PROFESSIONAL show-jumping rabbits will show off their hopping skills this weekend as they take part in a rabbit Grand National.
The Swedish rabbit jumping team will appear at the Great Yorkshire Showground, in Harrogate, where visitors can see champion jumpers bounding round a course and leaping over hurdles.
The rabbits have been specially bred for show-jumping, with some able to jump as high as three feet, and are a main attraction at the Burgess Premier Small Animal Show.
Matthew Brash, veterinary adviser for Burgess Pet Care, said the jumping event, which first appeared in the UK in 2011, was “well worth a visit”.
Mr Brash said: “We’ve brought the Swedish rabbit jumping team over. They are really well-trained, they are doing this because they enjoy doing it but it demonstrates just how much rabbits can actually do.
“These guys can jump nearly a metre, about 90cm (35.4ins) if they’re doing a straight jump, and a lot of the time you will see them jumping nearly half a metre, which is just an amazing feat in its own right.”
Tina Larsson, who is appearing at the show with her rabbit Tora, said rabbit jumping is a popular pastime in Sweden, where it began in the 1970s.
She said: “We breed them for jumping and we have done that for 20 years. It’s a known species of rabbit for jumping because we breed them like jumping horses. So they are specially bred for jumping and there are hundreds of jumping rabbits in Sweden.
“They have longer legs than other rabbits but mostly it’s all about the heads. They have to be smart and intelligent and calm to do jumping.
“The rabbits who love to jump, they are the best rabbits of course, so we breed the rabbits who love to jump.”
Ms Larsson advised anyone who wanted to train their rabbit to show-jump to begin with low jumps.
She added: “Just love it. If you love it, you will make the rabbit love it. Just decide ‘I’m going to do this and I’m going to enjoy it’. Don’t push the rabbit because you can’t push a rabbit, just enjoy it.”
Karin Molin said: “My rabbit Micro loves the events and has had several high placements from championships in Sweden and won two gold medals in England this year.
“His record in high jumping currently stands at 85cm high, we hope to beat it in Harrogate.”
Around 3,000 animals are expected to attend the show on Saturday and Sunday.