Who’s got the best buns?

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Hop-timistic owners bring their ear-resistable rabbits to the show – Rachael Rowe has been speaking to rabbit judge Peter Huntley

‘Now, where do I start?’
Peter Huntley has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to judging rabbits. He is the chairman and secretary of the Frome and District Rabbit Club and he organises the rabbit section at Gillingham and Shaftesbury Show.
‘There are agreed standards on rabbits. Each breed has its own standard and regulations – for example, the Netherland Dwarf must not exceed 2½ pounds in weight. We use the British Rabbit Club Breed Standards Book; everything we need is there.
‘If we were in America or Europe, judging would be very different. In this country, we bring all the rabbits out together. So all the red-eyed ones will come out together and line up on a table. The judge picks each one up and examines it. They also look at the rabbit’s condition, including its teeth and health. We look at one rabbit at a time, and the owner gets to see what goes on. In Europe, they don’t see what happens – the judging is done in secret. So for us it’s very user-friendly, having all the rabbits on the table.”

‘Sunset at the warren’ © Graham Bannister

Fancy, lop, fur and rex
I knew there were different rabbit breeds but, until I spoke to Peter, I was unaware there are a staggering 95 breeds in the United Kingdom until speaking to Peter.
‘There are four groups of rabbits. We have the fancy section and a lop section. Then there are the fur rabbits like Chinchillas, bred for their fur. And the Rex section has a velvet feel to its fur. At the end of the show, we take the best from each class and put them on a table. There are two judges from fur and fancy and they select the best in the show.’
Rabbit judges stick to the five freedoms when judging rabbits.
Peter says: ‘These are freedom from hunger and thirst, discomfort, injury and disease, freedom to behave normally, and freedom from fear and distress. So we make sure we stick to the five freedoms. We ensure rabbits have enough space and look at their wellbeing.’
Finally, Peter gave some sound insider advice for those entering rabbits in shows. ‘Each judge looks at something different in particular. They go for what takes their eye. So you should always know your judge!’
Unlike cattle, dogs or horses, show rabbits don’t have names officially (although some probably do at home)

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