Every state, district, and county have their own methods and rules concerning rabbit 4-H shows. Some county/state competitions do individual presentations (story showmanship), others do group showman ship, some do a combination of both, and others might do something else entirely, some counties also have certain dress codes that must be followed. The showmanship guides on this site are based on nationally common showmanships, some steps may need to be added to fit the requirements for your area. Check with your local county extension office to learn about their method and rules, you may also want to ask whether or not cloverbuds may also show at the fair.
If you have any rabbit 4-H questions contact Candace Howell at:
*note: this is our recommendation for running a 4-H rabbit meeting, there is no official meeting agenda or standard that must be followed.
When and how often meetings should be held
When you should begin your meetings depends largely on when your county fair is held and when record books are due. We recommend having your first meeting 3 months before the fair at the latest and to meet on a weekly basis. As to what time of day to run a meeting, rabbits are most active in mornings and evenings, the afternoon is rabbit nap time and they can get a little grouchy and are more prone to bite.
Where to hold meetings
Homes can work well for small meetings, or outside in the rabbitry/barn if you have the space, but these places can be full of distractions. We've held our meetings at the local fair grounds, parks, and other picnic areas. Public areas like these work well as there is a large amount of space and plenty of tables available.
What to do at meetings
The first and most important thing is to understand how kids learn. It should come as no surprise that kids typically don't look forward to lectures, they are (to quote many a kid) "borrrrrring". Kids, and well, just about everyone else learn best by having hands on learning experiences, doing research, having fun, and with a little friendly competition.
Below are ideas for practicing the 2 most common forms of showmanship, practice whatever form is done at your fair.
Individual Presentation or Story Showmanship (see "Basic Showmanship Presentation ")
This is becoming the most common form of showmanship across the country because it teaches more speaking skills and allows the 4-Her to show more of their knowledge and skills without having to rely on the judge to present the right opportunity.
Practicing individual presentations is time consuming to say the least, especially for large clubs, but it's also essential for a successful fair. We highly recommend breaking everyone into small groups, about 3 to 4 4-Hers per group. Have a parent, teen leader, or experienced 4-Her lead each group. Don't worry about keeping your age groups separate,we usually mix groups up differently every week. Also encourage kids to give each other advice to help build and personalize their presentations. All this will help save time, build leadership skills, encourage team work, involve parents, keep kids focused, and did I say save time?
Group Showmanship (see "Group Showmanship Guide")
Some counties still use this older form of showmanship, but it's more often done at A.R.B.A. showmanship competitions and state fairs where a large number of competitors is expected. Group showmanship is also often done at fairs in smaller groups after individual presentations, to determine top showman, as this allows the judge to present challenges that otherwise can't be done.
Group showmanship takes less time to practice than individual presentations, but can still take a lot of time. Breaking into groups helps the meeting flow more smoothly and having every one practicing at the same time also keeps kids from getting bored. Separate groups by age Juniors (8 to 11), intermediates (12 to 14), and Seniors (15 to18). If you only have 1 or 2 kids in a group then combine them in with the next closest, or if you have a really large group then you can break them into smaller groups. Have a parent, teen leader, or experienced 4-Her "play the judge" for each group. Change judges for each group at each meeting along with the questions and activities because group showmanship is more or less unpredictable as you never know what the judge will have the 4-Hers do. Another way to change things up a bit is to occasionally inter mix your groups (juniors with intermediates and seniors), this helps younger and less experienced kids to be exposed to more knowledge and older kids have a chance to practice some leadership by helping the younger kids. All this will help keep parents involved, encourage team work, teaches leadership, keeps every one busy so no one gets bored, and saves some time for other things.
After showmanship practice
This is a good time to teach a little or for a few demonstrations, but remember to keep it short because lectures are "borrrrring", about 15 to 20 minutes at the most. The best way to hold attention is by asking the kids questions and/or to other wise involve them. Teach the whole club together or in 2 groups (beginning and advanced, this of course requires 2 leaders). Some topics may take a few meetings to cover, such as diseases for example. When you come to such a topic it's a good opportunity to ask for some help from the kids. Ask them to (for example) research a few diseases at home and then share what they learned at the next meeting, this can easily be turned into a demonstration.
Both showmanship practice and a little teaching or a few demonstrations should have covered about an hour of time, there is just one thing left to do.
