Rabbit Show Jumping. Yes, it’s a thing.
Bunny hopping is one of my favourite things to watch at the fall Royal Winter Fair in Toronto every year (next to actual horse show, of course) thanks to the Ontario 4H club, celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2016.
At the Royal event, it’s kids who raise the bunnies, keep them as pets, then pick a favourite jumper to train for this popular and adorable event.
The rabbits jump through a course of obstacles that look like a combination of tiny horse jumping oxers and dog agility challenges. Whether or not they are actually ‘trained’ to jump is subjective, but cute bunnies of all breeds are led on harness toward small obstacles like single jumps with cross poles and either willingly jump up and over, or are encouraged with a tap on the butt by the school-aged hands guiding them. This assistance is allowed in the sport.
Sometimes the fastest wins; sometimes there’s a jump off over one obstacle made progressively higher and sometimes it’s a bunch of bunnies heading down the trail one after another leaping over (or through) the Tinker Toy-like courses of 8 to 10 obstacles in cross or L-shaped patterns.
How the winner is determined, I can’t tell. But it’s a crowd-pleasing event at the annual Royal Winter Fair in November. In fact, the event was moved to the larger auditorium three years ago to accommodate the growing fan base. (Last year an adult man sitting behind me ‘oohed’ at every, I mean every, rabbit that entered the ring). The cute factor is contagious.
Canadian Rabbit Hopping Club is a 4H Club initiative for kids here in Canada, but not so other parts of the world.
Rabbit Jumping in Sweden is no oohing matter. It started as actual competitions in the 1970s and in 1987, the first National Championships were held in Stockholm. This led the eventual establishment of the Swedish Federation of Rabbit Jumping in 1994. Germany followed in 2000, Norway in 2002 and Finland in 2004.
At first, the sport was based on rules similar to horse show jumping but were quickly modified to resemble something closer to dog agility competitions. Swedish hopping judge Aase Bjerner, who helped refine the rules of the game, is a bit of a celebrity in this world.
In the U.S., it’s also called Rabbit Hopping and in 2001 The Rabbit Hopping Organization of America was formed. The first U.S. national competition was held in 2011 in Indianapolis. In 2013, in association with the Rabbit Breeders Association, The American Hopping Association for Rabbits and Cavies (AHARC) was set up. Yes, guinea pigs are next. Watch out warm-blood stallions.
Whatever you think of the idea, it’s almost impossible not to watch and root for your favourite cottontail. I dare you to try.
Thanks to VICE, here’s a cuteness overload Bunny Jumping video here!