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Rabbit Competition Gets County Fair Is Hoppin’

© Leesburg Today - 07/29/2015

The ears were flopping and the fur was flying at the Loudoun County Fair Wednesday.

Believe it or not, no carrots were used to encourage the bunnies to leap as part of the Loudoun County Rabbit Hopping Club's third annual competition.

Despite the afternoon heat, a large crowd gathered to see how high the fuzzy creatures hippity-hop into the air.

The time-trial portion of the contest consisted of a straight course and a crooked course, both of which were dotted with tiny rabbit-sized hurdles. The handlers, who ranged in age from 5 to 19, strapped leashes on their bunnies, then, attempted to guide the furry contestants through the courses. They poked them in the rear to literally nudge over the hurdles. Some rabbits were enthusiastic jumpers, while others sat and refused to move despite one young handler's persistent poking and prodding.

""Most of them are pretty good at staying on track,"" 13-year-old Calle Junker, president of the rabbit club, said. Club members lay down mats so the rabbits know the course boundaries. Hay sprinkled just off the mats usually keeps the contestants on course. ""They don't like going in the hay on the barn floor.""

Following the time trial was the high jump competition, where the rabbits had to jump progressively higher, about 2 inches higher after every successful hop. The U.S. record stands at 26 inches with the world record standing at 3 feet, 3 inches. None of the clubs' floppy-eared contenders broke any records this time, but that didn't diminish the enthusiasm of the club members or the audience, who cheered the bunnies and their owners on with loud applause.

While the rabbits didn't perform quite up to the club members' expectations, and Darcey Wilkes, a parent club leader, offered a possible explanation.

""The environment the rabbits are in definitely plays a part in how they behave,"" she said. ""It's a totally different experience if they're hopping at home, as opposed to if they're here in a strange place.""

At the end of the exhibition, the high jump award went to Calle's rabbit Shadow, who also outpaced the competition in the crooked course time trial.

Youth in other ag clubs will have their chance to showcase their animals at the fair this week, with exhibitions for sheep, poultry, cattle, horses and pigs, among others.

The fair runs through Saturday at the Loudoun County Fairgrounds, 17558 Dry Mill Road near Leesburg. Daily tickets are $15 for adults, $5 for children ages 6-12 and free for children 5 and younger. Go to loudouncountyfair.com for more information.

Aaron McAndrew is a summer intern for Leesburg Today. He is a rising sophomore at Liberty University.

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