WAPAKONETA — Running a tiny brush through her rabbit Bubba’s fur, 8-year-old Amanda Schultz prepared for her first time showing at the Auglaize County Fair.
“It’s pretty easy now,” Amanda said, but after watching older relatives show rabbits for years she knows it keeps getting harder. “Every year you step up another level. You have to know more and the judge will ask you more.”
Even though taking rabbits to the fair runs in the family, the Wapakoneta girl said she takes them because they are “fun and cute.”
In addition her small black rabbit, Bubba, Amanda is showing one named Oreo and a market pen with Goober and Jumpsy inside.
She will have to sell her two market rabbits and is already dreading it.
“I do a lot of the same things with them and love them all the same,” Amanda said. “It will be really hard.”
Brennan Bown, 16, of St. Marys, began taking rabbits as a 4-H project eight years ago after having one as a pet.
“I decided to start raising them,” Brennan said. “They are nice to have around and they are nice and easy to take care of.”
This year he’s showing four in breeding classes and two for market, for which the judge most likely will focus on the loin, back and rump.
Brennan said judges also typically check for disorders and examine the fur.
The hardest part of caring for rabbits for Brennan tends to be in the wintertime when it’s harder to get them to breed and to keep them warm.
Of course, keeping them warm at the fair isn’t a problem, as almost every cage has frozen water bottles inside which the rabbits are laying on or up against to stay cool.
Kristin Miller, 14, of Wapakoneta, spent Tuesday morning preparing her rabbits to show at the Auglaize County Fair.
In her fifth year of showing rabbits, to get the four of them ready to go before the judge, Kristin gives them a bath, combs out their fur and clips their toenails.
Before and after she grooms them, she practices handling them and positioning them in ways the judges may ask her to do.
The teenager said her older brother started out showing the fluffy animals and passed them down to her.
“I like them because they are small and easy to work with,” Kristin said. “The hard part is trying to keep them clean.”
Judges in showmanship told participants Tuesday that their main objective is to see who handles the animal well.
Glen Carr, who judged younger showmen, said 60 percent of the grade is determined by an examination of the rabbit’s eyes, ears, nose, teeth and underneath its belly. He also checked how they carried their rabbits.
Carr said 20 percent of the score he gave included knowledge of the animal, which set the youth apart. Also taken into consideration were personal appearance and the quality of the rabbit.
“How they look at me when they answer the questions,” Carr said was a big determining factor.
Ten-year-old Ryan Schwieterman, of Fort Recovery, is in his second year showing rabbits at the Auglaize County Fair. His mother showed small animals here when she was growing up.
As for why he decided on rabbits, “They look so adorable,” Ryan said as he waited for his showmanship judging Tuesday.
He described showing them as “half and half.”
“Sometimes they are easier than others,” said Ryan, who walked away with a second-place showmanship finish.
While rabbits may have been a learning experience for the whole family, they have all grown to love the animals.
Before showing the rabbits, Ryan explained that he must groom them and get them ready, as well as practice moving them around.
“Trimming their toenails can be hard,” Ryan said of the task, which the rabbits don’t seem to be particularly fond of.
After bringing four rabbits to the fair this year to be judged, Ryan said he plans to continue raising them.
“I started out with a few and ended up with a lot,” he said.