Rabbits vie for top spot

Cape Rabbits Club secretary Simone van Zyl with Crystal.

A wide variety of rabbits will be on display at the Cape Rabbit Club’s spring show, with their owners all on the hop to have their bunnies crowned champion.

The show, at the Theo Marais Park main hall in Milnerton on Saturday September 3, will include judging for the champion best show rabbit with 118 rabbits on display, including Netherlands dwarf, Jersey wooly, tri-colour Dutch and South African Angora.

In 2013, Karoline Steenekamp and Simone van Zyl established the club for pure-bred rabbits and their owners.

Ms Steenekamp, the club’s chairwoman and qualified rabbit competition judge, has been involved with rabbit breeding and showing since the 1950s. She learnt the trade from her mother, Marion Keller, author of Rabbit Breeding in South Africa. Ms Steenekamp has also published a book, Rabbits, the South African All Breeds Standards of Excellence.

“The shows are there to challenge the breeder to present top-quality stock, preferably home bred, with the aim of improving the standard of their stock. All rabbits are judged to a set of breed standards,” said Ms Steenekamp.

“Rabbits range in size and function dramatically and are judged accordingly. For instance, a Netherlands dwarf is a tiny fancy rabbit and is judged for its type (shape) coat and colour, but is not looked at for meat-carrying capacity. A New Zealand white is a commercial breed, judged for its ability to carry good meat and a usable fur.”

Ms Van Zyl, the club’s secretary, said the club offered a fun way for people who are into rabbits to meet other enthusiasts and display their pets.

“In 2013, there were very few pure-rabbit breeders in Cape Town, and we felt the need for such a club in the province. Pure-bred rabbits are quite scarce in the city due to the ban on the importation of rabbits from overseas due to many infectious deadly diseases that these rabbits can bring into the country,” said Ms Van Zyl.

Taking care of rabbits, however, takes a lot of effort and can prove costly.

“They need to have a proper hutch or cage and need to be monitored closely as they can dig burrows. They also need lots of hay, as they are herbivores,” said Ms Van Zyl.

Their diet includes carrots, apples, rabbit pellets, grass and fresh water. They also need to be groomed often.

Ms Van Zyl has always had rabbits, but when she moved into her home in Lovenstein, she received a rabbit and decided to get him a friend – a month later, she had a few offspring on her hands.

“I then did some research into rabbits, their habits and the various breeds you get. I got my first pure-bred from KwaZulu-Natal, and have been breeding ever since.”

The club, which is open to all rabbit lovers, fanciers, enthuasists, breeders and commerical farmers, has 20 members and has hosted four championship shows and numerous table shows.

For more information contact Ms Van Zyl at 083 231 0399 or caperabbitclub@gmail.com