MOUNT VERNON — Kaylee Burke’s rabbit Jester has a pair of ears that just won’t lay down.
Jester, a Holland Lop, has what Burke’s refers to as “helicopter ears,” ears that stick straight out sideways from the top of his head. It is not a desirable characteristic for a Holland Lop, and is an automatic disqualifier when they are judged at the Knox County Fair. Ideally, a Holland Lop’s ears lay down alongside the rabbit’s face.
Rabbits are a diverse animal when it comes to breeds. Some are bred for meat or their fur, and some for meat and fur. Some are just breeders or pets.
Jester’s ears means he won’t be eligible for judging at the fair, but it doesn’t mean Kaylee loves him any less.
“I think it’s cute,” Kaylee said. “I love all my bunnies no matter what, even though a judge may not feel that way.”
Kaylee also brought along a Holland Mini project. The Holland Mini name is a bit misleading; they tend to be twice the size of a Holland Lop.
The type of breed, and what the rabbit is bred for, makes a difference when the 4-Hers are raising them. Top of the Valley 4-Her Peyton Freitag’s pen of three New Zealand meat rabbits, for example, have very specific diets.
“When they are not growing anymore, they get a 16 percent protein feed. When they’re still growing, it’s 18 percent,” Peyton said.
Peyton started out with six rabbits and choose the best rabbits for his pen of three. One of his rabbits that didn’t make the cut had ‘moon eye’ — a condition like a cataract — that is a disqualifier, even though it doesn’t affect the meat at all.
To get the rabbits ready for judging where they also need to be on their best behavior, Peyton handled them daily.
“You pet them when you go to feed them and give them water,” Peyton said. “They get to know you better, you get to know them better. It makes them easier to handle.”
Ryle Marston, a Jr. Fair Board member and member of the Chapel View Barn Buddies 4-H club, raised her Black Satins rabbits with both meat and fur in mind. In addition to body structure, judges will be checking the fur over carefully.
“You give them healthier food, and just brush them every now and then,” Ryle said. “You don’t give them baths.”