Rabbit show keeps Roosevelt County fair hopping

Freedom New Mexico: Clarence Plank Sky Cathey waits on the judge during the Rabbit Show Tuesday at the Roosevelt County Fair. Cathey’s rabbit won best variety and best breed in the French Lop category.

By Clarence Plank: Freedom New Mexico

A bunch of bunnies gave it their all and kept judges hopping Tuesday at the Roosevelt County Fair Rabbit Show.

The special interest rabbit competition makes it possible for children to show animals when they might not be able to raise cattle, pigs, or other large animals.

“I’ve been showing rabbits since I was 5,” said Michael Nicholes, 16, of Portales. “We’ve gone through several different breeds. First we had Florida whites, New Zealands and Californias. We got rid of the Florida whites to make room for our different colors of New Zealands.”

They started out with 15 rabbits. His family finally built a rabbit barn.

Being rabbits, the population soon swelled to 200, give or a take a few.

Nicholes won first place with his Californian senior buck. A senior doe won Best in Breed.

He also placed fifth in meat pen, where rabbits are sold for consumption.

Most competing rabbit owners belong to the American Rabbit Breeders Association, an organization dedicated to the promotion, development and improvement of domestic rabbits and cavies, or guinea pigs.

Each rabbit is judged on strict guidelines. The slightest imperfection, such as a blaze of color on a rabbit’s face, or even the loss of a nail, can result in a disqualification.

The rabbit show has been part of the fair for more than 35 years.

Meat pen Grand Champions can sell for up to $1,400 or as low as $800.

Madison Belcher, 9, of Portales, won Reserve Champion and Colter Lamb, 9, of Portales, won Grand Champion in the meat pen.

Andrew Underbrink, 10, of Portales took California Best in Show for his senior doe Sundae, along with a few ribbons for first, second and third-place finishes. Andrew said he’s been showing rabbits for two years.

“It’s fun. You make a lot new friends if you can,” Andrew said.

Some might call it rabbit fever.

“Well,” said Andrew’s father, Scott Underbrink, “when you have so many people who love animals, someone is going to have some kind of show to see who has the best one.”