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The 4-H road to com­pet­i­tive rab­bit ex­hibit­ing teaches im­por­tant skills

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - Robert Larsen

Monthly col­umn looks at how the 4-H road to com­pet­i­tive rab­bit ex­hibit­ing teaches some im­por­tant skills

4-H is one of the long­est-run­ning pos­i­tive youth de­vel­op­ment or­ga­ni­za­tions on Prince Ed­ward Is­land. Its fam­ily-ori­ented, com­mu­nity-based clubs pro­vide op­por­tu­ni­ties for young Is­lan­ders to learn lead­er­ship and life skills while pro­mot­ing agri­cul­ture aware­ness.

P.E.I. has al­most 600 4-H mem­bers ages nine to 21 who be­long to one of 26 clubs Is­land­wide.

For many 4-H mem­bers, sum­mer marks the be­gin­ning of the ex­hi­bi­tion cir­cuit, one of the most re­ward­ing times of the 4-H year.

From fall through spring, much care and energy goes into 4-H mem­ber projects, which are proudly dis­played at six Is­land fairs and ex­hi­bi­tions dur­ing the sum­mer months.

Many mem­bers par­tic­i­pate in projects in­volv­ing live­stock, and such projects help mem­bers learn about re­spon­si­ble care for their an­i­mals, whether for show­ing or as pets.

4-H mem­bers may also choose to en­ter their an­i­mals into com­pe­ti­tions.

This ar­ti­cle will fo­cus on the com­pet­i­tive show­ing of rab­bits.

4-H mem­bers tak­ing the rab­bit pro­ject must first learn how to carry and then pose their rab­bit to dis­play its var­i­ous at­tributes.

Although this may sound sim­ple, fac­tors such as the rab­bit’s tem­per­a­ment and the con­fi­dence of the per­son show­ing the rab­bit play a huge role in mak­ing this one of the hard­est skills to learn.

Once they’ve mas­tered that skill, 4-H mem­bers then learn how to show a judge the in­di­vid­ual parts of the rab­bit in­clud­ing the ears, eyes, nose, and teeth, straight­ness of the front and hind legs, the toe nails and hocks (bot­tom of the rab­bit’s hind feet) and the tail. Club lead­ers en­cour­age mem­bers to work with their an­i­mals ev­ery day so both the per­son and the an­i­mal are as re­laxed and com­fort­able as pos­si­ble come com­pe­ti­tion time.

It’s also very im­por­tant to learn about rab­bit hus­bandry. This in­cludes know­ing the breed, colour and breed stan­dard as well as po­ten­tial ill­nesses and med­i­cal treat­ments that can af­fect rab­bits. A mem­ber can com­pet­i­tively show up to four pure­bred rab­bits and four mixed-breed rab­bits in two classes - show­man­ship and con­for­ma­tion. Show­man­ship classes demon­strate a mem­ber’s knowl­edge and abil­ity to han­dle their rab­bit. Con­for­ma­tion classes com­pare the ex­hib­ited rab­bit to its ARBA (Amer­i­can Rab­bit Breed­ers As­so­ci­a­tion) breed stan­dard.

Along with the recog­ni­tion for all of the hard work that goes into show­ing a rab­bit, win­ners also re­ceive rosettes, rib­bons and cash prizes. Even though not all rab­bits have the re­quire­ments to be show rab­bits, they still make re­ward­ing pets for the per­son will­ing to put time and energy into car­ing for them prop­erly.

Next month in An­i­mal Talk: Stan­dards for horse care.

Robert Larsen is a se­nior mem­ber of the Albany Cen­ten­nial 4-H Club and has been

show­ing rab­bits com­pet­i­tively for the past seven years. 4-H is one of the mem­ber groups of the P.E.I. Com­pan­ion An­i­mal Wel­fare Ini­tia­tive (CAWI), the goal of which is to im­prove the wel­fare of owned and un­owned com­pan­ion an­i­mals on P.E.I. Other mem­bers are the P.E.I. Hu­mane So­ci­ety, SpayAid, Cat Ac­tion Team, P.E.I. Vet­eri­nary Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion, P.E.I. Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture and Fish­eries, and Sir James Dunn An­i­mal Wel­fare Cen­tre at the At­lantic Vet­eri­nary Col­lege. See­cul­ture/CAWI for more in­for­ma­tion. Read­ers are in­vited to send ques­tions to caw­


Judge Keith McAloney gives care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion to an In­ter­me­di­ate Show­man­ship Class of 4-H rab­bits at the 2014 Cra­paud Ex­hi­bi­tion.


Thanks to many hours of han­dling by their 4-H Rab­bit Pro­ject own­ers, these rab­bits wait calmly on their show mats for the judge’s de­ci­sion.

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