This is where the fun and friendly competition part comes in. Kids like drill, no really they do. Okay, maybe we should call it jeopardy or who wants a tootsie roll or something like that, it doesn't really matter. Knowledge based games are equally important to showmanship practice as this is the best and fastest way for kids to learn, and knowledge plays a large part in showmanship. Running drill is easy, there is no need to break up into groups again or to separate your beginners from the advanced, play as a whole club. Kids are very fast learners, you might be surprised how quickly the juniors will be answering senior questions with the best of them. We always allow everyone to have a cheat sheet (a copy of the questions and answers), if they don't know the answer to a question they can look up (research) the answer. Another fun thing is to promise a candy bar or other reward to anyone who can bring a rabbit question (with correct answer) that no one else can answer, this encourages at home voluntary research.
This pretty much wraps up your typical 4-H rabbit meeting, you can of course, change it up a bit every now and then with a little breed id, judging contest, or other such things, but for the most part you'll want to keep your meetings centered around what will be needed at the fair.
Name: yrs. in 4-H: Class:
4 Poses- 000
Conclusion- 000 Questions
Handling- 00000 ___/___
Appearance- 000 :) :(
Name: yrs. in 4-H:
All Around- 00000
Big pt. Questions-
Small pt. Questions-
Eye contact- 000
These were made for everyone looking for an easy to use alternative to score sheets. As a 4-Her, I disliked score sheets, then as a judge I despised them. Score sheets limit the amount of points that you can give in each part, so showmen that cover the basics get max points for that part but those who go a little further get...what? As a judge I began to use score sheets for a check list more than anything else, then try to write down what the 4-Her did well and what they could have done better (not always easy). The rating cards by themselves can be used to score or "rate" a showmanship or they can be used as a quick and easy way to take notes to later apply to a score sheet.
How The Rating Cards Work:
There are no points listed for any section or part, this is simply a way to quickly mark down what each 4-her did. Scores can later be given based on how well 4-hers did at their level. There are 3 to 5 bubbles for each section, it's up to the judge to decide how to break down the bubbles, but here's my suggestion: For each section with 5- 1 for very poorly done, having missed 2 or more things, missing a section entirely, etc., 2 for missing 1 part or struggling through it, 3 for having covered all the basics but maybe could have spoken better, 4 for covering all the basics and doing it very well, and 5 for not only covering the basics but also going above and beyond what is expected for minimum requirements. For each section with 3- 1 for poor, 2 for good, and 3 for great. A star can be added at the end of a row of bubbles for 4-Hers that did even better still.
On the presentation card there is a question line for correct answers (above the smiley face) and incorrect answers (above the sad face). The presentation card also has a group marked "type evaluation", most counties do not include this in minimum requirements, this is there for 4-Hers that take a step above the rest (and this makes it easier for the judge to record) and for national level showmanship.
On the group card there are two places for questions: big point questions and small point questions. This is for hard questions or what I like to refer to as "thinking" questions that should have longer answers, can be marked separately from normal questions. The question sections were not given bubbles so that judges may choose how to mark them (I use tallies and stars). It also has a place marked "other", this is just for a judges convenience if they want an extra place under knowledge. At the bottom of the group card there are 3 blank lines, again this is for a judges convenience for adding anything else in, as each judge runs group showmanship differently.
Unfortunately, I was unable to format the rating cards the way I like on our website. I like to have 4 presentation cards per sheet of paper and 6 group cards per sheet. To get them like this you can use any writing program on your computer to recreate them or hand write them.
*note: This article is our personal opinion and our given advice (based on personal experience) on choosing a breed and who to purchase your rabbits from. It is not meant to be self promoting, nor is it meant to offend or as an attack against any breeder, we are simply trying to help 4-Hers to make an informed decision in choosing a quality rabbit for their project.
We always recommend going to an ARBA (American Rabbit Breeders Association) show before jumping in and buying your first rabbit. ARBA shows offer the opportunity to see many if not all of the 47 recognized breeds, a chance to handle several of these breeds (breeder/owner willing), and a chance to ask questions of many experienced rabbit breeders. We also recommend that you consider what purpose you want your rabbit or rabbits to serve, if you just want a pet/4-H rabbit then any breed you choose can work well for that, but if you want to raise rabbits to sell in a market than you can quickly create a list of breeds that will be best for you (see "Choosing A Breed").
Breeds we highly recommend for any age:
French Lop - this is my personal favorite breed (even though I no longer raise them). Because they belong in the giant size group many people believe that they are not a good choice for young children, but French Lop are probably the most laid back, mellow rabbit that I have ever handled. I have even seen 5 and 6 year old kids carry and successfully rock and roll (rolling the rabbit on its back) these extremely gentle giants.
