Rabbit showmanship, and any type of animal showmanship, serves many purposes for exhibitors of every age. The number one advantage of learning showmanship is learning the skills necessary to do a basic health check on your animals. That is the essence of what showmanship is, its checking over your animals to make sure they are healthy. Showmanship also teaches participants how to conduct presentations, improves public speaking, teaches exhibitorship and sportsmanship, and provides participants a chance at friendly competition. The competition also allows youth to show off their knowledge about the health of the animal as well as the breed and variety.
Success in showmanship requires pracitce. By praciting frequently the exhibitor can become more comforatble performing the motions, saying the words, identifying any problems, and generally avoiding mistakes. The more an exhibitor practices the better they will be when the time comes to use the skills.
In a showmanship competition the competition begins before you get to the judging table. The jude will be watching to see how you look and how you handle your rabbit. Remember, in this competition the exhibitor is being judged, not the animal.
The first part of the judging examines how the exhibitor presents themself by the way they are dressed. This means dressing to impress. It is recommended that exhibitors wear sold color pants with a solid colored long sleeve shirt. The exhibitor should be neatly groomed with long hair pulled back away from the face. Clothes should be clean with shirts tucked in. Jewelry should be kept to a minimum. If the exhibitor is showing for 4H or FFA then they should wear their uniform for the organization they are a part of.
The second part the judge will examine is how the rabbit is carried to the table. The rabbit (or cavy) should be held securly close to the exhibitors body (unless they are a running breed, which requires a different method). Any of my 4H kids will tell you that carrying your rabbit should be just like you are carrying a football, cradled in your arm at your side. It is also important to make sure the animal is handled correctly during showmanship while turning and flipping as well as leaving the table at conclusion of the presentation.
The actual act of showmanship requires the exhibitor to show his or her knowledge in conducting a basic health check of their animal as well as answering questions about the animal, its breed, its variety, and possibly any diseases identified during the presentation. Over the course of the health check the exhibitor will examine the animals eyes, ears, teach, nose, front and back feet and legs, chest, stomach, back, genitalia, tail, and fur. When examining each section of the animal they will be looking for diseases and ailments common to that body part. When the exhibitor starts the showmanship presentation they should begin with the animal posed properly for the breed, the left ear facing the judge. The exhibitor should state their name, the animal's breed, variety, sex, and class, as well the tattoo number.
When checking the eyes the exhibitor is checking for the correct color, signs of blindness, moon eye, wall eye, and weepy eye. A check of the nose will have exhibitors checking for discharge, which indicates snuffles. The exhibitor will also want to check the inside of the front feet for any matting that can also indicate snuffles. When checking the ears the exhibitor will look for rips, tears, sores, mites, and excessive wax. Exhibitors will check the teeth for any that are chipped, missing, loose, or broken, also that there is no sign of malocclusion.
Next the exhibitor will move to the body. They will check the front feet to make sure the pads are well furred with no sign of sores. Check the toenails for the correct color and that none are missing or broken. Also check the straightness of the front legs. Next check the back feet and hocks for signs of sores and that they are well furred. Also check the straightness of the back legs. The exhibitor will also run their hand from under the chin all the way down the body feeling for tumors, masses, broken bones, and hernias. The exhibitor will also check the genitalia of the rabbit for any signs of vent disease and that all organs are intact with no signs of missing testicles or split penis.
On the back of the animal the exhibitor will feel from the base of the head to the tail feeling for blemishes, injury, broken bones as well as feeling the quality and cleanliness of the fur. The exhibitor should also check to make sure the color is correct for the breed, variety, and standard. The tail should also be examined. Examination of the tail should look for any signs of broken bone as well as to unsure it is straight with no sign of screw tail.
At the conclusion of the examination the exhibitor should return the animal to the type of pose the breed calls for. The exhibitor should also repeat the statements at the beginning pertaining to their name, the basics about the animal, and its tattoo number. At this time the judge will ask questions relating to the animal and disease discussed in the presentation.
During the course of the presentation the exhibitor can speak each part of the process or choose to be silent. If the exhibitor chooses to be silent it will be important to let the judge know that no speaking will take place. Whether the exhibitor speaks or not they should make sure to take their time, frequently make eye contact with the judge, and make sure the judge is aware of each step taken. Failure to pay attention to the judge and slow down could result in a score lower than it should be.