Monday, April 25, 2016


Years of perseverance led to the Senior Champion Rabbit Showman award.

Allow me to digress from computer security, and talk about something else for my 200th blog post.

The last week of January, my daughter was named the senior division Rabbit Showmanship Champion at the county Youth Livestock Show, and won a fancy belt buckle (pictured above). This award means far more to me than a grand champion animal would (though I'd love for our family to produce the latter too), because of what it represents.

Showmanship involves a student's knowledge of their animal and breed, the responsibility they display, how well they present themselves and their animal, and how well they control their animal. While a champion animal involves the student taking good care of it, there is also a lot of genetics and a good bit of luck involved in raising a winning animal. Showmanship on the other hand is entirely up to the student.

What makes me the most proud though is not that she won the buckle. It's how she got to this point.

My daughter has loved rabbits since preschool. Six years ago, she wanted a pet rabbit. We've had a number of pets over the years, so a rabbit - while new to us - wasn't all that crazy an idea. For her birthday we adopted an older, mixed-breed rabbit from a family that was moving into a pet-free apartment.

"Oreo" died about a year later, leaving my daughter heart-broken, but her love of rabbits was not broken. So we soon bought a new rabbit ... who promptly escaped.

Smokey - our first show bunny Rather than get discouraged, my daughter's ambitions began to grow. Her best friend raised rabbits for 4-H, so she talked her mother and me into going to a rabbit show about 4 years ago. Going from a single pet bunny to a show barn with some 3,000 rabbits might have overwhelmed some ... for my daughter, it was like taking a kid into a candy store. She was immediately right in her element. 

We left that show with a pair of Polish rabbits - a tiny, cute fancy breed often associated with magic acts - and a feeling of "what have we gotten ourselves into."

If only we had known...

I did not expect that raising rabbits would bring out an entrepreneurial streak in my daughter. In the years since, my daughter has established a genuine rabbitry, through which she has become quite the businesswoman. We have branched out into several more breeds (Dutch, a mid-sized breed known for their distinctive striped markings, and Californian, a large meat and fur breed). We built a bigger barn. We have learned how to keep rabbits cool during hot Texas summers. Frozen gallon-size bottles filled with water work wonders, but Texas heat really calls for an air conditioner or swamp cooler. 

Newborn Dutch bunnies, known for the distinctive saddle stripe

We have shown rabbits repeatedly at a number of shows throughout the eastern half of Texas, with varying degrees of success. While she has on a couple of occasions had a best-of-breed rabbit, she has not yet produced a best-in-show (a grand champion in livestock show parlance - not to be confused with a grand champion as the American Rabbit Breeders Association describes the term).

My daughter has participated in showmanship contests at least 3 or 4 times in various shows. The first time she was very timid, and understandably so: she was new to rabbit breeding and didn't know much about them. In subsequent years, she was more knowledgeable, but still not sure of herself.

This time though, she was far more confident, and it showed. What really impressed me though was the thought she put into preparing for the contest.

Her favorite breed is the Polish, and since it is the breed she has raised the longest, it is the breed she knows best. But the Dutch breed has far more variation - there is much more to know about a Dutch rabbit. She mentioned before the show that she was not sure which breed she wanted to present during the showmanship contest for that very reason.

A close up of our newest Polish

In the end, completely of her own volition, she decided to show her Dutch, and spent the afternoon reading through the Standard of Perfection (the official ARBA designation of what a Dutch rabbit should be) to refresh her knowledge. She made the choice to forgo the easy route and instead put in the effort to present a more difficult breed.

As a result, she was able to show off her brand new belt buckle during the poultry show the following day :-)

My daughter sporting her well-earned belt buckle

Do you have something to add? A question you'd like answered? Think I'm out of my mind? Join the conversation below, reach out by email at david (at), or hit me up on Twitter at @dnlongen