EVART — One rabbit, originally bought in not-so-great condition, showed what a little love and care from its owner can accomplish in the youth rabbit judging at the Osceola County Fair on July 30.
The county fair kicked off its week of festivities with kids of all ages showing off the animals they have worked so hard to raise and put on their best show to possibly go home with a trophy.
Starting the day was the rabbit competition including a wide variety of breeds like California rabbits, satins, dwarfs and mini lops.
Each breed was judged individually in two different classes, then the best in breed from each competed for best in class. The two rabbits who won best in their class then competed for the title of best in the barn.
Dominic Maddern, a 12-year-old from Evart, and his steel tip mini lob rabbit would go on to not only win best in their class, but also the coveted title of best in the barn.
“She is a beautiful rabbit,” said Class 4 judge Gayle Newton on the structure and coat of Dominic’s rabbit. “I just want to take her home for myself.”
Newton later gave Dominic and his father, Donald Maddern, advice on what they needed to do as far as breeding their winning mini lob.
Dominic has only been raising rabbits and competing in 4H competitions for around four years, according to Donald.
“We got our first rabbit as a gift for the kids on Easter,” Donald said.
“When we were in the pet store, we didn’t think we saw any we liked,” Dominic said of the rabbit, Thumper a lion head rabbit, who started it all. “Then my dad picked up a paper towel tube and out slid this little rabbit. We have been doing this ever since.”
Dominic says the secret to winning and raising a best in barn rabbit is to just take special care of it.
“You just have to keep it fed and watered,” said Dominic.
“It is also important to know and understand the breed,” added Donald. “Like some of the larger breeds, like the flemish giants, you have to understand how they react to heat, the amount of food they need and that in the winter their ears drag on the ground and can get frostbite.”
Dominic’s knowledge and love for the animals showed with his rabbit that he bought worse-for-ware only a year ago.
“When we got the rabbit [Dominic] was told that she might not look like it but if he took good care of her she was going to be something special. And he did just that,” said Kathy Maddern, Dominic’s mother.
During the final round of judging, Dominic was face-to-face with a seasoned 16-year-old, Parker Henry, and his California rabbit.
“I have been doing these since I was 7,” said Parker who currently raises the Californias and Polish rabbits.
“We used to have a great line of New Zealands,” said Parker’s mom, Brenda Henry. “But we had an incident with dogs getting into the barn and are starting over. So right now we are just showing the Californias and Polish.”
Though Parker has been showing rabbits for much longer than Dominic, it did not take long for both the Newton and Class 6 judge Don Havlicek to decide that the mini lop was the winner for best in the barn.
“When you are looking at a particular breed there are certain standards each breed has. Some have specifications in color, some in fur composition and some for their marks,” said Newton as she pulled out her Standard of Perfection book to show the different things looked for in the breeds. “Comparing rabbits of the same breed is easy; you are working on a points system and comparing apples to apples. Choosing between rabbits of different breeds, now that is where it gets tricky.”
Ultimately, according to Newton, it came down to who fit the requirements for their breed the best.
After all was said and done, Brenda reiterated that winning was not the important thing.
“The reason we encourage him to keep doing this is because of what it teaches him,” said Brenda on Parker’s second place. “It is all about learning responsibility, learning and applying what you learn to next year or the next competition.”
Brenda also talked about her grandson who is competing in higher levels this year.
“He doesn’t get a blue ribbon just for showing up anymore. And he gets upset but that is the other thing, you can’t win them all and that’s another important thing to take away from each competition.”