Tammy Wheat reminisced about how she came to be cuddling a shivering bunny at the Fort Worth Stock Show.
“My daughter started raising rabbits when she was in FFA in high school,” Wheat said as Spicy — one of more than a dozen mini-rex rabbits she brought to this weekend’s open rabbit show — wiggled deeper into her sweatshirt. “When she went to college, I either had to sell ’em off or stay with it.”
One of the Stock Show’s rabbit superintendents, Roanoke’s Debbie Hill said she’s heard that story from many mouths.
“There are a lot of adults who took up the hobby when their kids went to college,” Hill said. “It’s a great industry.”
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Wheat’s mini-rex rabbits aren’t an industry to her; they’re her passion. What began as a way for her daughter to compete in FFA, became Queens of Camelot Rabbitry. The enterprise has produced show rabbits that have sold for as much as $900 (in a special scholarship auction).
That’s roughly $360 per pound.
But the mini-rex isn’t considered a meat-market animal, Hill said.
“I only sell for show,” said Hill, who raises Netherlands dwarfs and Britannia petites, the smallest breeds recognized by American Rabbit Breeders Association. “They’re only 2.5 pounds full grown. My feed bill is nothing compared to people who raise the Flemish giants, that get up to 22 pounds.”
Smaller breeds mean a rabbit rancher can accommodate more livestock. On her acre and a half, Hill has about 60 rabbits (guess you’d have to be really fast to get a more-accurate count) and none of them are destined for tables.
While she does eat rabbit — which she said can be found at specialty grocers and butchers shops — Hill said the Flemish giants are much better suited for hasenpheffer than her bunnies.
“These rabbits are too small for market sales,” she said. “And I don’t do pet marketing.”
Not that rabbits aren’t good pets. Angela Enrriquez said that her mini-rex, Nugget, has so adapted to life with her that he pretty much goes where he wants in her house, and does what he wants when he gets there.
“I call him Loco Poco, ‘cause he’s a little crazy,” Enrriquez said. “He already runs the house.”
If you want to find out what makes Enrriquez so enamored of an animal, there are opportunities to buy at this weekend’s open rabbit show. Almost 900 entries represent 34 breeds out of 48 recognized by the breeders association, Hill said. A record number of entries in Thursday’s through Saturday’s junior rabbit show include 44 breeds.
“There are 451 exhibitors bringing 1,544 rabbits,” Hill said. “That’s the largest show ever.”