Spring brings to mind green tufts of grass, trees budding, flower bulbs blooming and, of course, Easter. And with Easter for many youngsters comes the Easter bunny.
For Ron Schlotthauer, bunnies are a year round hobby with a different agenda.
“In 1957 I bought my first rabbit from some people, and from there is where it all began,” said Schlotthauer, a retired carpenter from Ellinwood.
Not only did he and late wife Ramona raise a family but he also raised rabbits. As their boys David and Steve grew older, they helped, but Ron made it clear he likes to be the one to handle the Californian breed.
If one breeds, the life span of a rabbit is about five years, but if it is merely a pet, it can live up to about 12 years old.
In 1964, the Kansas State Fair came to mind as Schlotthauer reminisced about bringing home a third-place ribbon. From then on, the hobby grew with leaps and bounds to the tune of 200 rabbits. In 2013, they placed second and fourth.
Throughout the years, various trips to show the fluffy soft creatures were wide spread. Travels took the family from the east to the west which included Kansas City, Ark City, Wichita, Colorado, Newton and Albuquerque, N. M. They sometimes hauled up to 25 rabbits for show in small cages in the family station wagon.
At Nationals in Pueblo, Colo., Schlotthauer won Best of Show with a Dutch chocolate doe. With over 10,000 rabbits to judge at the nationals, this was quite an achievement. With a truck load of trophies over the years, Schlotthauer has given away the majority to kids that are in same hobby and taking their rabbits to various events.
“She was a beauty, but I have for the most part raised the Californian breed. I just really like the way they look with the black noses and white fur it always caught my eye,” Schlotthauer said
There are many strict guidelines to showing rabbits with much prep work ahead of showing. Brushing the coats, tattoo ear marking, going over the health of the feet, ears, fur and even the shape of the back and haunches matter.
When Schlotthauer began this hobby, feed was $2 a 50-pound-bag of pellets. Now it is $14. Add that to the whole oats he adds to the diet and it can get costly. Needless to say at the current time, there are only about 20 rabbits to tend to.
With recent health issues that slowed him down a bit, he has had the help of son David and David’s wife Kim to keep things running smoothly. The rabbits live in a shelter on the property and are tended to daily.
“One year he was in the hospital with pneumonia and couldn’t make it to the Fair to show, so I offered to take the eight chosen, prepared them for the show and hauled them up there so he wouldn’t miss a year at the fair,” Kim said. “Since the passing of his wife, I think this has been a god send for him, he loves those rabbits,”
This year is a milestone for Schlotthauer as it will be the 50th anniversary of taking his pride and joy to the State Fair, and
perhaps a blue ribbon is in store.
Early on, he had another goal in mind besides showing the rabbits.
“I mainly began raising them for the meat, but I also sold to whoever wanted it, and did my own butchering,” Schlotthauer said. “My wife used to make casseroles, barbecue, fried its good white meat with lots of ways to make it.”