What Is A Show Rabbit? What Does “Show Quality” Mean

So you are thinking of getting into show rabbits? Or maybe you have seen people say “show quality” when you are looking for rabbits. And you wonder what does that even mean?

What in the world makes a domestic rabbit qualify to be shown through the ARBA? Well, let me give you the short answer.

A show rabbit is a rabbit that does not have any genetic or non-genetic disqualifications (or DQ’s) AND is a recognized breed of the ARBA. Sometimes this is also important for kids showing in the 4-H rabbit program. 

But here is the thing I want you to remember. Just because it is “show quality” does not mean the type is nice or that it will do well in shows. It only means the rabbit can be placed on the show table.

I love it when people tell me how many first-place ribbons the rabbit has one but how many animals did it beat to win that placing? A rabbit can win first place and still be the only rabbit for that breed there.

Let’s go over some key things that could cause a rabbit to not be show quality.

The Difference Between Genetic & Non-Genetic Disqualifications

Genetic disqualifications are things like white hairs on a rabbit that should be all black or some other solid color. A white toenail when they should be black. Anything that could be passed on to their babies is considered a genetic disqualification.

Non-genetic DQ’s are things that could be something like an illness whether temporary or not. Or something like missing toes from a dog attack or broken teeth. It is quite common to have a rabbit chip a tooth because of their constant chewing.

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Genetic Disqualifications Of Show Rabbits

These are things that could get them disqualified from a show but they could also pass these things to their offspring.

If this is the case then it is advised that this mature rabbit is not bred. Even if you don’t intend to show rabbits it is simply good animal husbandry to not breed animals that are sub-par. 

Abnormalities – This could be anything from body type to questionable health.

Overweight or underweight – Every breed has a minimum and some have a max breed weight limit. So the rabbit has to fall within that eight range for its breed. ** this could be both genetic or non-genetic if you own a rabbit that is underweight the only way to know is to check the pedigree and the weight of the ancestors.

Genitalia – If there is some malformation on either male or female. Bucks with a split penis. All males must have two descended testicles. Juniors are exempt.

Blindness – Since you can’t ask your rabbit how many fingers are you holding up, this usually shows up from cloudiness over the eye or obstructing the pupil. Scratches or damaged eyes will also count as a disqualification.

Crooked Legs – Any type of bent, bowed, deformed, or cow hocks if severe enough will be disqualified. Even if they are not severe and the judge sees the issue but does not DQ your animal they will still place it very low.

Dewlaps – Dewlaps are typically seen on females only. BUT the large breeds like flemish giants and french lops are exempt from that rule.

Eye color – if the rabbit does not have the right eye color that it should have then that is a disqualification.

Tail – Permanently to the site or out of line. Screwtail, bobtail, or a portion missing.

if a rabbit’s tail is broken it will still be disqualified even if it was not a genetic malformation.

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Non-Genetic Disqualifications Of A Show Rabbit

These things are sometimes fixable and not as likely to pass on to their offspring. 

Permanent Ear Mark – If the tattoo containing the ID number is illegible or none at all.

Any kind of illness – Abnormal eye discharge, colds, tumor or abscesses, and External parasites.

Placed in the wrong class – If you put a buck/doe in a class that is the wrong sex then that is a DQ. As well as putting the rabbit in a class for the wrong color.

Not all breeds are shown by color. Some like the french lop is shown by color pattern.

Torn ears or ears with a portion missing – This happens mainly to lop breeds. But if a rabbit gets their ear bitten or caught and it does not heal up to be unnoticeable, it will be up to the judge and depend on the severity of whether or not to disqualify the rabbit.

Malocclusion – This is where the teeth are not growing straight down and curve to the side. Often because the teeth are extremely long. This can happen if the rabbit has not been chewing enough. But this can also be genetic so if you don’t know which way it is then better safe than sorry.

Does A Rabbit Need A Pedigree To Show

The short answer is no. BUT there is not a lot of good reasons not to. If a rabbit does not have a pedigree they can not apply to get their grand champion certificate or be registered. I wrote a post on pedigrees and registration explaining the differences so you can read that here.

rabbit pedigree

You will also have a hard time getting a decent price for the rabbit’s offspring if they don’t have one. Mainly because there is no proof that the animal is purebred even if it looks on point. A pedigree will take a rabbit from a several hundred dollar value to having to be sold as a pet for $25 if you are lucky.