Cinnamon - another very mellow and sweet breed, but they are a rare breed and very hard to find, this large breed is currently listed as the 3rd rarest breed in the country.
Silver Fox - like a large breed version of the Silver, Silver Fox is often described as being cat-like, Silver Fox is also a rare breed.
Silver - this is probably my favorite small breed. Silvers are almost as mellow as French Lop and one of the only small breeds that I can say was meant to be put into kids hands. Perhaps the biggest draw back for Silvers is the lack of availability, Silvers are one of the 16 rare breeds.
Mini Lop - one of the most commonly found small breeds, Mini Lops are usually very gentle.
Dutch - these are a fairly gentle small breed making them great for younger kids to use in 4-H, however Dutch (being a marked breed) are very difficult to raise.
Himalayan - probably the most unique small breed, Himmies are usually easy going and sweet. This is also a marked breed though they are much easier to raise than Dutch.
Jersey Wooly - This is the only dwarf breed that I can recommend to young kids. Jersies are usually mellow and are great for anyone that love to brush their bunnies.
Breeds for experienced 4-Hers looking for a challenge:
Every breed is unique but some can offer more of a challenge. Marked, Angora, and a few other breeds can make for an impressive showmanship for those with experience. These breeds have unique attributes that can be explained in your showmanship. Many of these breeds may have special grooming or care needs or in the case of running breeds (most full arch typed breeds) may be more difficult to work with.
Checkered Giant - this giant breed does not have the best reputation (most people say that they are mean and too high strung), but this stereo-type is often given by those who don't quite know Checkers. I had a few in 4-H and found them to be so much fun and they gave me more of a challenge in showmanship. Because they are high strung I don't recommend them to anyone younger than 12, and I advise anyone who is interested in Checkers to spend a little time handling some before committing to the breed.
Rhinelander - a close cousin to the Checkered Giant, Rhines are a medium sized, tri colored marked breed. This is another high strung/high energy breed making it difficult for younger kids, but like the Checker, Rhines also offer more opportunities in showmanship. Unlike the other full arch, marked breeds Rhinelander is a rare breed.
English Spot - another marked full arch breed, Spots are a little smaller than Rhinelanders but are also a medium breed.
Other marked breeds: Blanc de Hotot, Californian, Dutch, Dwarf Hotot, Harlequin, Himalayan, Tan.
Angora Breeds - There are 5 angora breeds to cover so we'll group them together. I have only handled a few angoras but every angora breeder will tell you how well mannered and laid back these bunnies are. English Angora - The smallest angora the English is a medium compact typed breed, having wool covering most of the rabbit. French Angora - a medium sized angora with much less wool on the head the French is the popular choice for spinners. German Angora - Though this breed is not excepted by ARBA, it is a very popular choice for wool production with its cylindrical type making sheering easier. Giant Angora - The largest of the angoras the German is a large breed that is only shown in white. Satin Angora - This medium sized angora has hollow hair shaft giving it a stunning satin wool coat.
English Lop - This large semi arch breed is probably the most unique of the lop breeds. The English Lop has the larger ears than any other breed in the world, I recommend bringing your own yard stick with you for your showmanship.
Breeds to be wary of:
Some breeds are prone to having bad disposition/temperament, however you can still find well mannered bunnies or a bad disposition in any breed. Dwarf breeds are the most common to find high strung bunnies that are prone to biting, among the most common of those are Mini Rex, Holland Lop, and Netherland Dwarf.
How To Find The Best Breeders
The best way to find good breeders is to go to an ARBA show. If you can find a local ARBA judge (that isn't busy) ask them to help you find good local breeders that raise the breed you're looking for. You can also watch the showing of the breed that you are interested in, all the breeders should be at the table then. Unfortunately, there are many breeders that will cheat anyone if it means selling a rabbit. Beware of breeders selling "4-H quality", this is usually breeder code for not showable. An unshowable rabbit is not entirely useless, they can still be used for showmanship, but if your space is limited your best choice is a quality, showable rabbit that can be used in quality classes as well as showmanship. I also recommend avoiding breeders that charge extra for a pedigree, especially when they have it right there with them. A pedigree doesn't do anyone any good when they no longer have the rabbit it belongs to, these breeders are usually just trying to get more money from you. The best way to avoid being cheated is to learn about the breed that you want. Learn the breed's standard or ask a breeder or two to show you what to look for.