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Rabbit Selection

How to select the right animals for your purposes.


Rabbit projects are one of the most popular projects offered by the 4-H program. They offer a challenge for members of all ages and levels of interest. As a long-time 4-H rabbit judge, I often face the disappointment of young people who exhibit animals that don't match the requirements of the project which they selected. Here are some general guidelines that will help you, as beginners, and your parents avoid such last minute let-downs.

Selecting a Project

It is extremely important that you and your parents select the right project to suit your interests and abilities. Since requirements vary from county to county, check with your advisor for specific requirements in your area. Some specific projects have requirements for the age and weight of the animal also. Don't forget to check those too. Here are the main types of projects and their beneral requirements.

Care Project

This is basically a project for beginners. The project book is designed to introduce you to the world of rabbits, to teach you how to care for a rabbit, and to teach you the basic terminology of the rabbit hobby. Any good, healthy rabbit will serve for this project.

Breeder Projects

This type of project emphasizes raising animals to conform to a specific standard. Specific projects vary greatly among the counties. In these projects, particular attention should be paid to selecting animals that are representative of the breed you have selected. Fancy and commercial breeds are equally well suited.

Commercial Projects

The purpose of these projects is to emphasize animals that will bring the top dollar on the commercial market. Each county has stringent rules that apply as to age and weight. Be sure to know these specific details. A good knowledge of rabbit husbandry, before the project, is very helpful here. Selection of project animals should be limited to those breeds that conform to ideal meat producing qualities.

Selecting an Animal

Buy your animals from reputable breeders; ask to see their rabbitries while you are deciding. This will tell you much about the general practices they use in their own herds and what you might expect from the rabbit you select.

There are many breeds to choose from, depending on availability in your area. No breed is intrinsically better than any other. Choosing a breed that you like will keep your interest high much longer than choosing one because someone else likes it. The size of the adult animals should be considered. There is a size available for every situation.

Choose animals that suit the type of project you have selected. Nothing can be more disappointing than working hard on a project only to find that the animal you selected is not the type needed for your project. If you have selected a breeder project, consider only animals that conform to the breed standard of the ARBA (American Rabbit Breeders Association). Check with someone who knows the standard for the breed which interests you. Ask the seller to make sure there are no disqualifications on the rabbit and to point out the strong points and any shortcomings which the animals has.

Commercial projects are all judged on the same standard, regardless of breed. Commercial qualities are the only concern for selection here. The ARBA has the standard for judging meat qualities too. Be sure to check on the local requirements for age and weight in commercial classes.

Health and vitality are top priorities, regardless of the project you have selected or the type of animal you need. Check prospective rabbits carefully for a healthy look and inspect them for any signs of disease. Prepare yourself by learning ahead of time what breed specific traits are important - body type, size, color, markings, etc. If you're not sure about checking for these things, try to enlist a more experienced person to go with you for the final selection.

The 4-H motto is "to make the best better." By following the above guidelines, you can be sure to present the best you are able to get and to have much more fun doing it because you will avoid many disappointments. [1]


  1. Paul D. Molyneux -

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