A Review of ARBA Rabbit Show Rules

By Laurie Stroupe

There are several show rules that I believe are important and often missed or misunderstood.

There are also many interesting show rules. For instance, do you know what happens if a rabbit dies on the show table? How about an injury that occurs at the show? What do the rules say about molesting judges? What happens when an error occurs on the remark card or paperwork?

Correcting Errors

Do you check your show report and legs as soon as you get them in the mail? You should. Errors do happen and the sooner they are caught, the easier they are to correct.

I just got a show report today. Everything was in order except that one leg was missing. I’ve made the mistake in the past of not jumping right on the problem and never getting that leg. So I emailed the show secretary today, explained what had happened and requested that the leg be sent. I’m sure there will be no problem. The show secretary still has the show information. The club is required to keep it for six months.

Another time, two of my does placed in the top of the class. One was BOS. When the judge got to the end, he decided to call out the first place rabbit’s ear number first. The table writer missed that and got them reversed. I heard him do that and remembered the order distinctly because the #2 rabbit had been BOB the week before so I told her that she’d had her turn (you do talk to your rabbits, right?). Anyway, because they were both my rabbits and because I had nothing but my own recollection to go on, I decided not to say anything about it. I figured both does would grand. Wrongo. The doe that got the leg in error died. If I had only spoken up right away, the living doe would have gotten the leg and been able to use it.

Since that time, I’ve seen things written down incorrectly several times at the show table. Things are noisy. Ear numbers are similar. Not every judge makes it crystal clear when they decide to change the order of things.

Because things can happen, I do try to keep an eye on what is being written down. It’s so much easier to correct when the judge still has the first place rabbit on the table! Later, or next week, and a few hundred rabbits later, that judge may have no clue whatsoever.

If you care about sweepstakes points, you should also keep a record of those. Then, check them against the show reports. Sometimes, there will be a small difference such as the number in the class. I might argue that not every show secretary knows which DQs reduce the class size and which don’t, but usually there are not enough points different to be worth the discussion. So, just like adjusting your checking account by 6 cents instead of spending hours looking for the error, I just adjust my spreadsheet. If my points come out to be vastly different than the club’s at the end of the year, I will have all of my documentation available to help correct the problem.

I’ve had a few problems with my Grand Champion Certificates and registration certificates. By and large, they are very accurate. A couple of them have had misspellings on them. All that I’ve needed to do is email the ARBA office and explain the situation. When the problem is on their end, they send a new one with no cost.

One of the rabbits that I registered for someone else ended up with wrong parents on the registration form. Looking back, I know what happened. The forms and pedigrees got jumbled up, and when they were re-matched, one was paired incorrectly. Susan at ARBA has informed me that that sort of correction needs to be made immediately and involves fees and a copy of the pedigree. I need to start reminding folks I register rabbits for to be sure to check their certificates as soon as they get them. I could do better also, I usually look them over, but I need to be more consistent about it.

I did see once that a rabbit named d’Artagnan was misspelled on a pedigree. I didn’t think much of it, until it showed up again. Duh, that problem was in the database now and it would continue to be misspelled for three generations. I learned to check the registration form and get the problem corrected right then. It’s worth it.

None of these problems is difficult to correct. It all boils down to paying attention, checking over paperwork, and correcting the problem immediately.

Rules Relating to Showing

Section 57 says that it is considered unethical for a judge to comment on a placement of another judge. The only exception is if they are serving on a protest committee.

Although I have never heard a judge comment on a particular decision of a judge at a particular show, I’m sure they can be tempted to do so. We as exhibitors should be aware that if we are baiting a judge to make a comment on a rabbit that has been judged, we are putting a judge in an awkward position. His or her response should be, “Was that rabbit entered in today’s show?” If it was, the conversation should be over.

It is fine to ask a judge for an opinion on a rabbit that has not been entered. You want to wait until a time when the judge is not occupied. And you should only bring unusual cases or rabbits that are not showable to a judge. Otherwise, pay for that opinion by entering the rabbit. Judges get paid for giving their opinions and should not have to judge a string of freebies on the side.

Most judges are interested in educating breeders. So if you are not sure whether something is a disqualification or you are new enough that you can’t figure out whether a rabbit shows promise, go ahead and ask. Just make sure that rabbit is not entered in that day’s show.

Once judges place rabbits, they cannot change their minds, right? Wrong. Once judges place the first place rabbit, they cannot change their minds, right? Nope, that’s wrong, too. Section 60 says that judges have the right to change placements until the breed is complete. That means until the BOS and BOB have been awarded, a judge can change the placement at will.