So is it worth it to have one…. yeah I would say so.

ID Numbers

All rabbits must have an I.D. number tattooed in THEIR left ear to be shown. The breeder can make up any combination of numbers and letters only to be tattoed in block text.

You can buy a tattoo pen (which I recommend because they are much easier to touch up) from this site here.

How Do You Care For Show Rabbits?

After you get your rabbits home, your main task is keeping them healthy and happy until they go up for judging at the next show.

Top Tips For Keeping Show Rabbits

Keeping your rabbits in the best body condition possible is key to showing rabbits. Everything from coat quality to flesh condition will have an effect on your rabbit’s show career. 

Some is genetic and some are due to feed and their environment. So let’s get into the things you can control.

The Right Equipment 

Only use all-wire cages. These are much less likely to cause urine stains on your rabbit than solid-bottomed cages. They also keep your rabbit’s environment cleaner and reduce ammonia. (This is a huge reason I do not recommend solid floors even if you aren’t showing rabbits.

You can buy one or make your own. Depending on the size of your breed (cough like french lops) you might have to.

This will help to make sure your show rabbits have the best advantage.

A travel carrier that has the rabbit off the bottom is a must. You can find them here. 

Rabbit Grooming

When it comes to grooming a rabbit for show the key is cleanliness not so much tricks to make it look better. If you do things to cover up a rabbits faults or do anything unnatural you could be kicked out of showing. 

You can find a whole post about grooming a rabbit for show here. 

Feed Consistent Diet

People will examine feed bag labels for a long time trying to figure out the healthiest diet for their rabbits. While this is commendable, sometimes the more important thing than the type of pellets is the freshness of the feed and its consistency.

When it comes to feeding, make sure the pellets are fresh. Your rabbit won’t condition well on stale food. A healthy diet is more effective at keeping your rabbit in tip-top form than any supplements you could add.

Provide The Right Environment

Proper housing does not end with a well-built cage. The cage must be located in a properly ventilated location. Whether that is in a barn or outside in a strategic location. In the summer, the temperature around it should never exceed 85 degrees, unless you take steps to keep your rabbit cool and hydrated when it’s hot outside.

The cage may be kept outside, but it must be protected from predators and rain.

Your rabbit must be kept in a quiet area so your rabbit will not be stressed. All these factors, if the rabbit is not protected from them, can compromise your bunny’s immune system.

It’s also very important to keep the cage clean. Not only will this help prevent diseases such as coccidiosis, but it will you’re your rabbit’s coat from getting stained.

Handle Your Rabbits Often

If you want to be successful exhibiting rabbits, this step must not be overlooked. To look good for the judges, you must teach your rabbit to pose in the designated manner that is specific to the breed.

Here is an example of a show rabbit posing for a show. She can do it without my hand on her head or holding her in place.

show rabbit posing for show

Rabbits can master the skill of posing themselves after a lot of practice. They start to learn when they are touched in a certain way what to do. If you want to compete in a rabbit showmanship event, get your rabbit acclimated to what is going to happen so it will work with you and not against you.

It’s also important to handle your rabbit frequently since it allows you to check on its condition when it comes to health on a regular basis. That way, if your rabbit has any issues, you’ll be able to detect them early on.

Keep Records

Keeping track of what’s going on in your rabbitry is a good management practice that will assist you to produce better rabbits in the long run. At the very least, for each rabbit you breed, keep pedigrees and breeding records.

People who want to buy show rabbits expect to see a pedigree and often will not buy one without it. You can learn more about pedigrees here.

It can be a lot of work to show your rabbits. The more you show, however, the faster you’ll learn how to get them looking their best. With a little effort and a lot of practice, it won’t be long before show day comes around and you’re a pro helping others learn how to show rabbits.

Keep your show rabbit healthy, show it often and learn how to handle it correctly. If you want to compete in a rabbit show. The ARBA is a great place to look for events in your area.

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