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Looking for a full guide on showing rabbits for beginners? I’ve got you covered. Before we go any further. Just breath.
Showing rabbits can feel pretty scary. You feel like you have no clue what you are doing. There is so much to learn. You will get to the point where you feel like you have it all under control. It takes time and practice.
Just be willing to learn and pay attention to your surroundings. You will advance much quicker in your knowledge about rabbits that way.
This post is about how to show rabbits for beginners.
What You Need To Know About Showing Rabbits
Everyone started from the beginning. – It may feel like you are the only one who has no clue about anything. But every single person who is in that showroom was there at some point.
Do your best and keep moving forward. – You will have goof ups, your rabbit will do something dumb, and someone may not be very nice to you. Just pull yourself up by the bootstraps and keep going.
What A Judge Says Is Simply An Opinion – One judge in Show A may love your rabbits and they might even win their class in a show. Then in Show B literally on the same day, the judge won’t have anything nice to say about the rabbit. That happens. Know your breed like the back of your hand. Don’t go selling rabbits based on one judge’s opinion.
Showing Is For Recognized Breeds Only – This goes without saying but the rabbit must be a domestic rabbit breed recognized by the ARBA. 4-H rabbit shows and projects are often different and have projects that allow kids to show their rabbits that are mixed. Things like rabbit showmanship for example. A 4h rabbit project can have things like an interview that goes along with it and regular national shows do not. Talk with your county extension office to find out the specifics. If you want to see what breeds are recognized by the ARBA here is their full list of 50 breeds.
Conditioning For The Show Table
From molting to urine stains there is a lot that can cause your rabbit to not look its best on the show table. While you can do a few things to help your rabbit looks its best. Genetics has a lot to do with it as well.
Top Tips For Good Condition
- Have your rabbits in a wire cage.
- LOTS of air circulation. (I find this one is huge to keep a rabbit healthy)
- Good feed. (Avoid too many treats)
This is something that can be good one day and completely awful the morning of the show. The weather changed, they got spooked by something in the middle of the night… Sometimes who knows?
This is a scenario where you should just do your best and don’t let it stress you too much.
You CAN NOT alter the rabbit’s coloring or appearance in any way. No dying, plucking, glossy sprays are allowed or you can be kicked out.
With that said the best thing you can do is feed your rabbit good quality commercial rabbit pellets and clean water. Avoid the treats. And keep them from getting stressed out as well as keeping your rabbit cool both at home and on the way to the show.
One of my favorite things to do is top off the rabbit’s feed with dried lavender the day before to help put them in a better mood the next day for the show. which helps keep them calmer.
A warm spell for even a few days can cause your rabbit to go into a molt.
Keep your rabbit’s cage clean.
Wire cages are best because they let the rabbit’s waist fall through and keeps it away from the rabbits. That is your best bet to keeping stains off your rabbits.
Rabbits should be firm and toned if they are going to look their best. While you can’t really exercise your rabbits to build muscle. Avoiding treats and letting them get fat is the best way to go about it.
Again this comes from genetics for the most part. If you are breeding even a few litters a year and you have a breeding animal that does not get into a nice full coat ever. Then you should probably sell it IF the animal isn’t that great of conformation.
Does that have had litters often don’t show as well either? It is best to show a doe before they have had litters. For bucks, once they hit over two years old they are starting to lose their “luster” as well.
While feed does play a part starting with good animals is going to be your best option.
Selecting Show Rabbits
Whether you are choosing who gets to go to the show or looking to buy new rabbits these are the key points you need to think about.
Health – You want to choose an overall healthy rabbit to go to the show. No snot in the nose, dirty or cloudy eyes. They would look overall healthy.
*If a judge suspects you have sick rabbits at a show they will disqualify you and likely ask you to leave the show. Rabbit people are very touchy and rightfully so.”
Body Condition – You can take a rabbit that is molting or transitioning its coat but they aren’t going to place well. Even the flesh condition tends to decline while a rabbit is in molt. You don’t want a rabbit to have any stains or as little as possible. The nails should be trimmed.
