Monday, November 02, 2009

Some Bunny Loves You: Del Mar 2009: Updated X2

The sign said it all: "For five days, you don't have to explain to anyone why you raise rabbits." It took close to eight hours' driving, but it was worth it: Sunday, we were in Del Mar for the 86th Annual American Rabbit Breeder's Association National Convention -- the premiere event of the rabbit world.

Daisy is a good traveler: riding shotgun on the trip home

The event was held at the historic Del Mar Fairgrounds, adjacent to Bing Crosby's famous racetrack. The weather was perfect, everyone was in a joyous frame of mind, and the show was just incredible. There were literally hundreds of entries in every breed under the sun. Three of the facility's huge exhibit halls were given over to rows and rows of the finest rabbits to be found on the planet.

A whole lot of personality.

I was able to make fluent connections with the Silver Marten (got one), Netherland Dwarf (got one), Belgian Hare (had one), and of course, the New Zealand White (my specialty) breeders. I enjoyed a wonderful, late lunch with Purina's "Rabbit Ambassador," learning about all the latest nutrition developments (yucca extract is now going into every rabbit feed they make, as a matter of course).  I also found a copy of Frances Harcourt-Brown's Textbook of Rabbit Medicine, and along the way, managed to make some wonderful new friends.

A champion Californian: laid back and nothing to prove.

This event is rarely held in the Western United States, maybe once every eight years or so, and the turnout was thus somewhat larger than usual, with entrants from every state and several foreign countries. Everybody who is anybody in the rabbit world was there to see and be seen, and if you had any questions, there were plenty of experts willing to help you find the answer.

For me, there was only one sour note. Even though House Rabbit Society is strong in the San Diego area, and even though I saw some members attending, House Rabbit Society did not have a booth. Truth be told, there is a bit of a distance between ARBA and HRS, but I think HRS needs to overcome that distance. They missed a cardinal opportunity to get their message across to thousands of people who enjoy rabbits -- and they have a very important message that needs to get across. This will only be accomplished through education.

Not from show, but here to illustrate: eight month old Checkered Giant.
I might have to get one out to the ranch to scare off the coyotes.

Everybody there was a star, of course, but the Checkered Giants seemed to be attracting a lot of special attention everywhere we went. I stopped to watch them on the exercise run, and found them very engaging. I also spent some time with the Flemish Giants, but of course, it was the opposite end of the spectrum that stole my heart away -- the Netherland Dwarfs are very popular in Southern California, so there were a considerable number of them entered. I managed to visit with every one of them. I also enjoyed the American Tans, the Lilacs, and the Himalayans. I had a wonderful Himalayan once, and came to regard them as a most gentle, intelligent, and fun-loving breed.

Such a grand day! I want to tell you that every rabbit in all three exhibit halls got to hear mantras and feel the love.

UPDATED: While I enjoy going to rabbit shows, I personally do not show rabbits. The reason for this is simple: in order to show rabbits, you have to tattoo their ears, and I cannot bring myself to do this. This is part of the divide between ARBA (to which I belong) and HRS (to which I also belong and strongly support). ARBA sanctions all of the rabbit shows in this country. They are an old, predominantly rural-based organization that still incorporates some farm barbarism values I cannot mention. HRS, on the other hand, is a predominantly urban-based organization that promotes rabbits as house pets and engages in sometimes heroic rescue efforts. I definitely believe there is a middle ground, and I hope HRS starts working with the specialty clubs to reach that middle ground.

UPDATED X 2: People sometimes say, "Isn't it sad for the rabbit to always be in cages?" Well, that is only when they are traveling, or visiting a strange place. At home, my rabbits are at liberty to run around causing as much mischief as they please.  You just have to secure the environment for them, removing opportunities for harm like light cords, certain plants, hanging tablecloths, etc., etc. They are somewhat fastidious animals, so they wash and groom frequently, and they can be potty trained rather easily. They are inquisitive, and very, very intelligent -- maybe you would be surprised just how intelligent. They also have a highly developed palette of non-verbal communication cues, and once you learn to "speak rabbit," it is surprising how much they have to tell you. People think I am joking about this, but I assure you, they do communicate. There is an excellent website, "The Language of Lagomorphs," that investigates this in satisfying detail. I also want to mention that the 16th Karmapa could speak with animals, and the 13th Karmapa could specifically speak with rabbits. I used to have a most remarkable and rare Tibetan book on the theory of grammar, that discussed the languages of birds and animals in considerable detail, but I lent it to my friend Lama Who-Should-Try-To-Remember, and he hasn't given it back yet, although it has been about thirty years.

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