I think it should stay a sticky! It's a great reference point!
What's the rarest breed of Rabbit?
If you're thinking of going along to your first rabbit show, what can you expect to see there?
A lot of rabbits!
There are 80 breeds recognised by the British Rabbit Council, and probably thousands if you add up all the different colour varieties which are allowed within them.
Breeds are divided into 4 sections:
This section contains most of the oldest breeds of rabbit in the world. Fancy breeds include those with markings & patterns, small sizes, unusual colours or shapes. In this section you will find:
Harlequin & Magpie (Standard)
and Rare (Fancy) Breeds:
Black & Tan Belgian Hare
Technically these are a Fancy breed as well, but Lops are such a popular type of rabbit they now have their own section at shows!
Miniature Cashmere Lop
Miniature Lionhead Lop
and one Rare Breed Lop:
These gorgeous rabbits are sadly on the decline and many are becoming quite rare. Many of the Fur breeds were developed between 1920 when breeding rabbits for their coats was common But don't let that put you off them! The rabbit fur industry in the UK vanished during the 1970's, leaving this wonderful collection of breeds with incredibly textured, silky and dense fur. Most Fur breeds are 6-8lbs weight upwards so they are not a popular choice for pets although really they should be - they are usually no bigger than a standard Rex (with the exception of the Giants!) and almost all of them are very docile, and would make excellent house rabbits.
Argente (Creme, Bleu, Brun, de Champagne and the rare Noir)
Continental Giant (aka Vlaamse Reus - the true Flemish Giant)
Fox (aka Silver Fox)
New Zealand (Whte, Black, Blue, Red)
and Rare Breed (Fur):
Blanc de Bouscat
Blanc de Hotot
Blanc de Termonde
Almost everyone knows the Rex coat with its incredible velvet coat, but if you have never touched a Rex, don't be afraid to ask a steward if they would take one out for you to feel!
There are many, many different colours and patterns of Rex, and these include: Black, Blue, Ermine (white), Havana, Lilac, Siamese Sable, Seal, Smoke Pearl, Tortoiseshell, Fawn, Silver Fox, Orange, Otter, Tan, Castor, Chinchilla, Cinnamon, Lynx, Opal, Dalmatian, Harlequin, Himalayan, Broken (Mini Rex only), and the very rare, almost extinct Astrex (curly coated). There is also the Satin Rex which isn't common but can come in any of the above colours and more!
There are two sizes of Rex breeds:
Standard Rex 6-8 lbs in weight [2.72-3.62 kg]
Mini Rex 3 3/4 - 4 1/2 lbs [1.700 - 2.041 kg]
Don't expect to see all these breeds at every show, unless you are attending the huge Bradford Championship or the London Championship, both the equivalent of the "Rabbit Crufts" - where over a thousand rabbits are exhibited!
The Show Itself
All the rabbits are penned in pens roughly 18" square, usually arranged in three tiers, with long-haired breeds always penned on the top tier (in case and urine from a rabbit in a tier above drips onto them). The long haired breeds also sit on wire mesh panels to prevent their coats becoming tangled with bedding. Giant breeds are given double sized pens, and are penned in a single low tier so they can be lifted out easily from the top.
Early in the morning is often a great time to see a show - before judging starts, everyone is busy grooming and cleaning their bunnies... the Angora breeders bring along their blowers and blow out the show coats and the air is filled with fluffy clumps like cotton wool!
Other exhibitors may be seen sitting down with their rabbits lying on their backs happily, while their cotton-wool feet are cleaned and brushed in readiness.
Quite often you will see exhibitors with their exhibits on the tables lolloping around while they are being got ready. If you are fortunate enough to be there at this time, you may get to see the elegant Belgian Hare stretching its long legs (and looking far more stunning outside the pen than in!) or have a chance to run your hands through the thick glossy coat of a Silver Fox or Sable.
Don't be afraid to approach the rabbit and exhibitor when you see one loose on the table during this early preparation time: the exhibitor may have other rabbits to get ready, and might appreciate you keeping an eye on, and stroking, their rabbit while he/she rummages in their grooming kit for more equipment or takes another rabbit to its pen!
The judging tables are arranged in the centre - usually one table for the Fancy breeds (Dutch, Tans, Hares etc); one for the Fur breeds (Silver Fox, Sables, Satins etc) and Rex; and another table for the Lop section.
The judge stands behind the table, with the book steward next to him (or her), and will call the pen numbers for the class. Stewards are sent to the pens and bring one rabbit back each, on arrival at the table they will state what pen number it is, and the book steward gives the rabbit a little sticky label with its pen number on, usually stuck inside the ear, or on the back of the neck for very short eared, or Lop, breeds.
