While I know that many people who show do not agree with me, I have found that the least handling of the rabbit leads to the helathiest thickest coated show entry.
As Jerry (Our KwaZulu Natal all breeds judge) once explained to me, “this is a beauty contest, so they must all look their best!!” I could say short hairs are easy, but as I have prepared both in my time, I know that is not true, but coming back to the angora…
This is after all why many of us keep these beautiful, gentle rabbits. Some of us show because we are competitive, some of us show to judge our breeding directions, and some of us show for fun – in fact I think no matter what the reason, having a chance to chat and interact with like minded people is always fun!!
I suppose that is all starts with selection of your show stock. Learn the type for what you wish to show and try to stick by it – there is no point in putting a German in an English class, as I have done more than once – the size alone is a disqualification. Heather has all these standards available to club members. If you have bred your own entry, the fun starts when the first rabbit stands out from the crowd, and you decide that this is your show entry. A baby raised for show can go up to 9 months without its coat being clipped, so that you can get that perfect show coat.
The first thing to resist is constant grooming. The more you groom, the more hair you pull out, and this will not grow back in time!! The second and greater risk is to your rabbit. They are very clean and neat animals, and every time you handle them, they put their coats back in order – this leads to them eating their own wool, and creates a very real risk of wool block. Check the coat by all means, make sure there are no matts, especially in the armpits, behind the ears, and under the chin. Then check and see if you can see the “slippage” of the mature coat, if it has advanced to the point where you can see the mature coat releasing, then abandon the rabbit, its coat will be felted by show time – just moving it from home to the show can be enough to create a felted suit of armour.
If the coat is looking promising, then continue to feed and house for show, make sure it has no chance of getting damp, and continue to watch the coat grow. Some breeders will time their harvest to ensure that the rabbit has about three months from harvest to show. About a month before the show is a good time to treat for parasites, both internal and external, as well as clipping nails as needed. On the day before the crating to show, check once again and make sure that there are no knots what so ever in the coat, especially around the hips, under the feet, and again armpits, nape of the neck and chin – the rabbit has scent glands under the chin, which are used to pass general messages, and rubbing these on surfaces can cause matting of the wool. If all looks good, crate and travel to the show.
Some people will groom just before the travelling, but this is only if you want to see if an overnight matt developed is salvageable. I know that in Europe and America they will blow the coat with something similar to a cold hairdryer, or leaf blower, and although it does work well, I found that mine just would not get used to the noise – I also found that although blowing through the coat would untangle any very small webs, the result was much like having your own hair blown in a wind from an open car window – rather flat, lank and lifeless afterwards.
When you uncrate your rabbit, check it again – if the journey has felted it, show it to get a feedback on type, but forget about any prizes. If you are lucky and it has travelled well, settle it for the night and leave well enough alone. In the morning, get there super early, and prepare to groom your rabbits for the first time.
I will normally give a light dusting of potato flour over the entire rabbit, and very gently, starting on the side of the rabbit, start grooming the coat. The coat is lifted in one hand, and gently brushed away, a few hairs at a time, in a downwards motion, working my way up to the backbone. The other side, and the rump are then groomed, followed by the chin, facial furnishings and ear tufts. Finally, I will dust my hands with potato flour, and very gently stroke the wool in an upwards motion to create more loft in the coat.
When you steward and move angora rabbits, always remember to present them with the coat stroked very gently upwards for more loft. One stroke as you place the rabbit is enough, the judge will want to see the correct colour of the rabbit which is of course on top.
And finally good luck, you have chosen a rewarding breed, which when it is in top condition is a true show stopper!!