breed, look for a reputable breeder. Said breeder will be glad to answer all your questions, will not have a problem with you getting a judge or registrar (or even another breeder of the same breed) to evaluate the rabbit you wish to purchase, and will have healthy pedigreed rabbits. Make sure to get the best rabbits that you can afford. If you just want one or two rabbits to show, and don't wish to breed, it is a good idea to purchase a rabbit that is 4 to 7 months old, with a win or two to its name. If you wish to breed, purchasing a compatible pair or trio is usually the best way to go. I usually recommend getting a show quality buck (4 to 7 months) and proven producing breeding doe (7 months to 1 year) if you're getting a pair. For a trio, I recommend purchasing a show quality buck (4 to 7 months), a show quality doe (4 to 7 months), and a proven producing breeding quality doe (7 months to 1 year). That way you will have at least one rabbit to show until you have produced your own show bunnies.

Depending on the breed you have chosen, the price for show and breeding quality rabbits can be anywhere from $10 to $200. Usually a decent quality show rabbit that is good enough to win a few classes and maybe even a variety (colour) win will cost between $20 and $50.

If you can, get some of the food that the rabbit is used to from the breeder. That way you can transition it to the new food. Make sure that you get the pedigree for each rabbit when you purchase the rabbit. Many people have purchased a rabbit with the promise that the pedigree will be sent and never got the pedigree. Note: Rabbits do not have to be pedigreed to be shown, but they do have to be pedigreed to be registered or to become a grand champion. Rabbits do not have to be registered to be shown or to produce show quality offspring.


When you get home, put the rabbit in its cage with some food and water, then leave it alone for the first day. The second day you can handle it some, the third more, and gradually work up to more and more time handling it until your rabbit is used to you and trusts you.

Rabbits need fresh, clean water all the time. The cage and dishes should be cleaned frequently. The amount of food given to your rabbits will depend on its breed, age, and size. Be sure to ask the original breeder about feeding.

Grooming is usually pretty easy. The nails should be kept trimmed, and occasional brushing may be required for short haired breeds (except Rex and Mini Rex, which can be groomed with a horse slick pumice block). Wooled breeds will need more frequent brushing. Loose hair on a short-haired rabbit (Rex and Mini Rex included) can be removed by dampening your hands with water until they are just sticky then running them through the coat to pick up loose hair and kill static. Loose hair can also be removed using a horse slick pumice block.

Many breeders use feed supplements to help improve the condition of the rabbit's flesh and coat. Some examples are Showbloom, Doc's Rabbit Enhancer, Calf Manna, and black oil sunflower seeds. With Showbloom and Doc's Rabbit Enhancer, follow the feeding instructions carefully. With calf manna and sunflower seeds, you may have to experiment a bit to see how much is right. I usually start with a small handful. Too much of a supplement can cause the opposite effect of what you want, making the rabbit fat, flabby, or put it into a moult (shedding the coat out). If you supplement, be sure to cut back slightly the amount of feed you provide. Also, when your rabbit gets into prime condition, cut back the supplements and the feed a little as the rabbit burns less energy while in prime.


Your rabbits are in good condition, and you are ready to enter your first show. Contact the show secretary to get a catalog. When you get it, be sure to read the rule carefully, and make sure to watch the deadline for entries. Fill out the entry form completely. Ear number is the number and/or letter combination that is tattooed in your rabbit's left ear. If there is no tattoo, you will need to get it tattooed. Some breeders will tattoo for you, and most registrars at shows will tattoo for a small fee. Breed is the type of rabbit, such as Netherland Dwarf or Rex. Variety is the colour of your rabbit. Be sure to check your Standard of Perfection for variety classes as some breeds (such as all lops, all angora, and Jersey Woolies) are shown by colour groups rather than by individual colour. Sex is the gender of your rabbit. A buck is a male, a doe is a female. Class is your rabbit's age. Most breeds are shown as either a senior (6 months or over) or a junior (under 6 months). The large breeds are shown as a senior (8 months or over), intermediate (6 to 8 months), or a junior (under 6 months). Be sure to check your Standard of Perfection to see what classes are offered in your breed. Fur is where you can enter your rabbit in either the breed or commercial normal (if your breed has normal "Flyback" fur) fur class. Your rabbit has to be entered in a regular class to compete in fur, where it will be judged solely on the quality and condition of its fur.

Most shows are pre-entry, meaning you have to send in your entry before the show. A few are day of the show entry, where you arrive early and enter at the show. If it is a pre-entry, be sure to send the entry off before the deadline is past or your entry will probably be rejected.


Get to the show a little early to allow yourself time to set up, check in, and see what table your breed is being judged at. After setting up and checking tables, groom your rabbits. Then you can wander around the show room to talk to breeders, look at the other rabbits, etc. Be careful to check your breed's table often to see when your rabbit is up to be shown. Most of the time someone will announce what class is being called up, but it cannot always be heard. Classes will not be rejudged if you miss them, so get your rabbits up to the table on time!

When your rabbit's class is called, take your rabbit to the table. You will see several small cages called holding coops. In front of these will be comment cards with the rabbits' information. Find the card that has your rabbit's ear tattoo number on it and place your rabbit in the corresponding holding coop. Then, to make it easier for other exhibitors, flip the card over.

Don't talk while the judge is giving comments on any rabbit because even if it isn't your rabbit, the rabbit's owner may want to hear the comments. Pay close attention to the judge's comments as they will help you learn. When the table held puts the comment card on top of your rabbit's holding coop, that means it is done being shown. Take it back to your set up. If it won Best of Variety (BOV), Best Opposite of Variety (BOSV), Best of Group (BOG), or Best Opposite of Group (BOSG) it will need to come back later to compete for Best of Breed (BOB) and Best Opposite of Breed (BOSB). Be sure to watch for when they call up the winners to compete for BOB and BOSB as you don't want to miss your chance at winning!

If your rabbit wins Best of Breed, it will later compete for Best in Show (BIS) and Reserve in Show (RIS). The table for Best In Show judging will be announced after a winner in each breed is chosen. If you are competing for BIS and RIS, take your rabbit to the BIS table when it is time. Place it in any of the holding coops at that table, then move out of the judging area. Then wait for the judge(s) to judge the rabbits and announce the winners.

If you win anything, be sure to find the awards table to see if you get any awards. Bring your comment card with you, and show it to the awards secretary.

Finally, the show is over. Clean up all your mess, pack up your equipment, and load up your rabbit(s). You've survived your first show, and before you know it you will have a bad case of rabbit show fever!


It is highly recommended that you join the American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA). This will provide you with invalluable information, as well as allow you to register and grand champion your rabbits. Go to the ARBA website at for a membership form, or you can pick them up at most shows (check commercial booths or ask registrars for one).

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About Article Author

Sarah Giers
Sarah Giers

Breeder and exhibitor of show rabbits for 11 years, member of the American Rabbit Breeders Association, and fan of all animals.

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