By DAVID GREEN
When it comes to rabbits—breed identifications, show classes, coloration—it’s unlikely you’re going to come across anyone who knows more than Jessica Torres.
Her score in the intermediate breed identification competition was the highest in the nation. Jessie scored 188 points out of a possible 200—not just the best in her age group but better than any Ohio contestant in any of the three youth divisions.
With her teammate Kelsey Brown of Williams County finishing runner-up, the Just Raisin’ Hare 4-H Club group took team honors in the breed identification contest. Other team members are Trey Rupp of Wauseon and Alyssa Galford of Williams County. Trey is the son of Morenci Middle School teacher Doug Rupp.
There’s a good reason for their success: They worked really hard over the last two years.
“We’ve been practicing since last January,” Jessie said about the twice-a-month sessions.
When the convention drew near, team members got together on a weekly basis to review their knowledge.
At the convention, contestants faced a lineup of 26 rabbits and were required to correctly identify them from among the 47 breeds recognized by ARBA.
After that, competitors had to determine the class that each rabbit would show in. Finally, they had to determine coloration out of more than 100 possibilities.
It’s actually more complicated than that, says club leader Lisa Hoffman, because color terminology varies from breed to breed.
Take the color brown, for example. For one breed, it’s called tortoise; for another, it’s called tortoise shell; yet another refers to it as black tortoise.
“It’s somewhat like medical terminology and it has to be exact,” she said. “Some breeds of rabbits have 30 different colors. This is the hardest and this is the area Jessie excels in.”
When the awards were announced at the youth banquet last Wednesday, Jessie was called up to the stage as the fifth-place winner.
But wait a minute...a mistake had been made. She was then told that she was actually the national champ, and as she recalls, she just stood there on the stage with her mouth hanging open.
This year’s week-long convention was Jessie’s second. She attended the 2007 gathering in Grand Rapids, Mich., and already the team is thinking about next year when the site moves to San Diego. If they’re going to make that trip, some fund-raising is in their future—along with a lot more practice.
First comes a break from studying rabbits, but Jessie says they’ll start up again in January.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s fun,” she said. “We work really well together.”
She has high praise for Lisa, their leader, who devotes many hours through the training sessions and organizational activities.
Three years ago, Lisa formed Council Oak Rabbit Breeders Association, an ARBA-chartered club separate from 4-H that allows members to show rabbits and earn credit toward participation in the national convention.
Most team events require a state-level qualifying stage and the Raisin’ Hare group made the cut at a state show in Columbus. In Louisville, nearly every state in the union had a team in the contest.
The convention is about a lot more than competition about rabbit knowledge. There’s also the rabbits, themselves, and more than 23,000 were judged at this year’s gathering.
That’s something Jessie wants to be a part of next year.
“I didn’t bring a rabbit this year,” she said, “but I went to the convention to buy one.”
That didn’t work out, but she made arrangements to obtain one in the spring. That will add a new layer of excitement in San Diego if the club manages to get that dream off the ground.