This bunny hardly looks big enough to jump half the height of the fence, let alone get this high – but will it get over?
We're used to seeing beautiful thousand-pound horses jumping into the air and leaping over obstacles in show jumping but how many of us would expect to see bunny rabbits doing the same? Rabbit show jumping could, however, soon become a major sporting event! Don’t believe us? Check out these awesome photos of little bunny athletes rounding the course at London Pet Show 2011 while we give you the lowdown on what it’s all about.
Looks like the bunny made it! Maybe it had a lucky rabbit's foot!
If you like show jumping and steeplechases but personally prefer animals a little smaller (and cuter!), then this relatively new type of sporting activity could be for you. Dreamt up sometime in the late '70s or early '80s, it has already taken off in a big way around the world.
Do I get another chance? This little bunny looks embarrassed at having fluffed the jump.
Sweden was the birthplace of rabbit show jumping, and this unusual competitive activity still has a hugely strong support base in Scandinavia. Even so, it has also spread to other regions – everywhere from Europe to North America to Japan – where it can be enjoyed in shows and other special competitive events.
I can still clear the remaining bar! The bunny tries to put a brave face on its previous failure.
Rabbits are known for their hopping abilities in any case, and it seems like all it takes is a little training to expand their horizons to the jumping of obstacles demanded by rabbit show jumping – sometimes also known as rabbit dressage.
This rabbit is going to have to pick its back legs up if it's planning on getting over the fence safely! The long legs might provide power for getting up and over but could be a hindrance on the way down!
It may all look the same to the untrained eye, but there's actually no small amount of variety to rabbit showjumping. Some events use steeplechase-style courses of the type pictured here (both crooked and straight) but long- and high-jump competitions are also held – with considerable athleticism displayed by all who take part!
This bunny makes it look nice and easy....
As suggested, this now-global phenomenon started in Sweden, yet the world record-holders in both the high jump and long jump both hail from neighboring Denmark. A rabbit called Yabo has jumped an amazing distance of almost ten feet in the long jump, while another named Tösen blew away the opposition with a leap of 3.3 feet back in the '90s. That’s a long-standing record!
Another nice clean jump!
Which events rabbits compete in depends on their breed and size, with smaller rabbits contesting against one another and likewise for the bigger specimens. The rules are also different in most countries; however, as you might expect, while rounding courses, generally the more jumps the rabbit clears the better, with their speed also sometimes a factor.
Too high? In equestrian show jumping, this is known as a refusal.
Although technically any breed of rabbit can compete in rabbit show jumping, some larger breeds, such as Flemish Giants and French Lops, may put too much weight onto their front legs while leaping bigger obstacles and therefore risk injury. Meanwhile, smaller breeds, like Polish and Netherland dwarf rabbits, can have problems getting over the larger jumps. Still, sometimes all it takes is a little belief – and being small is no barrier.
We wonder if this bunny's helicopter ears help to give it a lift advantage...
If you've got the urge to turn your own bunny into the next big thing, you can start training a rabbit when it is as young as 12 weeks old; at least, training it to wear a harness and walk while on a leash. Then it's a matter of encouraging your pet to jump over small obstacles, building up their size over time. By the time the rabbit is four months old, you can try training it on a beginners’ course, with obstacles about 10 inches high.
Those ears are spinning again at this jump!
On a web page dedicated to rabbit hopping (as it’s also sometimes known) the Bjerner family note how they have better luck training female rabbits, revealing: "Our males are often more interested in sniffing and peeing and mating our legs." Nice. They also advise owners not to over-train their rabbits, suggesting that once or twice a week is enough.
As photographer Dave has it: "Oh get off me... it's quicker this way."
It’s been reported that some animal rights campaigners oppose the use of leashes in rabbit show jumping, but Claudia Fehlen, the founder of one bunny hopping club, responds: "We use them in tournaments for safety. Just think of what would happen if a male were to break free. We want to avoid uncontrolled reproduction. It has happened before."
It looks as if this contestant forgot that the point was to keep the bars up rather than knock them all down.
Interestingly, on the subject of reproduction, in Scandinavia, breeders are apparently pairing up rabbits – most of which are now crossbreeds there – according to their jumping potential, but that being said, most species can be taught to jump. Most, but not all...
Aside from larger and heavier breeds of rabbit, one breed that apparently shouldn't be trained is the English Lop, whose ears can be injured while competing. Longer-haired breeds like Angoras also don't compete unless they are clipped because their coats make them less athletic and able to see.
...and the ecstasy!
Perhaps because of the varying rules of rabbit show jumping across different countries, a world championship may not be on the cards just yet. However, the first-ever European competition, called the Kanin Hop Championships, was held in 2011, with over 50 bunnies competing for honors and hundreds of people drawn to the event.
And the last competitor clears the fence, ending the heart-stopping event.
Who knows? Maybe rabbit show jumping will be competing with its equestrian counterpart in years to come! It certainly seems to be taken seriously enough as a spectator sport of the future.