What we learned about rabbit agility at the Westmoreland Fair

It’s a big deal in Pennsylvania.

Screen shot of The Incline video
Sarah Anne Hughes

Children and teens led nervous rabbits with names like Princess Anna and Booty over a series of obstacles today at the Westmoreland Fair in front of a crowd of dozens of people.

It’s called rabbit ability, and not only is it cute — it’s very popular in Pennsylvania.

That’s according to Hannah Smith, a teen leader at the fair who judged the rabbit agility competition this afternoon. Smith got her start in rabbit agility at a competition held by the Pennsylvania State Rabbit Breeders Association, which has a yearly convention.

“It was an awesome experience,” she said. “Pa. is one of the top states for rabbit hopping right now. It’s kind of an honor to hold.”

The Incline observed more than a dozen rabbits make their way over 12 obstacles over an hour period. Here’s some of what we learned.

  1. You should not clap at a rabbit agility competition. It can be super tempting, but don’t do it. Rabbits are skittish.
  2. Rabbits lose points if they knock over a jump, handlers lose points if they have to physically carry their rabbit over the obstacle or if they step on the course. Handlers can, however, give bunnies a little tap on the behind to get them hopping.
  3. Not every type of bunny can hop competitively. While there were several types of rabbits represented Thursday, rabbit superintendent Michelle Forry said English Lops can’t because of their long ears (which can reach up to 21 inches). Flemish Giants are similarly unfit for competition because of the potential for back injuries.
  4. Rabbits of any age can learn how to hop competitively, but Smith said it’s easier to start with a younger rabbit. She recommended five months old as a good starting point.
  5. Training involves getting a rabbit used to going over jumps and wearing a harness, Smith said. The next step: taking the rabbit out in public so they can relax (as much as a rabbit can) around people. “You’ve got to get them used to the element,” Smith said.