Going to fair this year, I watched so many kids bomb rabbit showmanship simply because the don't know the right people to teach them. I decided to go through all the steps the right way, to maybe help some of them out. And I understand that it is much easier to learn with some one walking you through all the steps in person, so if you want you can email me and I would be happy to help.
One might notice my hair is down. When you are doing showmanship, yours will not be.
One may also notice that I am in a long sleeve white lab coat with a whit shirt underneath and black pants. Also, no nail polish or anything on my wrists (ie. hair bands, bracelets...). Nail polish, especially chipped nail polish is very detracting to the judge. You don't want anything on your wrists because your rabbit could get his nails stuck in it and break his toes, or rip out his toenails. That goes for any piercings too. No earrings, or facial piercings.
First and foremost, as soon as you set your rabbit on the table, you pose him. This is probably the most important thing to learn since you pose your rabbit before and after every step, and you repose him if he takes two steps. This means you are going to pose him at least three times. Now these next step only apply to compact, commercial and semi-arch breeds. If you have a rabbit with a different body type (arch, or cylindrical), these steps my be a little different.
1. Place one hand on the rabbits face, and push his hind quarters up into place.
2. place one front foot under your rabbits eye
3. Put the other front foot under the eye
4. Put one back leg under the hip.
5. Put the other back leg under the hip.
6. Straighten the tail up the spine.
7. Straighten the ears by running your fingers up the center
8.Smooth the fur back
9. Put your hands at your sides and step back.
Don't just scrunch him up. Do all steps every time you have to pose him.
Easy enough. Grab your rabbits head and ears like the picture to your right. You don't want to hurt your rabbit and you never, ever, ever, ever, scruff your rabbit!!! They're not cats! You lift up the front legs with the hand on his head and lift up the back legs with the other. Be sure you don't drag his nails on the carpet. He could rip out a nail, or brake a toe which are both disqualifications. Tuck his head between you and your arm, take a step back, and put the free arm down at your side. When the judge tells you to, you put your rabbit back on the table back legs first, and pose him. You always pose your rabbit before and after every step.
Oh, boy. This ones a complicated. It took me six years to perfect the examination. You're going to need to patience with both yourself and your rabbit. Three little touches that gets you extra points with the judge are: always start on the judges side first if the rabbit has two of something(ie. two ears, two front legs, two eyes), about every three steps look at the judge and smile, and don't go too fast or too slow. Pace yourself. The judge wants to see what you're doing, but doesn't want to get bored.
1. Squeeze the base of each ear. If the rabbit shakes his head when you do this step, he may have one of two things: ear mites or ear wax. Ear mites are a disqualification. Ear wax should be removed with a towel during the grooming process.
2. Check inside of each ear and run your fingers up each ear. You're looking for ear mites, your rabbits identification tattoo to be clear and legible, and you're looking for nicks and scabs. Mites and illegible tattoos are disqualifications.
3. Point at each eye, judges side first, of course. You're not poking his eye, you're just letting the judge know that you're looking for cloudiness in the eyes, blindness, goo or crust around the eyes, and that they are the right color, and the same color.
4. Flip your rabbit over. This step takes a lot of practice. You use the same hold as you would with handling your rabbit. Bring your other hand all the way around your rabbit and support his back when you smoothly roll him on is back. He may struggle, but if you keep hold of him, he will settle down. If at any point in the examination he gets away from you and flips back over, just flip him over again and resume where you were. It also helps to bring a docile rabbit to showmanship.
5. Point at the nose. You are showing the judge that you are looking for green or white opaque discharge, or crust around the nose. These symptoms can mean he has a cold, or the deadly and incredibly contagious snuffles. Both a cold and snuffles is a disqualification from competition.
6. Bring your hand around to the top of the rabbits jaw and split his lips. You're looking for any sign of a malocclusion. That is when the teeth don't overlap properly and can't wear themselves down. This is a disqualification. Rabbits teeth keep growing like fingernails their whole life, and get worn down from eating.
7. Run your finger down his neck and chest. You're looking for any abscesses or deformities like pigeon breast. That is when he rabbits rib cage fuses together causing a prominent "V" shaped rib cage. This is a disqualification from competition.
8. Gently pull each foreleg until its straight. As you do so, rub up the side of each leg. You are looking for bowed, bent, or broken legs, also matting up the inside of each leg. That could mean he was rubbing his nose excessively indicating a cold or snuffles. These are all disqualifications from competition.
9. Check each set of nails on the front legs, judges side first. You're looking for missing, or miss-matched toenails, and broken toes. These are disqualifications. This is why you never drag your rabbits nails and keep them clipped short. Often times when a toenail gets ripped out it grows back white, if it grows back at all. That could be bad news for a black rabbit.
10. Make an "L" with your thumb and index finger, and run your hand down the rabbits stomach, than catch under his knees and straighten them out. You're checking for abscesses on the stomach and seeing how parallel his back legs are. Bent legs could mean he suffers from a birth defect or he broke it and the bone fused improperly.
11. Run your thumb up the bottom of each hock (the bottom portion of the hind foot). You're checking for a condition called sore hocks. Sore hocks are when the bottom of the foot gets scabby, bare, and sometimes infected from standing on a wire cage bottom. It is most common in large breeds or breeds with a thin layer of fur on the hock like a Rex, or other large breeds. This can be prevented by putting a piece of wood or a plastic foot protector in the cage. Sore hocks are a disqualification.
12. Check the toe nails on the back feet, judges side first, like always.
13. Check the gender of the rabbit. You can do this by taking the tail between your index finger and your middle finger and using your thumb to press above the vent. You're looking for a split penis, vent disease, and you're making sure you entered the right gender rabbit. Entering the wrong gender/ class/ variety/ ear number and diseases are disqualifications.
14. Run your fingers down his tail. You're looking for broken or missing vertebrae and dead tail, which is when the tail is black and brittle from lack of circulation. They are all disqualifications EXCEPT dead tail which is only a fault. It is one, though if it breaks off because it is missing vertebrae. Don't pass over this step. Do it. I have seen so many people think they're fine if they wait until he is upright. Don't.
15. Flip the rabbit back on his feet. It looks better if you smoothly roll him back on his feet, but its not the end of the world if he gets away from you and does it on his own. Just keep going.
16. Find the tail and pull it upright. Yes again. Before you were checking for vertebra, now you're checking for tail carriage. You are looking for the tail to be straight up his spine, not crooked or laying on the table. The tail is supposed to be an extension of the spine, therefore if it isn't where it's supposed to be, its a disqualification.
17. Set the ears. In normal eared variety you do so by running your fingers up the centers of them. In lop eared varieties, its a little different. You are checking the ear carriage. (In the Polish) You want the ears to be touching all the way up. Bowed ears or ears carried like a "V" will be a fault. Ears carried below the horizontal line are a disqualification. In lop eared varieties, ears carried above horizontal are one too.
18. Check the meat and fur of the rabbit. Run your hand from the nape of the neck to the tail then back again. On a Polish, you want to see the fur return to its original position quickly. This is called "fly back". There is also roll back, like found on the Netherland Dwarf, and stand up to name a few.
19. Lastly, pose your rabbit. You keep him posed while the judge is looking at the other kids, but don't keep touching the animal. Only touch him to repose him, and only repose him if he takes two, count them, two steps.