Above: a Lionhead rabbit shown by Leo 9 Lionheads, of Mason.
The Michigan State University Pavilion was packed as far as the eye could see with thousands of rabbits and cavies for the two-day Michigan State Rabbit Breeders Association’s 75th annual convention last weekend. The pavilion was full of excitement and anticipation as rabbit breeders young and old competed for best breed and best in show ribbons and awards. The event featured a youth show and an adult show.
The American Rabbit Breeders Association recognizes 49 rabbit and thirteen cavy breeds and within each breed are several varieties of recognized variations of coat and eye-color. The rabbits are bred to be the best in their class and depending on the breed that could mean any number of things. Licensed judges evaluate rabbits based on breed standards published by the American Rabbit Breeders Association. Standards include fur, head, ears, color, weights, body shape and more. Each rabbit is marked with a tattoo in the left year, allowing breeders and judges the ability to quickly identify the rabbit on the show table and for the judging to be blind.
The judging process is very similar to dog shows. Judges will select in each variety of rabbit the first place senior and junior buck, and senior and junior doe. Within the same variety of rabbit, the senior will be compared to the junior and a winner will be crowned. Then the winning buck and winning doe will be judged against each other. The winner will be considered ‘best of variety’ and the other will be crowned ‘best opposite sex of variety’. Next each winner of the variety and best opposite sex of variety will be judged against the other varieties within that specific rabbit breed and a best of breed and best opposite sex will be crowed. Lastly, each best in breed goes on to compete in the best in show competition.
“The show is more about comradery and fun as opposed to a stiff competition,” stated Phil and Cheryl Gamber, residents of Mason and owners of Leo 9 Lionheads. They have been showing rabbits for eight years and compete both in Michigan rabbit shows as well as nationally. Lionheads were officially recognized as a breed in 2013. “We are relatively new to the rabbit showing world; some people here have been showing rabbits for 40 to 50 years.”
The Michigan State Rabbit Breeders Association has been inviting breeders to show off their fur-bearing friends since 1941. The rabbit show is one of the many events happening on Michigan State University’s campus during the annual Agricultural and Natural Resources Week. To learn more about events happening on campus visit http://anrweek.canr.msu.edu.