Of course, it’s not a good idea for judges to continually change their minds. It would undermine their credibility. But things do happen. A judge could notice a disqualification, for example. Or a judge on another table could disqualify an entire entry for faking. Once I had a rabbit placed first, but I had to go up and say that my other rabbit was still in the coops behind the judge and had not been placed. I had thought that things were locked in once first place was chosen. In fact, the only thing the judge needed to do (and did) was get the other rabbit and place it where he wanted her, then readjust the others. What had happened was that he had found her early and set her aside for first place. Then he forgot about her! So, he put her first (she won BOSG later on) and moved the others down one placement.

Should judges be strict in close calls or give the rabbit the benefit of the doubt? Check out Section 61 and you will find that judges should give rabbits the benefit of the doubt. I’ve heard judges announce that they’ll give the benefit of the doubt, but I had no idea it was part of their training and the show rules to do so.

Is it an ARBA rule that youth must carry their own rabbits to the table? That’s a tough one because it is a rule at most or all of the shows I attend. But no, it is not an ARBA rule exactly. What Section 52 states is that youth exhibitors must be able to handle their own rabbit. So if you have a one-year-old showing and he or she cannot even handle a rabbit, you might want to refer to this rule.

The rule goes on to state that if the show catalog stipulates it (see Section 16), then the rabbits must be carried by youth. So really, it is up to the local clubs to decide. But in any case, youth are not required to carry their own animals. They may receive help from another youth.

Under Section 55, judges may not judge rabbits that they have owned or housed in the past 90 days. If you purchase a rabbit from a judge, do not put the judge in an awkward position by showing the rabbit under him or her. When multiple judges are available for a show, you may not be able to predict whether you will be assigned that particular judge. If it happens, go to the show secretary and explain that the rabbit is not eligible to be shown under that judge. You should be able to secure a refund.

But what about rabbits purchased 95 days ago? Sure, you are within your rights to show under that judge. However, you still may be placing the judge in a position where it is appears that he or she is showing favoritism. Yes, I’ve seen judges express surprise when they read the ear number and realize it was “their” rabbit. But the comments away from the table are generally, “Well of course he likes that one, it’s his rabbit!” Just avoid that sticky wicket altogether.

Section 67 says that judges must give remarks. Have you ever written for a judge and had him or her give you the remarks, even though there is no one around and it is not a remark card show? Now you know why. Giving remarks is not optional. A judge who says, “Last place,” and hands you your rabbit back is failing to abide by Section 67. Luckily this problem is rare, but it should never happen.

Section 45 talks about exhibitors attempting to, or actually, interfering with judges, influencing judges, molesting judges, or “acting in a manner unbecoming to an exhibitor.” A judge can have your entire entry disqualified and you banned from the showroom. In fact, if the problem is severe enough, you could be suspended or expelled from ARBA. So when it comes to molesting judges, don’t do it!!

Of course, that’s not normally the problem. The main problem area is exhibitors trying to influence judges. Exhibitors use many subtle and not-so-subtle methods for influencing judges. The long-term thinking exhibitors may let the judge know that the rabbit they just placed second has 50 legs and try to make the judge feel that he or she made a bad decision. Perhaps they think that the judge won’t make that mistake again! Others may stand over their rabbits, attempting to let the judge know that a prominent breeder owns that rabbit. Still others habitually hold their rabbits to be placed on the table last, letting the judge, once again, know which rabbit is theirs. Comments urging judges to “check the teeth,” or “that rabbit was overweight last weekend,” are totally out of place. In my opinion, such comments should earn an escort to the door.Kelly's Cope

Exhibitors do talk at the table. If you want to have a discussion about last week’s wins or which of your rabbits has 20 legs, then step away from the table or lower your voice so that only the person next to you can hear. But beware of that option. Some judges assume that you are talking about them! Well-meaning friends may ask you awkward questions at the table. Just reply that you don’t want to get into trouble for identifying your rabbit and then step back to answer their questions.

Injured or Dead Rabbits

First of all, Section 24 states that we all show and judge at our own risk. While judges and exhibitors should take care, things can and do happen. No one will make restitution if your rabbit dies at a show. The most that will happen is that a report will be written. If your rabbit is injured at the show be sure to get a note which will allow you to register, but not show, that rabbit in the future without regard to any DQ resulting from the injury. The rabbit must be registered within 6 months of the occurrence.

If a rabbit dies during a show, the rabbit cannot continue to be placed. However, any previous awards should not be removed. Remember that a judge can change placements until the BOS and BOB have been chosen.

Glen Carr told us a story about a cavy show. The judge was choosing the Best in Show and noticed his favorite gasping for air. He quickly pointed to the cavy and said, “Best in Show!” whereupon the cavy promptly died. Had he waited a few seconds more, he could not have chosen that cavy as Best in Show!

Hope you found these show rules instructive and interesting!