FORT WORTH -- If they gave a medal for the softest, most luxurious animal in the Fort Worth Stock Show, an Angora rabbit would be among the finalists.
"They're just elegant," said Lisa Stuart of Seagoville, mom of rabbit competitor Katelynn Stuart.
The Stuarts spend much of their time brushing and grooming their three French Angoras, which competed in the Rabbit Show over the weekend.
Piper, a smoky gray rabbit with fine black ears, has been known to chase people around the house, Lisa Stuart said, and Dolly, another gray, is named after the equally showy Dolly Parton.
Leo, a big white male, hopped about his cage with a wild look in his pink eyes.
"He's just a little crazy with all these girls around," Stuart said. "He wants to breed."
That's one reason the Stuarts don't have more bunnies than the four they have now, she said.
"It's a lot of work to breed them, and they'll have 15 babies at a time," she said.
Katelynn Stuart said her rabbits are usually very calm, and she doesn't mind doing all the fussing and grooming.
Katelynn Stuart shows rabbits through the Seagoville FFA. A junior in high school, she has shown rabbits since she was in sixth grade. They're great with dogs and other pets, she said.
Lisa Stuart said, "The longer-haired ones are better for people with allergies."
The French Angoras weigh in at a hefty 10 pounds.
English Angoras, while even more furry, are a bit smaller. Unlike the French rabbits, the English variety has wool all over their faces, with bushy cheeks and brows that fall over their eyes.
"It's a different body type," said Rachel Molder of Santo. "The English Angoras are a little bit lighter and trimmer than the French."
They're "mostly hair," she said, and weigh 7 to 71/2 pounds.
Her brothers Joseph, 15, and Jacob, 12, are showing eight English Angoras at the show, along with more conventional rabbit breeds called Californians and New Zealands.
Rachel Molder is now above the 18-year age limit for showing rabbits.
The Molders have 13 females and six males, she said, along with a built-in clientele.
"There's a lot of interest in them out in West Texas," Molder said, speculating that the folks in fiber-conscious sheep and goat country find Angora just as pleasing -- even if it's on a rabbit.
She is sending five Angoras to Sonora this week and recently sold one to a Texas Tech University professor who wants to study the wool.
Angoras are sheared like sheep, and ounce for ounce, their wool is eight times warmer than sheep's wool, she said.
The Molders all have uses for the abundant wool.
Rachel Molder has a needlecraft business and sells wool for a craft called needle felting. The Angora is mixed with a heavier wool for that.
Her brothers use their earnings from exhibiting the rabbits and selling their wool for their target-shooting hobby with their .22-caliber rifles.
"It pays for my ammo and other accessories," said Joseph Molder, who has been exhibiting at the Stock Show for five years. "My first years I showed a pig and a steer."
The family sponsors a rabbit show at home called "Hoppy New Year," aimed at youngsters who are new to rabbit showing.
"It's like a party," Rachel Molder said, "only with rabbits."
Shirley Jinkins, 817-390-7657