An old Chinese Proverb once said, “do not rely on a rabbit’s foot for luck, after all, it didn’t work out too well for the rabbit.”
But during Tuesday’s opening afternoon at the Crow Wing County Fair, there were few rabbit feet that wouldn’t be considered lucky.
Feet like Jessica Otto’s 4-H show rabbit, ‘Littlefoot,’ a French Lop rabbit whose feet were anything but little.
“We named him Littlefoot because he has such big feet,” 11-year-old Otto said with a smile after she and Littlefoot were crowned the 4-H/FFA junior grand champions in showmanship first round at the rabbit tent of the fairgrounds. “I am pretty excited (to be named grand champion) and I actually won with him (Littlefoot) last year.
“He knows how to win, he’s a superstar.”
Otto and Littlefoot competed against other kids in the junior competition ranging in grades from kindergarten to fifth grade, intermediate with grades sixth through eighth and seniors grade nine and above. Rabbits, bred mostly in northern Minnesota, are judged on a variety of physical features according to the American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA) standards which includes eyes, nose, teeth, belly and front feet and legs. Rabbit handlers are also judged on their ability to control their rabbits and to answer questions about their rabbit and its breed in what is referred to as the speed round.
“It’s almost an all-year process to get him (Littlefoot) ready,” said Otto, who has been involved in rabbit showmanship for the past four years. “There is a lot of grooming, nail trimming, washing and feeding him the right good foods.
“Right now he is molting, which got him skinny, so we gave him extra feed to give him more nutrients and more weight plus a nice coat of fur.”
Otto said her interest in 4-H rabbit showmanship first peaked with her love for rabbits and they’re “cuteness.”
For siblings Matt and Lindsey Largaard, who competed in the intermediate and senior rabbit showmanship on Tuesday respectively, it was a family affair in 4-H, with mom Kim, a former 4-H member.
“We had originally gotten into the rabbits for him (Matt) in kindergarten,” said Kim, who added her time in 4-H was more focused on dairy cows. “And then Lindsey kind of fell into it, too, and became very involved. She’s my bookworm and absorbs all knowledge about these (rabbits) and just can’t get enough.
“Lindsey is actually the current ARBA queen until September, which is through the state rabbit association where it’s all knowledge based stuff. They have a written knowledge test, where the top 10 percent go back for interviews and that’s where she nailed it and won.”
Largaard said overall Crow Wing County showmanships represent themselves very well at the state level, which competes during the Minnesota State Fair each August. She said with the near 90 percent rabbit showmanship participation at the Crow Wing County fair this year, one person will earn a guaranteed trip to compete at the Minnesota State Fair, with hopefully more earning the same honoring based on the animal’s merit.
And while the rabbits took center stage on Tuesday, the rest of the week will carry out different 4-H animals and owners who make their own luck.
“4-H is just so much fun, no matter what animal you’re working with,” said Otto. “I am really happy to be a part of it.”
Littlefoot’s twitching nose agreed.