The stewards stand facing the judge on the other side of the table, holding all the rabbits (and usually getting bitten or peed on!). Hence the reason they wear white coats - it protects clothing from pee and helps to stop getting scratched... although at the last show I went to, a Giant Papillon struggled on its way back to its pen, slipped a huge hind foot between the buttons on my coat, and slashed straight through my summer dress and the skin underneath... it looked as though I had been attacked with a razor...!
The judge picks up each exhibit, holding the ears with one hand to steady the rabbit, with its weight in the other, and examines it fully... checking teeth, sex, feet, belly colour or pattern, putting it back on the table and running hands through the coat, even checking the colour of the toenails.
To the newcomer, it may look as though the rabbits are actually being pulled around by their ears, but this isn't so... the ears are held firmly (but not unkindly) to guide and steer, and to keep the rabbit still, with all the weight being taken in the judge's other hand. The only other way this could be done would be to use the scruff of the neck (as a vet might) but of course this does bruise the rabbit's skin, is probably painful, and can damage the coat. If anyone would like more details about handling, I will cover that in another post.
The judge usually works from left to right, so as s/he goes through each rabbit before him, the steward on the judge's left will be given the best rabbit to hold, and so the line up gradually forms.
It can be quite a feat of skill to control all these rabbit being held on the table during the class... the bucks are getting randy, they try to bite their neighbours or hump the table cloth, some try to launch themselves in the air! It's a bit sad but people sometimes insist on showing really vicious rabbits, meaning judges and stewards alike are often in danger of being severely bitten. Usually a judge will disqualify such an exhibit, but not until they have had a nasty bite... I've seen rabbits launch themselves at the judge's arm and the judge jerk his arm back a fraction too late, with the result that the rabbit is hanging by its teeth to his coat (and arm underneath!). Bites like this can go straight through the coat, and usually bruise badly as well.
When the judge has found his winner, he will send anything placed lower than 4th back to its pen (the book steward often calls the numbers for the next class at this point, so that the stewards can bring them on their way back). The numbers of 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th are marked in the book by the book steward, and then the ring number of the winner is taken and marked down.
The Awards System
Every rabbit is entered in its Breed Class where it competes against others of its own type. All classes are split into Adult and U/5 which means "under 5 months" with the exception of Dutch, who are always u/4 (under 4 months) because they are the fastest maturing of all breeds! At larger shows there may also be an U/14 class, for rabbits between 8 weeks and 14 weeks. Currently, 8 weeks is the minimum age a rabbit may be shown, but it is possible this will be raised to 12 weeks, because of concerns about over-stressing babies.
The winners of each pair of Breed Classes (Adult and U/5) then compete for what is known as a Challenge Certificate or CC. This is given to the best rabbit out of the two classes, providing it has no serious fault. Large shows offer 3, 4 or 5 Star CC's... smaller shows offer 2 Star. Each CC has the relevant number of stars printed on it, and it is these that individual rabbits collect to be awarded Diplomas and Championships by the BRC. Members of breed specialist clubs can also gain Club Championships for a rabbit, usually by winning a certain number of CC's signed by judges who are recognised as being experts on the breed.
Where a certain breed has a lot of classes for the different colours, the best of the CC winners is awarded a Best Of Breed certificate, to show it was the best of that breed out of all the colours.
The next stage is to find the best of each section - Fancy, Lop, Fur & Rex - in classes called Challenge Classes. Here, all the CC winners (and sometimes the runners up, since the second prize winning rabbit in one breed class might be better than the CC winner in another!) are assembled to find Best Fancy, Best Lop, Best Fur and Best Rex. These winners are awarded a special Diploma to recognise this achievement.
Finally, at the end of a long day's judging, the Best In Show class is judged. All the section judges convene, and their best rabbits are assembled on the table. the exhibitors hold their breath...
Will it be the Satin U/5, which has excellent satinisation for its age, and not a trace of moult? Will it be the cuddly agouti Mini Lop, with its beautifully shaped head and a face designed by Walt Disney? Or the Black Rex, which looks impossibly black, blacker than any animal could ever be, with a smooth outline and a coat which surely belongs to an exotic wild creature? Or the jaunty little Red-eyed White Polish, sitting up straight like a tiny hare, fine forelegs and tiny ears well set, beautifully presented with feet as white as its coat?
The spell is broken.... the judges make their decision and everyone applauds. But I'm not going to tell you which of them won.... you'll have to go along to a show and see that for yourself!
The Rabbits - Show Day or Stress Day?
Most rabbits react well to a show - they nibble hay, or just doze. Even first-timers settle down well... while the old stagers tend to ***** up their ears as they enter the show hall... they've seen it all before!
