Wednesday, Jan 23 2013 02:51 PM

Rabbit owners jump at chance to show pets

BY MIRANDA WHITWORTH Contributing writer

For some animal lovers, having a dog and cat at home just isn't enough. And if you're willing to hop outside the box, an animal competition this weekend just may provide all the convincing your family needs to introduce a cottontail to the menagerie.

The Annual Rabbit Show takes place Saturday at the Kern County Fairgrounds, where thousands of bunnies from across California will be on display in a competition that takes the art of rabbit breeding to a whole new level.

Kern County Rabbit Breeders Association President Angela Owens has been showing rabbits for nearly a decade. She began when her daughters were in high school and members of the Future Farmers of America.

Like many parents who have children with pets, she and her husband took on a great deal of responsibility when the furry critters came to the house, criss-crossing the state for competitions with bunnies in tow.

"At first we thought it was just once a year at the fair, but it's so much bigger than that," Owens said. "We would find ourselves down south for a competition on a Saturday and then up north on Sunday for another one. It was every weekend with our daughters."

The hard work paid off for their youngest daughter, whose black mini-rex rabbit was ranked No. 1 in its breed in the nation during her final year of competition. While her daughter has since joined the United States Navy and gotten married, Owens still raises rabbits and hits the road in search of top honors.

"We don't show nearly as much now that the girls are gone. But we have gotten a few best in shows and multiple best of breeds, so we don't do too bad.

"You can go to a rabbit show every weekend of the year in California, in any state in the country and even outside of the country. The camaraderie between all the people is great. You have all types from all different backgrounds, everyone from millionaires to the average everyday person show rabbits and they all get along together."

The camaraderie found among the breeders is also evident in the production of the event itself, as the Kern County Rabbit Breeders Association strives to make every annual show free to the public.

In order to do so, Owens says the association hosts two additional rabbit shows a year as fundraisers for the big event.

"We have these backyard shows to raise money; we just make enough to make sure we can afford the big building at the fairgrounds. We want the rabbits to have enough space and everyone to come and have a good time. There are a lot of out-of-towners who come to show their rabbits."

The Annual Rabbit Show will feature breeders from every walk of life, and the rabbits on display will be no different. Approximately 20 different rabbits will be represented, from the extremely popular mini-rex, known for what Owens calls "its better-than-velvet" coat and gentle demeanor, to the Britannia petite, a rabbit that looks built for speed with an attitude to match.

"We have about 150 to 200 people who will come to the show and every person brings multiple entries. Some bring three or four, some will bring 20. So there will be about one or two thousand rabbits there. Lots to see."

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