(c) Gryph- if you repost this article, please post with a link back to my website.
#1 rule of all time: be on time. Not only for set up, but throughout the day to be sure your animals reach the judging table at the right time. It’s your responsibility to pay attention and know what’s going on. Go inside and scope out a place to set up. Bring your gear in first, then your rabbits. After the rabbits are settled in, locate the show secretary’s table. You will be asked to pay your fees and review your entries. This is where having your own list can be handy- compare the two lists to be sure ear numbers, sex, variety are correct. If you are doing day-of-show entry, you will have to fill out your paperwork including all of your comment cards, as well as recording your name, address, email address and phone number on a contact form. When you are done at the show secretary’s table, look around to see if the judging is posted. Not all shows provide this which can be frustrating. It’s important to know what table your breed will be shown at. If it isn’t posted you can ask the secretary.
Once you’re done with all of that, give your rabbits a quick look over and then settle down to wait for your class. This is a good time to visit with people and meet other breeders. You can also learn a lot from other breeders, so don't be shy when it comes to asking questions.
It’s up to you to know when your breed will be called. At some shows this will be more of a challenge than others. Pay close attention so you don’t miss your breed being called. When your breed is called, bring up your rabbits promptly. If you have only one or two, bring them by hand. If you have more, you may use a carrier or cart, but it’s very important that you not block aisles.
On the table will be a row of coops. Each rabbit goes into its own coop. There will be cards laid out. Find your rabbit’s card and put your rabbit in that coop then close the coop. Flip over your rabbit’s card, then you are welcome to stand on the other side of the table to wait and listen. Your job is to put your rabbits up on the table in the order needed, remove them promptly when the judge says they may go, and listen to as many comments as you can. You should not indicate which rabbit is yours during the judging, as the judge should be completely impartial and not know which rabbits belong to which breeder. Comments are given according to a comment card, although some shows do not use comments cards. In these cases, judges still generally give comments as they are listed on the cards.
Try not to talk while the judge is giving comments regardless if it is your rabbit or not, as the rabbit’s owner may want to hear the comments. Some judges don’t speak very loud, making it tough to hear. Pay close attention to what the judge says and don’t depend on the comment cards, as the judge’s feedback is the most valuable part of the show. Then the table writer puts the comment card on top of your rabbit’s coop, then it’s done being shown and you may take your rabbit back to its carrier.
You are competing with all of the other breeders of the same breed. Unless no rabbit on the table meets the SOP (which is incredibly unlikely), the judge will place the rabbits from last to the first. If a class has at least five rabbits being shows and those rabbits are entered by three or more different exhibitors or breeders, then the first place rabbit gets a leg. More on that under the Wins section. Disqualifications are counted in the number of rabbits shown unless the rabbit is DQed for wrong sex.
Remember that judges are not always right; you are paying them for their opinion so take it with an open mind. You aren’t always going to agree with a judge, and you may get two very different opinions from two judges on the same day for the same rabbit.
During the show, the judge will select the first place of each age category and sex—junior buck, junior doe, senior buck, senior doe for 4-class rabbits and junior buck, junior doe, intermediate buck, intermediate doe, senior buck, senior doe for 6-class rabbits). Then the judge will select the best overall buck and doe of each variety. The better of the two will win Best of Variety (BOV) and the other will be Best Opposite Sex of Variety (BOSV). Every rabbit that didn’t win BOV in that variety should now be removed from the table. Every BOV remains on the table to compete against each other for Best of Breed (BOB) and Best Opposite Sex of Breed (BOS or BOSB). The best buck and doe of the breed will be chosen, and the best wins BOB and the other wins BOS. BOB has to stay until the end of the show to compete in the Best in Show category, where every rabbit who won Best of Breed will compete against each other. The best rabbit overall wins Best in Show (BIS). The second best rabbit wins Reserve in Show (RIS). There’s not a lot of money to be won at most rabbit shows, but there are other prizes to be had. There are trophies, ribbons, prizes and certificates, plus the honor of being able to know your rabbit did well.
Best in Show (BIS): The best rabbit out of all breeds at the show that day. All rabbits that were best of their breed (BOB) go up against each other for the honor of being the Best in Show.
