January brought the return of a fledgling UK tradition: the Rabbit Grand National competition. While most people are familiar with equestrian show jumping, where horses are jockeyed through a course of hurdles, this competition hosts an assembly of agile rabbits, all competing for the highest and longest jumps.
Rabbits have been domesticated since the Middle Ages, and by the Victorian era they were widely kept as household pets. Rabbits are natural hoppers, but a competitive arena for their talents didn’t catch on until the late seventies in Sweden. Ever since they’ve been slipped into harnesses and coaxed over small wooden hurdles.
Today, numerous organizations exist worldwide that are devoted to serving enthusiasts. Many are branded with a patriotic zeal and virtually all have unrelentingly adorable names like the American Association of Sporting Events for Rabbits.
In competitions, the wrangling of a finicky rabbit, often frightened by a ring of spectators, resembles the feat of steering about the family cat. Being an astute attendant of a rabbit’s emotions is the key for trainers. Success also requires picking a qualified bunny. Long legs and backs are prime features.
The best records so far? These hoppers have measured jumps over three feet high and almost ten feet long. With this thriving new pastime, we can expect to see rabbits across the globe jumping at the chance to best those records.
Music from Andrew Bird: “Feetlips” & “The Idot’s Genius” Oh! The Grandeur