Disqualifications – There are two forms of disqualifications. Non-genetic and genetic. The genetic disqualifications (or DQs) are something that they were born with and could pass on to their offspring. Things like the wrong eye color for its coat color.
The non-genetic are things that they were not born with and can not pass on to their offspring. For lop breeds, this can be a tear in the ear. Or maybe they got injured and the fur or nail color didn’t come back in right.
If you want to hear a judge’s opinion on a rabbit that has a non-genetic disqualification then go into it knowing that you will be disqualified. Even say that to the judge if they bring it up. However, I would not bring a rabbit to a show that you know has a genetic disqualification.
Some people will breed a doe to be about two weeks along before going to a big show. This helps her look fuller in the hindquarters but I personally don’t take rabbits to shows that are bred. You can do it but you run the risk of the stress-causing her to lose the litter.
Choosing Babies To Keep For Show
This comes with time. But eventually, you will be able to grow your herd by keeping offspring. BUT this is also where some people get trapped.
Cute doesn’t cut it. I’m going to say that again for the people in the back.
CUTE DOESN’T CUT IT.
When it comes to showing it is all about quality and conformation. How closely does that rabbit line up to the Standard Of Perfection?
Each breed is different and so are the bloodlines they come from. You have to become a student of your rabbits and study them. Watch how they grow. What aspects show up early in life and which ones come later?
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Over All Conformation
One thing I have learned and has served me well is that if there is a poor aspect that shows up in the early weeks of life they aren’t going to grow out of it later.
For french lops, I can get a good idea around 5 weeks old. Then at 8-12 weeks they grow longer and tend to be more slender.
Not until they are 5-6 months old do they tend to look the overall shape that they will be as adults. Then all they tend to do is fill out after that.
Litter Size Has An Effect
If the litter number is big then the amount of food momma can feed them is going to be much less. Causing them to grow a bit slower.
This has an effect on how big they get as adults. If the rabbit makes up for it once they are done nursing and puts away the food really well then it is possible to offset that.
If you are choosing to keep a rabbit from a breeding because the parents look great then just keep that in mind.
Locating & Entering Rabbit Shows
The first place you should go to look for rabbit shows is the ARBA.net show listing section. This is going to be the most up-to-date place to find a rabbit show. While not all of the show information is listed you will at least be able to find the show date, address, and show secretary contact info.
I will often take a calendar and write down the locations on the date that the show happens so I have a full list throughout the year and if I can go great and if not. I can easily see when the next one is happening.
You could also join a few show rabbit Facebook groups. In my state lop club group people often share “show flyers” in the groups. These are one-sheet papers that have all the info on a rabbit show.
If you need more info on a show you are able to contact the show secretary. Just be aware that they are volunteers and often have day jobs so be patient in getting an answer.
Packing For A Show
Packing for a show can be a daunting task. If you are a regular shower I would recommend you keep a show kit packed up and off to the side. This would save you so much time in the long run.
Remember that showrooms are often packed tight and it is not a place for you to spread out and make yourself to home. Showrooms are big open spaces and are often a free for all.
Be courteous of people and keep your area as compacted as possible while still allowing you room to work.
You are often allowed to bring a grooming table (own below) and a picnic-style folding chair. But be aware when shows get tight they will sometimes ask you to remove your chair to make room. Please be respectful and do so. Yes, no one wants to stand all day but be kind and make room.
Rabbits MUST have a permanent ID number tattooed into THEIR left ear. If they do not have a readable tattoo they can be disqualified for that.
A tattoo can be a combination of upper case letters and numbers. Nothing else. Period the end.
If you do not have a tattoo pen or clamp for your rabbitry and you plan on showing for the long hull buying a kit is worth the investment. I have had rabbit-specific tattoo pens for years and they did ok. But presently I bought this tattoo kit off of amazon and the results are AMAZING! They don’t care how you get the rabbit tattooed so long as it is permanent and readable.
