All shapes, sizes and shades of rabbit were on hand as rabbit judging was held Wednesday afternoon in Expo III at the Barton County Fair.
Cindy Grant, rabbit showmanship judge, said rabbit showmanship differs from most other livestock showmanship because instead of instructing the 4-Hers what to do with their animal and judging the response of the animal, she judges the 4-Hers on their ability to tell her about their animal. At the end of their brief presentation, she’ll ask questions to gauge their knowledge of their animal and the breed. The only other showmanship judging that is similar is for poultry.
Twenty-eight years ago, Grant knew basically nothing about rabbits. But her oldest daughter, then in 4-H, chose to do a rabbit project. They started out with two rabbits that they showed in Salina. Though they only received one red and one white ribbon, they weren’t deterred. Grant’s daughter spoke to breeders at the event, and the family went home with a pair of Himalayans. These two won purple ribbons the next year, and the warren grew to include a pair of mini-lops.
When her second daughter got involved, still more breeds were brought on, until eventually the family ended up with 160 rabbits in their barn. They bred them, they sold them, some for stock and some for meat. they’ve been to 10 National shows.
“I think we’ve had every breed of rabbit there is,” she said. While as a judge she maintains her objectivity, she has to admit, she is partial to Himalayans and mini-lops. She encouraged her children to show Himalayans for showmanship because they are docile and easy to show.
“For each of their last years, I let them show whatever breed they wanted,” she added. Now that each of her children have graduated, the family no longer has rabbits. Still, she’s happy to put her years of experience to work judging when asked.
“I went from knowing basically nothing to knowing a little bit,” she said. “I enjoy helping kids and other 4-Hers, and I miss not having rabbits around the house anymore, but it’s nice not having to worry about the chores.”
Randy Dickerson was on hand to judge rabbits for condition. Busily looking over an English Lop, he checked the span of the animals ears to make sure they were the required 21-inches long. He examined the shape of the body, particularly around the hips. Between the shape, the coat of fur, and the ears, he determined the rabbit would get a purple ribbon.
Dickerson has been involved for many years with rabbits both as a 4-Her himself, and with his kids. He’s been judging for over 20 years. After finishing with the English lop, he moved onto a large, black Flemish Giant belonging to Colton McPherson. We caught up with him waiting in line for showmanship holding one of his other rabbits.
McPherson brought only one rabbit for showmanship, and others, including his brown Rex, to be judged for condition.
“My first rabbit was Himi Junior’s father,” he said. “This is the second year I’ve shown him. Last year, he won a purple ribbon.”
McPherson also brought several breeds of chickens, including brown leghorns, broilers, and the unusual white-headed Polish black.
He’s learned a lot about the care and feeding of chickens and rabbits, as well as the facts of life for both. Roosters, for instance, don’t enjoy a long stay in the McPherson barn.
“We don’t keep roosters because they don’t lay eggs and they bully the new chicks, plus they’re annoying when they crow,” he said. “They get slaughtered.”