Before a Rabbit is exhibited it must go through a course of preparation. This is not an elaborate thing, but something that the veriest novice can accomplish. Feeding does the spade work, whilst grooming and training put on the finishing touches. Don’t run away with the idea that feeding and grooming will make a moderate specimen into a tip-top show rabbit. It will not! Grooming does not add quality, but it does show quality to the greatest advantage.
Many hold the opinion that Belgians do not require grooming. Instances have been cited of Rabbits being put into the show pen, and securing prizes, without preparation of any description. We will not dispute it, but if those rabbits had had a little time spent on them they would have done even better in the exhibition arena. To pen the average Rabbit in a natural condition is to court failure. Some mode of preparation must be followed, but it must be legitimate.
It is no use exhibiting any specimen not in condition. The flesh must be firm, the coat close fitting and full of brightness. The eye should also be bright and full of fire. The Hare should carry no superfluous flesh, but be firm and tight, like a Greyhound.
In grooming, nothing but the bare hands are necessary. With these slightly moistened, the whole of the body, head, ears and feet of the Rabbit should be groomed, rubbing the way the coat lies. This will remove all the loose hairs and give the coat a firmer appearance. To groom the forelegs it is best to hold the Hare by the ears, with the feet just touching the table, and draw the legs gently through the other hand. This should be repeated several times. It is astonishing how much neater the legs look after going through this process. Plucking the fur is not allowed, and if detected will but lead to the disqualification of the Rabbit.
A little time spent in teaching the Belgian how to comport itself on the judging table will not be wasted. Judging has to be got through expeditiously, and the judge has not time to waste on exhibits which refuse to show themselves to advantage. The pose required is one which gives the best idea of style and shape. That is when the Hare is resting lightly on its haunches, with its forelegs extended. This position gives the desired arched back, and also shows off the length of body and limbs. Hares can be trained to get into this position immediately they are raised gently by the ears, and to remain so for a time sufficient to examine them. Patience is the chief asset in bringing this about. It is not done by one lesson, but a series, and a Hare carefully trained holds the whip hand over one not trained, especially in a close fight for top honours.
Rabbits & All About Them
C.A. House & Allan Watson (1920)
December 1977 ABHC Spotlight