Where to even begin? Signing up and preparing for your very first show with your rabbit can be stressful, but it is not a difficult process. I’m writing this post for folks who are new to showing, everyone starts somewhere and we are here to help!!!
Step 1 is to determine which rabbits you are going to show. This is easy if you only have one rabbit! Most of us have multiple rabbits however, so deciding who to take along to the show can be determined by multiple factors. Start with the obvious: do any rabbits that you would like to show have any obvious disqualifications (DQs)? Look for things like white hairs that are NOT silvering (ie. a hair that is entirely white vs silvered which would only be a white tip), white or mismatched toe nails, missing nails, bad teeth, completely white toe pads, flyback fur (the fur doesn’t stand when stroked from tail to head). Determine the age class of your rabbit: junior is up to 6 months, intermediate is 6 to 8 months, and senior is over 8 months.
Next, make sure your rabbit meets the minimum weight requirements for their age class: 4.5 to 9lb for juniors, up to 10lb for intermediate bucks, up to 11lb for intermediate does, 9 to 11lb for senior bucks, 10 to 12lb for senior does. If your rabbit is over weight, they can be shown in the next applicable age class (ie. a 9.5lb junior buck can be shown as an intermediate, an 11.5lb junior doe can be shown as a senior). Animals can NOT be shown down a class (ie. if your rabbit is 9 months old but has not yet met senior weight, they can’t be shown as an intermediate).
Once you have determined the age and weight class of your rabbit, and whether or not they are free of DQs, you can proceed with making your decision about whether or not to show them. Other determining factors include coat condition (ie. rabbits in molt will not do as well on the table as a rabbit that is in good coat condition), overall body condition (can you feel ribs/hips protruding excessively, etc.), and how well they conform to the Standard of Perfection (SOP). At this point it is also good to decide whether or not you want to enter your rabbit in the fur classes (held at the end of each breed class in each show) – determine this solely by your rabbit’s overall coat condition and how closely it meets the breed SOP. Remember, that even if you don’t think your rabbit meets the SOP the most accurately, it is always a good idea to get a judge’s opinion. Showing can help reinforce whether or not you are making the correct decisions for your rabbitry and help you see things you may have missed during evaluations. It is also important to remember that one rabbit may be loved and top of the class under one judge, and the next judge may place them dead last. Such is showing.
Great, you’ve determined whether or not to show your rabbit. If you are proceeding with showing (which, let’s be honest, it can’t hurt to take a rabbit and hear some opinions), the next step is to look up the information for the show that you’re planning to enter. Important information includes show address, time, time zone, entry fees, secretary & entry information, and entry deadlines. Many shows have Facebook event pages, and all ARBA sanctioned shows will have information on the ARBA website. You do NOT need to be an ARBA member to enter a show! At this point, consider whether you will be showing in open (open to exhibitors of all ages) or youth (open to members up to 18 years of age). Some breeds only sanction open shows due to a lack of youth breeders. ANY RABBIT can be shown regardless of whether or not the breed is sanctioned, sanctions only matter for sweepstakes points with the national breed specialty clubs. You can also pay to have a breed sanctioned by contacting the show secretary, if you so desire.
Once you have all pertinent information, you can begin filling out your entry form. I have included an example entry form below. This entry form is also available to GSFRB members in the ‘Member Content’ portion of the website – as well as a helpful show printable sheet. In the entry form below, Jane Fox has entered one black junior silver fox doe with ear number JF01 in open shows A,B,C and the fur class for open show A. Make sure you fill in ALL sections and check the form for correctness prior to sending it to the show secretary. Once the secretary has your entry form, before the show, you will receive check in sheets. These check in sheets should be copies of your original entry form made for each show (ie. two forms for a double show, three for a triple, etc.). ALWAYS CHECK ALL OF YOUR CHECK IN SHEETS FOR CORRECTNESS & ACCURACY! It is easiest on the show secretary and staff if changes or edits are made PRIOR to the day of the show. NO CHANGES CAN BE MADE AT THE SHOW TABLE, aka if you mess up an ear number, your rabbit is disqualified for that show. Some shows do not allow day-of entries, while others do, it is best to send in entries early to avoid confusion or missing out entirely.