Agricultural shows are less peaceful - at the New Forest Show a child brought a helium balloon into the tent which totally freaked out some of the rabbits - they dashed frantically round their pens bashing against the sides in terror!! Luckily none were hurt... I have only seen two rabbits injured at shows... in many shows - one, at the first show I ever went to, during a heatwave.... it went into heatstroke and died.... and another (by coincidence at the same show but a few years later) a young Dwarf rabbit somehow got its leg trapped in the gap between the pens, it wasn't badly hurt, but it screamed and screamed, which made everyone in the hall panic.
There is no rule yet (though it has been mooted, and I suspect will be brought in before long) that rabbits must be supplied with food & water, but most people bring water bottles and food anyway, plus hay for them to munch, and many rabbits have their favourite toys in the pen with them.
Yes, it can be very stressful for some rabbits but they usually stand up to it well, and one reason being that if they are destined for show, they will have been handled an awful lot, virtually from birth. Some breeds, such as Polish and Belgian Hares, are also taught to pose to show off their shape... in the case of the little Polish rabbit, it also helps to keep them still... they are like tiny rockets, apt to shoot off in any direction at a moment's notice!
Above all, a show is a chance to see the wonderful breeds - and there are so many, far more than most people suspect. A great many of them are never seen in pet shops, which is a shame, as that doesn't mean they don't make good pets... it just means that their breeders don't sell them to pet shops.
If you ever get to a show, try to find a friendly exhibitor to show you round the pens and describe each breed to you. Most rabbit owners are approachable, and always ready to help out newcomers with any questions and queries they may have. If you are lucky, you may find someone who knows a little about the history of each breed... some have quite remarkable origins, and many are very old - bred for at least 200 years.
If you find you like the atmosphere, there's no reason why you can't visit more shows, even if you don't exhibit... although some clubs have classes just for Pet rabbits, which are judged on condition, tameness, and personality. Learning to steward is not difficult, and anyone will help a newcomer - it is also the very best way to see & handle the different breeds, as many look quite different out of the pen. It will also teach you how to handle rabbits safely and with confidence if you are new to keeping rabbits yourself.
For the rabbit, a show is a few hours out of one day, possibly very few times in its entire life... For the exhibitor, it is a chance to learn, to speak with other exhibitors and judges, to help the club, and to enjoy a social occasion with other people of a like mind. A few take the winning side seriously, but the majority don't... Whether the rabbit wins a card or not, it's still the same rabbit that goes home to its hutch at the show's end; the apple of its owner's eye, all the rest of the days of the year, and not just on Show Day.
PS: Any further questions?
You're more than welcome to PM me or ask in the forum!
(This wasn't meant to be a Sticky by the way - don't know how it became one, so can a moderator change it? Ta..)
I think it should stay a sticky! It's a great reference point!
What's the rarest breed of Rabbit?
Hi Louise, and thanks for the compliment on my post
The rarest breed? Oooooh, difficult one!
There are some breeds which are now extinct, so in a way they are the rarest
A rare rabbit breed is one which doesn't have enough people breeding it (ever, or yet) to form a club to look after its interests and keep it going.
All of the rare breeds I listed have that status.. although they are catered for by an umbrella club called the Rare Varieties Rabbit Club. Quite a lot of the breeders who belong to it are somewhat progressive, in that they often own breeds which are known elsewhere in the world, but are new here, or they are trying to re-create old, extinct breeds (one guy is trying to recreate the Squirrel), or they are trying to get new colours of an already accepted breed standardised... such as the Black & Tan Belgian Hare.
[Someone who lives near me has had some all-black Belgian Hares born recently.... now they are VERY rare! and gorgeous as well... can you imagine a rabbit of that shape, but midnight-black....? Oooooh!]
I first bred Tri-Colour Dutch about 25 years ago, and they were rarer then than they are now, but there are still not enough breeders in the UK to get them lifted off the "rare" list... even though they are very popular overseas in Holland and Scandinavia especially. In Denmark, where Rabbit Show Jumping and Agility is really popular, there's only two breeds which excel at it because of their character, intelligence and interaction with humans... Dwarf Lops, and.... Tri-Colour Dutch! No wonder I love them so much!
Years ago I bred one of the first Blue Tri-Colour Dutch in the UK... and she was recorded as first one ever shown here... they are really pretty with their white, blue and fawn pattern.
Rhinelanders are another very rare breed - I think only 2 people breed them in this country now. They are like a slightly larger English, but they have beautiful bi-coloured markings... where an English has only one colour on its pattern, Rhines have their markings made up of tiny dots of orange and black instead of a solid black, blue, choc, tort etc.
There is a Rare Varieties Rabbit Club webpage here:
with photos of all the rare breeds... .except the very rare ones... and the extinct ones of course!
