I finally got out to see a new sport this past spring. The 4-H kids are spearheading a thoroughly entertaining activity called “Rabbit Hopping.” It was so much fun to watch these rabbits do what they do best. And because most 4-H Fairs are going to be taking place this week I thought this was a great time to post this. Maybe I can convince you, my readers to attend your local 4-H Fair to see Rabbit Hopping for yourself.
Now if you’ve been following my blog you know that I am involved with feline agility. So I am somewhat familiar with the concept. I think though that what feline agility and rabbit hopping have in common is that both take advantage of the animals’ innate ability.
Rabbits are born for this! I could tell that many of the kids involved were very nervous. Remember how it is when you are young and stepping up in front of a crowd of people for the first time? Then imagine that you had to rely on your pet to perform and not embarrass you.
|I think this rabbit was a little nervous|
I don’t think any of these competitors (rabbits or humans) had anything to worry about. They all performed so well.
Rabbit hopping courses are varied in both difficulty and structure. In this particular competition they started with a simple, straight line of lower jumps. Next the moved on to a more difficult course that zig-zagged like two connected “z”s.
Next they raised the bars for higher jumps on each course for more of a challenge. Unfortunately I had to leave after that but they were preparing for a high jump and a long jump. I’d really like to know how you get a rabbit to understand it has to jump “long.” If anyone knows please explain in the comments.
|Ready to go!|
I spoke with some of the kids and parents while I was there and learned that training the rabbits is a lot like training cats. They use either treats or toys as lures in the beginning but in competition use neither. Some also use clickers or other sounds for training. And like a cat whose athleticism is inborn, a rabbit’s ability to hop is only natural. They perform because jumping is what they want to do.
I could tell that some of those rabbits were definitely spoiled pets. One in particular acted like he was used to sitting on chairs next to his girl. She held him on a leash but whenever she sat down he tried jumping up to the chair next to hers. Unfortunately those slippery metal chairs weren’t made for bunny feet. I was fascinated watching how devoted he was to his girl.
|Not at all concerned with the crowd|
|On the chair just before slipping off|
Another rabbit that caught my attention and even had me laughing was the tiniest of competitors. I’m afraid I know nothing of rabbit breeds so I can’t tell you what he was only that he was tiny with the most wonderful, big eyes. And yet when it came time to raise the bars he didn’t hesitate to jump them. Or, perhaps I should say he was willing to jump them but he did hesitate.
He was hilarious to watch. He would jump over the obstacle with ease and move to the next jump then turn his back to it. He wasn’t refusing to jump because when his boy reached down toward him he turned back around and jumped that obstacle. But then he turned his back to the next one! He was so funny.
|See how fast they can go?|
Of course 4-H stands for “Heart, Hands, Heads and Health” so any activity associated with 4-H includes not only education but also fellowship and moral development. I watched as kids who were new to the sport learned how to work with their rabbits. But I also saw and heard competitors helping each other to overcome any training problems or questions. And the officials or superintendents also stepped in whenever needed to show the competitors new methods for enticing their rabbits to stay on course. No cutthroat contests here.
I just loved watching both the kids and the rabbits having a great time with this new sport. I hope it catches on elsewhere too. I think the value of rabbits as pets could benefit from rabbit hopping. Perhaps more people will be adopting rabbits out of shelters in order to participate.