Rabbit show jumping originally began in the late Seventies in Sweden where it is known as Kaninhop. It involves rabbits hopping around courses of several small jumps that vary in height and length; very similar to the show jumping courses used by horses.
In the following decades its popularity has spread round the globe to many other European countries, the US , Canada and Japan . Its popularity in the UK grew after the sport was featured on the television programme That’s Life! From 1995 onwards, England slowly developed their own clubs and rabbit jumping competitions.
The Rules of the Game
The very early rules of this sport were based on those used for horses and have been adapted over time to suit rabbits. Rules also vary from country to country but tend to be that a higher score is awarded depending on how many jumps the rabbit clears. Some organisers also introduce a time element to add another competitive edge. All breeds are allowed to compete except for the English Lop due to the likelihood that they will catch their ears on the obstacles and injure themselves.
Small breeds such as the Netherland Dwarf, tend not to be favoured as they cannot jump as high, although there have been some exceptions to the rules, with some small breeds making it to some of the highest Scandinavian classes. Larger breeds such as the Flemish Giant are generally not used either as they tend to put a lot of weight onto their front legs whilst jumping causing themselves injury. Long haired breeds such as the Angora can be used but should be clipped as they are not prone to overheating. An ideal rabbit to use for jumping has long legs and a long back so that they jump large heights and achieve a good length jump. All breeds are trainable and success depends largely on the rabbits personality and temperament - rabbits that enjoy sitting on people’s laps and being cuddled will probably not be interested in jumping whereas an outgoing and active rabbit will most likely do well. A rabbit should never be forced to jump and should be given rewards as part of its training and never be punished.
Events and Competitions
As in the world of horse show jumping, trainers can enter their rabbits into many events and competitions and win titles and awards. The first national championship was held in Stockholm in 1987 as the sport continued to grow. This started a trend for rabbit jumping competitions around the world, however it can be difficult to organise an international event as all countries other than Sweden and Norway have different rules for their competitions.
World Record Holders
From these competitions have come rabbits that hold the world records for both height jumped and length jumped. The record for the highest rabbit jump is 99.5cm and was set in 1997 in Denmark by a rabbit named Tosen owned by Tine Hygom. The world record for longest jump was also set in Denmark and is 300cm, set by Yaboo owned by Maria Jensen.
Associations and Clubs
1994 saw the National Rabbit Show Jumping Organisation of Sweden formed and along with it a set of permanent rules for their championship. Denmark and Finland also formed associations in 2002 and 2004 respectively, with many other small organisations popping up around the world.
Animal rights campaigners have not welcomed this craze. A particular point of concern has been that competing rabbits often are required to wear harnesses and animal rights groups have accused owners of using these to pull uncooperative rabbits over the jumps. However, rabbit trainers have answered these accusations and say that harnesses are used during tournaments for safety. They are used for practical reasons to prevent males breaking free and uncontrolled reproduction occurring as has apparently happened before.
Other Animals and Agility
Many other animals also compete in jumping and also agility competitions – the most well known being horses competing in show jumping and dogs in agility. As seen here, rabbits also compete in show jumping and rats can compete in agility classes.