Reserve in Show (RIS): The second best rabbit at the show that day out of all the breeds.
Best of Breed (BOB): The best rabbit at the show that day for your breed.
Best Opposite Sex of Breed (BOS or BOSB): The best opposite gender rabbit at the show that day for your breed. If the BOB is a buck, the BOS will be a doe.
Best of Variety (BOV): Some breeds have different varieties (colors/patterns) and each variety shows together. The best rabbit of that variety will be BOV. All rabbits who were BOV/BOSV go up for their breeds BOB/BOS.
Best Opposite Sex Variety (BOSV): The best opposite gender rabbit at the show that day for your variety. If the BOV is a doe, the BOSV will be a buck.
A Grand Champion (GC) certificate represents a lot of hard work including sleepless nights, many hours and miles driving to shows, as well as all the wins and heartbreak along the way that comes with the territory. Some breeds are difficult to get finished due to the lack of required numbers in many shows so winning a leg is even more special. You don’t have to stop showing when a rabbit wins all three GC legs though. There are breeders who have rabbits who have over a hundred legs. Wait, a leg? Huh? All rabbits have four legs, right? So what the heck does it mean when a breeder says a rabbit had six legs?
Actually, a leg is a rabbit show term meaning a point toward a grand championship. It takes three legs to earn a Grand Champion certificate, and one of those legs must be won as a senior rabbit. There are multiple ways for a rabbit to earn a leg:
BOB: There must be at least five rabbits and three exhibitors total for the breed
BOS: There must be at least five rabbits and three exhibitors total for that sex
First in Class (Jr Buck, Jr Doe, Int Buck, Int Doe, Sr Buck, Sr Doe): There must be at least five rabbits and three exhibitors total for that class
BOV/BOSV: There must be at least five rabbits and three exhibitors total for that variety
One of the legs must be earned as a senior rabbit to ensure that your rabbit competes as a senior and makes weight. You cannot win two legs from the same judge on the same day, but if you enter two shows in a day under different judges than your rabbit may earn two legs that day.
Later you will get a slip of paper in the mail with your leg certificate. Keep them in a safe place! You will need them later to get a Grand Champion Certificate. It’s a good idea to make a photocopy of your leg certificates before you mail them off, for your records. While you do not have to be an ARBA member to show at an ARBA-sanctioned show, you do have to be a member in order to earn a GC certificate. Your rabbit must also be fully pedigreed and meet the requirements set out by a registrar in order to earn a GC. This means three full generations with ear numbers and weights for all ancestors. You have to pay the registration fee to have the rabbit registered (or transferred) in your name, and then you pay the fee and mail in your leg certificates to get your Grand Champion certificate.
As with any show rabbit, it takes carefully breeding top quality animals and keeping them in the best condition possible. Not only do these rabbits have to be physically correct, with proper color and markings, but they must be healthy as well. Never, ever take a sick rabbit to a show. Not only will it get disqualified, but you will earn a reputation among other breeders who won’t be happy to have their rabbits exposed to your sick one.
Once the show is over it's time to wrap up. If you won anything, be sure to find the awards table to see if you get any awards. Bring your comment card with you, and show it to the secretary. If you aren’t sure, go ahead and ask anyhow- the secretary will help you to figure it out. Some shows have awards or ribbons for many wins and some shows only have awards or ribbons for certain wins. It doesn’t hurt to ask.
Clean up all your mess, pack up your equipment, and load up your rabbits. If you are able, spend a little time helping to break down the showroom floor. In a few weeks you should get a show report in the mail or via email summarizing how your rabbits did at the show. You've survived your first show, and hopefully whether you won or lost, you enjoyed yourself and are willing to come try another show. If your rabbit placed well, then congratulations! If you win consistently over a period of time under a number of judges, you can begin to take real pride in your herd. Don’t let isolated, individual verdicts influence your opinion of your stock. If your rabbit didn’t do as well as you had hoped, don’t get discouraged. Remember that you are competing against the best stock of other breeders, some who have had many more years of experience than you. Also, remember that the judges’ opinions are just opinions. My daughter had a rabbit take BOS one show, and then take last in his variety at the next show. It’s all about context. Take what you learned at the show and apply it to your breeding program to improve the next generation.