Raising the bar for competitive rabbits and their owners

Only one small jump for a rabbit, but a giant leap for rabbitkind...

Thanks to Demi Smith, the First Rabbit Grand National will be a new attraction at a Yorkshire show, coming up this month, which calls itself "the Crufts of the small animal world" without dissent.

The Bradford Championship Show moved away from Bradford to the Yorkshire Agricultural Society's showground, at Harrogate, a few years ago, and as part of its rebranding as the bigger-than-Bradford event it has always been, it has this year been renamed the Burgess Premier Small Animal Show – in honour of its main sponsor for recent years, a pet foods manufacturer based at Pocklington.

It is still organised by the Bradford Small Livestock Society, however, and the society's chairman, Paul Threapleton, is also secretary of Honley Show.

Demi, 15, of East Ardsley, near Wakefield, and friends from Brighouse High School, have put on jumping rabbit exhibitions at the past two Honley Shows, and also at Mirfield Show last summer, and alerted Mr Threapleton to the fact that training rabbits to jump competitively is a sport in Scandinavia and the US and has been gathering a following in this country, with the help of Demi and her website – www.rabbitjumpinguk.moonfruit.com/

The result will be a series of races over hurdles, with competitors from Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands, taking place over the two days of the show, over the weekend of January 29-30.

The show will also feature, as usual, more than 3,000 rats, mice, guinea pigs (known as cavies in the business) and gerbils. Mr Threapleton, a 44-year-old architect, who breeds exotic cats and rabbits at his home near Selby, says: "The motivation is simple. It's competition – wanting to do something better than anyone else."

The show which fanciers still know as "the Bradford" is the oldest of its kind in the UK and claims to be the largest in the world.

It was started at Manningham Barracks, Bradford, in 1921, by John Watmough, who launched the still-thriving magazine Fur & Feather from his print works in Idle.

The Bradford Small Livestock Society was formed to take over the organisation of the show in 1929. See www.smallanimalshow.co.uk

The show sponsor, Burgess Pet Care, makes a range including Supacat, Supadog, Suparat, Supahamster, and so on, plus Excel rabbit food.

CW 8/1/11