Tattoo Number System
It is helpful if you choose a system and stick to it. Each breeder does it differently so there isn’t a right or wrong way.
Here in the rabbitry, I put the LL then the last character of the mother’s tattoo, then the last character of the sire’s tattoo, then add sequential numbers for the litter.
Tattoos for the same litter look something like this.
- LL369 and so on.
Some people will just put the rabbit’s name in for the ID number and that is fine too. A tattoo can be done with a pen tattooed or a clamp but I like the pen best. I recently bought this tattoo pen and love it. It is for people but the judge doesn’t care how the ID number gets there so long as there is one. I got sick of the lack of quality that most of the rabbit tattoo supplies.
What To Do When You Get To A Show
Yeay!!! You made the long drive and got up before the world comes alive. Now what?
#1 – The first thing you should do is carry your grooming table and chair inside to find a good spot. Like I said before it’s often a free for all.
Look for a spot that is close to an end or opening. There is nothing worse than getting caught in the middle and having to ask five people to move to let you out. This will also help you make connections and more sales if that is something you want to do with your rabbitry.
#2 – After you find your spot go get your rabbits inside. You can unload more stuff later. There is a lot of waiting when it comes to showing rabbits so get the basics inside and worry about the rest later.
#3 – Go find the check-in station and get your show comment cards (shown below) and entry form. Sign in. Then go fill out all the info. (read the section on how to enter a show for more info)
#4 – Once you have all the show entry info filled out go back and turn it all in and pay the entry fee. (typically $7 or so dollars a show)
After you finish with that it’s basically a waiting game. You could go bring in what you need from the car and check over your rabbits to make sure they are clean and ready to go on the show table at a moment’s notice.
Then listen for your breed until showtime.
Read this post for more on Rabbit Show Etiquette, Do’s And Dont’s Of The Trade
How To Enter A Show
To enter a show you need to know the rabbit’s age, color, and ear number. If a rabbit is going to be shown in the youth show it CAN NOT be shown in the adult show as well.
Some bigger shows will have pre-entries. You can often snail mail or email your entries to the show secretary often for a lower entry fee price. If this is possible you will see it on the show flyer.
For smaller shows, you will sign up the day you arrive. Often there are two shows in one day.
An A Show and a B Show. You will have to pay the entry fee twice AND fill out the paperwork for both shows if you want the same rabbit to show in both.
Take a pen with you to do the paperwork. Cash or checks are the only excepted forms of payment.
How Does A Rabbit Show Work
Think of it as a pyramid.
First, each breed and its classes compete against each other.
**If a rabbit eights more than the max weight for the breed at that age it can be bumped up in age class. French lops do not have a max weight for seniors BUT if your breed does have a max weight and it is over that it can be disqualified. **
Here are the different classes for french lops:
- Solid Jr Buck
- Solid Jr Doe
- Broken Jr Buck
- Broken Jr Doe
- Solid 6/8 Buck (6/8 Means intermediate. A rabbit can only be 6-8 months of age and weights between a certain amount)
- Solid 6/8 Doe
- Broken 6/8 Buck
- Broken 6/8 Doe
- Solid Sr Buck
- Solid Sr Doe
- Broken Sr Buck
- Broken Sr Doe
There is a winner from each class listed above. Then each winner of those classes competes for best of variety. All of the solid rabbits from each group are judged against each other. The same goes for all of the broken rabbits.
Then the best solid and broken compete for best of breed.
Keep in mind that some breeds can also have classes by color not just pattern. Breeds like the mini rex and mini lops do this.
Then the winners of their class compete against each other for best of breed.
Then all of the best of breed winners compete in either the 4 class (smaller breeds with a Sr weight under 9lbs) or the 6 class (Larger breeds over 9lbs ). Then the winner of the 4 class and 6 class are judged against each other.
The winner of that wins Best In Show.
Ok now, this is where things can get…. interesting. Every judge has their own way of working through a group of rabbits.
However, each breed does have a standard of perfection and point values given to each “category” of the body conformation. Body, Head, Ears, Fur, Condition, Color (some breeds do have some points located to the crown and bone size as well).