Once you have confirmed your check-in sheets are correct, you’re good to go! Now just make sure your rabbit stays show ready, this is the time to trim nails, give them a good grooming, and make sure that their tattoo is legible. Prep your carriers, feed, and water to take along. If it’s going to be an overnight trip, make sure you take more than enough supplies in case of spills or emergencies.
On the day of the show, make sure that you arrive at the show location a MINIMUM of one hour prior to the start of the show. This allows plenty of time for check-in, payment, setting up, and making sure all rabbits are good. The first thing that I do when I arrive at a show is check in – this process typically takes the longest, there can sometimes be a line, and all exhibitors must be checked in prior to the start of the show. Head to the secretary table and get yourself checked in & your entries paid for (if you hadn’t paid ahead of time via PayPal – which some clubs allow). Check-in is also the time to scratch any rabbits that may need scratched or change any ear numbers if you’ve replaced one rabbit with another (only ear number changes are typically allowed – ie. animal must be same class, variety, breed, & sex as the rabbit being replaced, otherwise you will need to scratch the original animal without replacement). It is helpful, but not required, to bring your check-in sheets with you to check-in.
Once you’re checked in, you can unload your rabbits and find yourself a space to hang out for the day. The GSFRB keeps a table with a sign of our club logo, and we often all sit together, which allows us to help one another during the show. Some helpful things to bring to a show include a chair, a cooler with some snacks & drinks, cash (some show food vendors only accept cash), and a cart if you have more than 1 carrier with rabbits.
At this point you can see if you can find the posted sheets (typically either by the secretary table or on the show tables) that show the judging orders for each breed in each show. If you can’t find these sheets, just listen for your breed to be called via the loud speaker or an announcer. Once your breed is called, take your rabbit(s) up to the table and wait for each age class & variety to be called. With Silver Fox, our only ARBA accepted variety is black, however chocolates can be shown under their current Certificate of Development (COD), and blues may be shown under the previous COD if permission is given ahead of time by the show secretary & superintendent.
Shows will start with senior bucks, then senior does, moving down age classes from bucks to does, and ending with the COD varieties (if any are being shown). COD varieties can’t accumulate points or earn legs at shows. In order for a rabbit to earn a leg, there must be at least 5 animals shown by at least 3 exhibitors. For example, if there are 5 bucks being shown by 3 exhibitors, and 5 does being shown by 3 exhibitors, then Best of Breed (BOB) and Best Opposite Sex Of Breed (BOSB/BOS) will both earn legs. If there are 5 bucks being shown by 3 exhibitors and 5 does being shown by 2 exhibitors, then only the bucks will earn a leg for either BOB/BOS. If there are 5 SENIOR bucks being shown under 3 exhibitors, then the best senior buck will earn a leg. This goes for all classes. In order to become eligible for a grand champion (GC) certificate, the rabbit must be registered [to be registered you must be an ARBA member, pay the registration fee, have the rabbit registered by a registrar, and the rabbit must meet the minimum senior weight requirements] and earn at least 3 legs – with at least 1 of those legs being earned as an intermediate or senior.
If your rabbit was lucky enough to earn BOB, you then have the option to stay until the end of the show for the Best in Show (BIS) judging. At this point, you will put your rabbit on the judging table when they begin to call BIS for the particular show that your rabbit won BOB in (A,B,C,etc.). The BIS judge will then judge all of the BOB winners from ALL breeds who remain on the show grounds to determine the BIS and Reserve in Show (RIS) winners. BIS and RIS are both HUGE honors, and it is always nice to have a Silver Fox in the running.
That’s about it. Once the show concludes you can head home. It is typically recommended to keep rabbits who attended a show in quarantine, if possible, for at least 1-2 weeks (more preferably 30 days) to make sure no illnesses were picked up at the show. The show secretary will email you your exhibitor reports within 30 days of the show, these reports will include your placings and total number of points earned by you at the show. Any legs earned will also be included in the reports.
Just remember that we have ALL started at one show, our very first ever, and we were all a bit nervous. Beyond the nerves lies the excitement, camaraderie, and socialization that can only come from a rabbit show. Take time to network with fellow breeders and make new friends, but most of all ENJOY YOURSELF!