By the way, Floyd says the photo of the Tri Dutch on that website is nowhere near as handsome as he is!!!!
Hope this helps
Thank's for the information Sue.
I've heard of the Rare Varities Rabbit Club and often have a surf on the website.
I think the tri-colour Dutch look great! What's the rarest colour in this breed?
How do you manage to breed Black Belgian Hare's??? Is this a breed standard colour?
How does the care of a Belgian Hare differ to a normal Rabbit?
Am I right in saying that the Belgian Hare is still a Rabbit, its not a true Hare?
Sorry for all the question's but it's the first time I've been in touch with an expernced breeder to ask them!
Yes it it true to say that Belgian Hares are biologically rabbits & not true hares-just designed to look like them!
The only real difference in their care is that because of their slender frame, it is said that Belgian Hares' bones are slightly more vulnerable to damage, which is why many hare breeders recommend keeping them in slightly smaller hutches (ie. tall & deep cages but not too long) as when they get excitable they can beak their bones flitting from one end to the other.
However, I must say that none of my hares have suffered this problem (although i did wonder at one youngster having spinal damage once) & they are all kept in 4-5ft hutches each. (6ft if i ever had one with a big litter).
Apart from that they are pretty much the same care-wise. Just very intelligent & interesting & love toys.
The Black tan & White Belgian Hares are newer colour mutations that are arriving from the continent, but at present are only showable in unstandardised classes here. I have, in the past been offered some of these by the chap who imported by French Lop stud bucks, but time & space permitted or i probably would've had those too! :wink:
Three colours are recognised in the Tri-Dutch - the most common is Black (black, orange and white); then there's the Blue (blue, fawn and white), and a few Chocolates have been bred although I've not seen one yet... chocolate, orange and white. In theory it should be possible to breed Lilacs (lilac, fawn and white) as this is a combination of the genes for blue and chocolate, but they aren't recognised, which is odd.... since Tris are really "Harlequin Dutch" and all four colours are recognised in Harlequins.
According to Ernest Wilkins, who wrote "The Book of the Belgian Hare" many years ago, in the old days Blacks would often turn up in litters of the normal colour, and were greatly prized as they were said to improve the black ticking on the normal coloured ones when used for breeding. But the gene must have died out, as they haven't been born in the UK for a long time.How do you manage to breed Black Belgian Hare's??? Is this a breed standard colour?
The ones that turn up now, appear in litters of the Black & Tan Hares. The B&T's were imported from Holland, where the breeders created them decades ago from crosses with normal Black & Tans.
They need large, tall hutches and plenty of exercise, but apart from that, nothing special. I have heard that breeders put boards across the hutch width for the babies to jump over, to encourage them to stretch their legs and exercise!How does the care of a Belgian Hare differ to a normal Rabbit?
Am I right in saying that the Belgian Hare is still a Rabbit, its not a true Hare?
You're right, they are really rabbits, but were bred to look like Hares, well over a century ago. Some of them can be a bit fragile and not very hardy, although that varies from breeder to breeder... but the importation of the Black & Tans has helped as they improved the gene pool, and also the B&Ts tend to be slightly stronger in build. I would go for a B&T if I had another one... and oh, how I am pining for another Hare!! I'm sure I will have to give in soon... it doesn't help that there's someone about a mile away who breeds them, and a friend of mine has just got an all-black one from him! So... watch this space!!
You can also get Albino Belgian Hares - another creation from Holland, but there aren't many of them around; from looking at photos I don't find them as attractive, and neither do many people from what I can gather!
Like the Blacks, and Black & Tans, the Albinos are not yet standardised (although they can all be shown in Unstandardised classes). But the Black & Tans are getting popular and are so much liked, even by breeders of the traditional red Hare colour, that it looks as though they will be properly standardised & accepted soon by the British Belgian Hare Club.
Ask away....Sorry for all the question's but it's the first time I've been in touch with an expernced breeder to ask them!
PS: Ask Bunnyboarding/Cheryl about Belgian Hares.... she breeds them!
Apologies to Cheryl if I've any of the above information is innacurate... feel free to correct me!
Ps. Belgian Hare fact;
The Belgian Hare is a very old breed that was originally created from a now-extinct breed called the 'Patagonian'!!!!!
Oooooh very interesting!
Good Post thanks
Bead (him) & Thread (me) is our little outlet for our talents (ha!)
What are the pet sections like in the shows
Here, some clubs will allow me to enter Bugzee into the pet section being a cotton tail (wild breed here), others say no bunny with cotton tail blood in them are allowed
Some have some really cool class in the pet section like, shortest ears, longest legs, fancy dress etc One is even thinking of bunny hurdles I would love to know how to train Bugzee up for that one :wink:
What fun ones do you have over there?