I will be the first to admit that when I started showing rabbits last year, I knew nothing about rabbit shows. Nada. Zip. Zero. I researched enough to know I needed to get there early, bring a chair, the rabbits, water for the rabbits, and a pen.
I arrived early and found a spot in the fairground barn (an exhibitor barn) by the big doors and set up my chair, claiming my area. There were six judging tables, each about 15 feet long, that covered one long side of the barn. Opposite the judging tables on the other side of the room was the check-in table and judging tables for guinea pigs. Other competitors were arriving through the big barn doors, bringing in what looked like pallets of rabbits on landscaping wagons. Rabbits of all types–big, small, fluffy, sleek, black, white, silver–all looking out of their rabbit carriers, drinking from tiny water bottles. Those folks set up in the middle of the barn and then walked over to the check-in table, handing over their required paperwork for the show.
Looking at the parade of professionals and their gleaming carriers and wagons, my heart sunk just a little bit. I headed out to my car and started to bring in my rabbits, all of them ensconced in small dog and cat carriers. Four trips back and forth to my car, the carriers in each hand stuffed with straw and hay that left a trail through the barn like bread crumbs, leading right to my spot.
I was the only person there that had cat carriers.
I went to the check-in table and was handed a small mountain of papers to fill out; a slip for each rabbit of my rabbits to fill out name, address, breed, age, sex, etc. Since this was a triple show, that meant I had to fill out 24 slips in addition to the main exhibitioner’s page which listed all my rabbits, tattoos, age, etc, all over again. Ever fill out all your basic information 25 times, maybe at the social security or welfare office? From the hand cramps after all the repetitious writing I felt entitled to some portion of WIC or SNAP!!
After filling out the paperwork and turning it in, I realized I needed a tattooist for my rabbits! I had put tattoo numbers for them on their paperwork (since a rabbit has to have an ear tattoo to be shown) but now I needed it to actually have it done. A visiting judge had a tattoo station set up by the check- in table and after paying her $2 per tattoo, I had to pick up all those cat carriers again and take them over to where she was set up. If you ever have to wrestle six young rabbits in and out of cat carriers full of straw, you will find to your growing embarassment that there will be a small mountain of stems on the floor and brand new cuts on your arms from struggling rabbit toenails when you’re done. I was hot and exhausted and judging hadn’t even started yet. Humping those carriers back to my spot (I bribed two young girls to help me) I settled into my chair for a rest. Just to have the first class for New Zealands called at the other end of the barn.
At this point there were probably 150 people and their rabbits in the barn and it was extremely crowded with walking area at a minimum. I grabbed two carriers (10 lbs of rabbit in each carrier) and made the long walk to the other end of the barn, and by my third trip I was the spectacle to watch at the NZ table. Once I got there, huffing and puffing, the judge was waiting for me to put my rabbits on the table in the little individual cages. A fellow competitor who was showing New Zealand Whites took one look at me and my set up and said, “First show? Everyone has cat carriers for their first couple shows. Let me help.” Another gentleman joined us in breaking out the rabbits a moment later. When the judge got huffy over the delay (those tables are high and difficult to see over) my rescuer said, “It’s her first show, please be patient.”
It turns out I was the only person with New Zealand Reds at that show and was competing against myself in all three classes. In retrospect I’m glad, I learned a lot about NZR conformation, show etiquette, and what the best breeding options I had for my next generation of Reds. Near the end of the show I traded one of my Red doelings for a genuine top-opening rabbit carrier, which enabled me to retire two cat carriers. I made some new friends and was proud of how well my rabbits and I did our first show out.
That evening as I packed up the car there was another trail of straw behind us but this time it led to blue ribbon rabbits.
***If you’re going to show rabbits, here is some advice: 1. Eat breakfast and bring lunch, 2. Bring return address labels to apply to the show paperwork, it’ll cut down on the carpal tunnel from writing your info over and over, 3. BORROW/BUY/STEAL a wagon for moving your rabbits, 4. Do NOT bring open topped water bottles (Lixit brand for example), when you have to take them off the cages they spill water all over the ground since they can’t be set on their sides.