BUT judges put more value on different things. One person thinks the head should be well-formed or another thinks that if it has hallow hindquarters it goes at the bottom of the list.
DO NOT QUESTION A JUDGE! You don’t have to agree. Just roll with it. It’s not the end of the world. Remember how I said a rabbit could win show A and lose show B all on the same day? It will happen which is why you need to know the breed you raise better than a judge does.
What The Judge Will Do:
Typically a judge will look over each of the animals then go back through and remove the ones that aren’t going to place in the top six. (The bigger shows will place each and every rabbit) But if your rabbit didn’t place in the top six at a smaller show you may not know where it placed.
You will get a lot of inside to how your rabbit did if you listen to what the judge says. Often times he will mumble a few things to the show writer and other times they will make it clear to the whole group watching.
Then he will start reordering the rabbits in the holding pens (shown in the image below) in the order he like them. (If the judge puts your rabbit in a cage behind him don’t freak out. He either likes it a lot or if there are not a lot of rabbits in that breed sometimes he will hold the winner of a class in the back)
Then they will pull each rabbit out at a time walking close to the writer at his table. Leave comments about the rabbit and tell the writer the placing of the rabbit.
As the judge makes comments and hands the rabbit back to you then put it in the carrier or take it back to your seating area.
If you want to know more of the “unwritten rules” of rabbit showing and even some rabbit show etiquette tips make sure to read this post.
When we go through something new that we have no idea about. It can feel like learning a new language. When you are reading about rabbit showing or at a show I want you to have a “to-learn list”.
Any time you see a word or phrase you don’t know about I want you to write it down. Then at the end of the day or when you have time go back through that list and look up each of those words you need to learn.
Here is a post that has as many words that I can come up with from A-Z to help you get more acquainted with rabbit showing. Hear one that is missing? Email me at [email protected] and I will add it to the post and send you the answer.
Registering A Rabbit
First, let me make it clear that your rabbit does not have to be registered to be able to show.
Having a rabbit registered is different than the rabbit pedigreed. The pedigree is made by the breeder.
Rabbit pedigree example.⏬
In order for a rabbit to be registered, you have to take it to a rabbit register who is certified by the ARBA.
You can find one at shows and have to pay a small fee of about $6. They will look over the rabbit to make sure there are no disqualifications and make sure the rabbit reaches the minimum Sr weight for the breed.
Your rabbit must also have a full pedigree. Meaning EVERY ANIMAL on the pedigree has its name, ear number, color, and weight listed on the pedigree.
You cannot register a rabbit that has any of that information missing.
For full info on registering a rabbit and why or why not to do it read this post.
Becoming A Grand Champion
In order for a rabbit to become a grand champion, it needs to meet certain qualifications.
- It must have a pedigree and be registered by the ARBA.
- You as the owner must hold a current membership to the ARBA
- Then it must have won at least three “legs” (these are certificates mailed to you by show secretaries for winning placings like best of breed IF there were at least 5 other rabbits owned by three different people in that class) to be able to file for a grand champion certificate.
- The Legs must be of three different shows.
- Must earn legs under a minimum of two different judges.
- One leg must be a 6/8 win or senior win. (meaning your rabbit can’t will all the legs as a jr)
To see where to mail in the paperwork to get the rabbit’s GC certificate read the info here on this document.
Traveling To Shows/Rabbits and traveling
When you are packing the vehicle you want to pack it with the chair, grooming table, and cart LAST. Because those are the things you want to take into the showroom to mark your spot. And the cart… well your rabbits need to be stacked on it… So that goes without saying.
pssst: want to know what to bring to a rabbit show? Make sure to read those post that is a full list of what to pack for a rabbit show.
Another thing to think about is the heat and sun coming down on the rabbits. If you are not traveling all day. They don’t need feed. They likely won’t eat it. Have a little bit of water but not too much to where it splashes out if you are using cage cups.
Showing takes a lot to learn but you will get there. Take it one step at a time and you will get better.
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