When the judge called out the grand champion winner at the annual 4-H rabbit show at the Jackson County Fair, the world stood still for one Brownstown teen.
Alison Deaton, 16, knew she had a strong entry with Olive, her French Angora, but still said she was shocked to be recognized as having the best rabbit overall.
“I think the world kind of stopped for a few minutes,” she said. “I don’t remember the first few seconds afterwards, but when one of the 4-H royalty handed me my trophy, it was a really good moment.”
The rabbit show, conducted Monday morning at the fairgrounds in Brownstown, featured more than 126 rabbits of all colors, sizes and breeds.
Deaton has been raising and showing rabbits for seven years.
“This was by far my best year though,” she said.
Like other young rabbit exhibitors, Deaton said she became interested in the animals because her friends had them.
“My friends, they show a lot of rabbits, usually up to 30,” Deaton said. “So they got me into it, and now I show.”
This year she had five entries, including Olive, who is only five months old.
“The judge told me she was a good weight for her age, and that’s a good thing to strive for,” Deaton said. “I didn’t have a lot of time to work with her, so I’m really happy with how well she did.”
Deaton plans to show Olive again next year at the fair.
Besides weight, judges also pay close attention to a rabbit’s coat and overall health and how it’s maintained.
Deaton also shows goats.
“Rabbits are much easier, though,” she said. “Goats you have to get to walk, and they can be stubborn.”
Coming in second place at the show was Noah Hoskins, 16, of Crothersville, who took home reserve grand champion honors with his black Havana named Hannah.
He has shown rabbits at the fair for the past eight years. This year, he had six entered.
Rabbits are a big part of the Hoskins family, and Noah is following in his sister, Kelsey’s footsteps. She showed for seven years.
Hoskins said he did a lot better in this year’s show than last year.
“I got better judges’ results back,” he said.
All of the comments and critiques Hoskins receives from the judge, he tries to remember and use when breeding, raising and picking rabbits for the show.
“You make sure you have better breeding capabilities,” he said. “You breed better rabbits with better rabbits to get better results in the end.”
Both Deaton and Hoskins said they enjoy raising and showing rabbits, because they’re more like pets and easier to manage than other animals such as swine, cattle or horses.
“Rabbits aren’t as much of a hassle,” Hoskins said. “But you still have to maintain them. I spent a lot of hours in the barn just making sure they’re good.”
“They’re a smaller animal to work with and they’re usually really well-tempered,” Deaton said. “Rabbits are easy to get along with and it’s just a fun show.”
But just because they are smaller, doesn’t mean rabbits don’t require work, she added.
Each participant in the show must make sure their rabbit is show ready which can be a challenge, especially for longer hair breeds like the French Angora.
“Getting them brushed out and getting them ready to show is probably the hardest,” Deaton said. “I would say it’s more or less work depending on what type of rabbit you have.”
Another challenge is the hot, muggy weather and trying to keep their rabbits as cool as possible.
“With their fur they get much hotter than we do,” she said.
But cold weather is even harder on rabbits, Hoskins said.
“In the winter, you have to make sure you keep their ice bottles unfrozen,” he said.
When people come to see the rabbits at the fair throughout the week, Deaton said there are two words she hears the most to describe them.
“Cute and fluffy,” she said.
Deaton’s best friend, Haley Thomas, 16, of Norman, was named senior Rabbit Royalty this year. The honor of Rabbit Royalty is earned by the 4-H members who perform the best on a written exam testing their knowledge of rabbits.
Thomas has shown at the fair the past seven years and this year, with her brother, Jared, entered a combined 33 rabbits. Jared was named intermediate Rabbit Royalty.
Last year, she earned grand champion and the year before that, reserve grand champion. She’s also been named Rabbit Royalty more than once.
“It takes a lot of time and work and it can be stressful just getting everything together,” she said of the number of rabbits they show. It took multiple trips to the fairgrounds to get all of their rabbits there.
Like Hoskins, Deaton chose to show rabbits because her sister did for 10 years. Her favorite breed is the New Zealands, she said.
She enjoys getting to spend her time at the fair with other people her age who raise and show rabbits too. She also plans to show her rabbits at the Indiana State Fair this year.
“I just have a lot of fun with it,” she said.
4-H Rabbit Show Results
Grand Champion – Alison Deaton’s French Angora
Reserve Grand Champion – Noah Hoskins’s Havana
Showmanship Champions – senior, Jenna Gray; intermediate, Christian Claycamp, and junior, Brocker Bottorff.
Rabbit royalty – senior, Haley Thomas; intermediate, Jared Thomas; and junior, Josie Dotts.