Hares and Hounds 4-H hosts annual rabbit show

Cove Leader-Press

Hundreds of fluffy tails and twitching noses were on display at the Copperas Cove Civic Center during the annual Rabbit Fest Rabbit Show Saturday morning. 
The Hares and Hounds 4-H Club, based in Bell County, brought the Rabbit Show back to Copperas Cove in 2015 and in 2016, the event became an official American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA) event with a single show and judge. This year, there was a double show with two judges, Don Mersiovsky, from Belton, and Frank Farrow, from Lufkin.
Susan Dorn, associate manager of Hounds and Hares 4-H Club, said she first brought her children to the Rabbit Fest Rabbit Show around eight years ago before the organizers quit holding the show. She was the one who approached the Copperas Cove Chamber of Commerce in 2015 and helped bring back the rabbits to Rabbit Fest. 
ARBA recognizes 50 breeds of rabbits that are each judged based on different standards such as body, fur, color, markings and more. The most popular breeds at the show on Saturday were the Mini Rex and the Californian. Other breeds included the Holland Lop, the French Lop and the Netherland Dwarf among others. Rabbit breeders and owners from all over Texas came out Saturday morning to show off their rabbits, with some coming from as far as Seguin.
There were 48 exhibitors with 270 rabbits total, an increase from the 180 rabbits last year. Many of the young rabbit owners brought more than one rabbit, like Katie Lawler, 17, from Gatesville, who brought four French Lop rabbits out of the nearly 40 she has at home. 
“Most kids don’t show one rabbit,” Dorn said. “You know, you get a collection quickly.”
In the past, there have been some people who have approached Dorn wanting to show their rabbit but they were unsure of the breed, she said. A “Pet Class” was created for those rabbits to compete in. The rabbits would be judged based on their care, condition, personality and conformation- whether it’s a good pet and well taken care of, Dorn said. 
There were six winners at Saturday’s show, who received a vinyled Arctic Cup and a ribbon. In Show A, judged by Don Mersiovsky, Best in Show went to a Californian shown by Kelly Tondre. First Reserve went to a Mini Rex shown by Kasi Andrews and Second Reserve went to a Polish shown by Kynsie Klaus.
In Show B, judged by Frank Farrow, Best in Show went to a Californian shown by Kelly Tondre. First Reserve went to a Mini Lop shown by Brittany Chase and Second Reserve went to a Dutch shown by Cassidy Besinaiz. 
There were also contests for the kids and their rabbits to partake in such as showmanship, where the kids judge a rabbit; breed ID, where they have to identify the breed of rabbit based off of a picture; and rabbit hopping, where the rabbit jumps over obstacles. 
A typical rabbit show has three shows, where rabbits are judged three separate times, Dorn said. Most are open to youth and adults but Dorn said they don’t plan on doing that, due to limited space. 
“I’m happy keeping it a youth show,” Dorn said. “Every year we find something to improve. I love having the two shows at one time.”
Don Mersiovsky, one of the judges, said he used to run the Rabbit Fest Rabbit Show in the 1990s and that it’s a good thing the Hares and Hounds 4-H Club brought it back to Cove. 
Bell and Coryell County make up a big area for rabbits and this show gives kids that live in the bigger cities, like Killeen and even Cove, an opportunity to raise an animal and compete with that animal, Mersiovsky said. 
“These kids can raise these animals in their house,” Mersiovsky said. “You don’t need a lot of space to raise a rabbit. It’s not like the steers or the cattle or hogs or anything like that.”
Rabbits take up little space and don’t make a lot of noise, making it a good project for kids who live in town, he said.
“For a lot of these kids, it’s a learning process. They learn so many life skills raising these rabbits. Just the care of the animals, the grooming, the day to day tending to these animals is just life skills that they can’t get playing video games or watching T.V.,” Mersiovsky said. “These are things that give them a sense of responsibility and they’re actually a lot of fun.”
Mersiovsky also praised the way that showing rabbits is open to anybody, no matter their background.
“It’s all about the rabbit,” he said. “It’s not about the exhibitors. It’s not about what goes on on the other side of the table; it’s about the animals on the table.”

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Copperas Cove, TX 76522
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