'Hare' Raising Fun At Fair

WAPAKONETA — Judges chose winners in the rabbit showmanship on Tuesday, looking at how well the showmen have taken care of and studied their rabbits.

Terry Fander, a rabbit judge, said judges look at breeds and body types in other categories, but showmanship is mostly based on the ability to handle and maintain control of the animal, along with what the competitor knows about the breed.

“It’s the ability to maintain control, but also polish,” Fander said. “You want them to remain quiet while judges talk to the others, and of course, you don’t want them to chew gum when answering questions.”

Agnes Schmerge, adviser to the Hare Raisers 4-H group, said the students learn to turn the rabbit over, check its paws, nails, and teeth, check the stomach for tumors, look at tails, check the eyes for blindness and look for canker sores on the ears or mites.

In the 21 years she said she’s “been in bunnies,” the most memorable event was the year she had a rabbit that had a tail, but no hair on the tail.

The students study the breeds of rabbits they have and water and feed their animals.

Jesse McKenzie showed a mini lop senior buck, which he said he started doing because his mom had done it. His two rabbits were purchased from a breeder, but originally came from Washington and Ottawa.

He said he feeds the rabbits every day, grooms them and keeps their paws clean.

Rosemary Hauts brought a mini lop senior doe to the competition.

“We named it mustache because it had a mustache,” Hauts said. “Then we found out it was a girl.”

Her favorite part, she said, was having fun with other competitors.

“I like to see the other people competing with me, and see their rabbits,” she said.

The hardest part of maintenance Hauts said, was trimming the nails.

“I like rabbits, they’re calm,” she said. “I like to tame them.”

Hauts said for her the key to showmanship was smiling, standing up straight, and looking at the judges.

Molly Hardesty, a competitor, said it was her 10th year showing, and also the most educational.

“It’s very competitive, and we’re all good friends, too,” she said. “We had a great judge who asked us questions we didn’t know. One of the better judges in 10 years.”

One question none of the competitors knew was about how a female’s chin skin could get a contestant disqualified.

“Every single one of us had no idea,” Hardesty said. “But at the end she gave us the answers to the questions. We were all stumped, so we definitely learned something.”

Her mother, Michelle Michalak, said the girls all study hard for the competition.

“Showmanship wraps up the whole experience of the class, because you’re really judging the kid more than the animal,” she said.

Chris Paul  watched from the sidelines as he held his three daughters’ trophies as they competed for the top showman of showmen award. Paul said his daughters are competitive against each other at home, and quiz each other.

He said the youngest won the top award two years ago, and the middle one won a year ago, so this year he was rooting for the oldest.

“I hope Maddy (Paul) wins it because it’s her last year,” Paul said. “I’m going to have one happy kids and two others either way.”