Print Edition: February 22, 2012
The first thing that really comes to mind upon hearing the term “bunny show jumping” is, well, why not? How is this a sport we’ve never heard of? Those bunnies are famous for bouncing. The only other thing bunnies are good for is reproduction. And stew.
Bunny show jumping, according to the Canadian Rabbit Hopping Club, first began as Kaninhoppning in Sweden in the late 1970s, with a club beginning to compete within their small group. But, as rabbit jumping became more and more popular, these small, disorganized groups of jumpers began to communicate, and soon merged to create the first group: the Swedish Federation of Rabbit Jumping in 1994.
The early rules were initially similar to those in horse jumping, but are now tweaked to better suit bunnies. For example, in some cases, rabbit harnesses must be worn to prevent unplanned breeding on the course. You know how the saying goes: those bunnies will breed like rabbits if you let them.
Other rules, stated by the Swedish Federation of Rabbit Jumping, heavily emphasize the well-being of the rabbits. The tracks are built to eliminate any risk of injury. Rabbits must never be forced to jump, or handled inappropriately, i.e., lifted by the harness rather than by hand, or beaten. If a bunny balks, the owner can lead it back and try again, and are given five minutes to complete a jump – it doesn’t seem to be a fast paced sport at times when Thumper doesn’t have momentum. The courses are much like horse jumping, with obstacle courses, as well as official high jump and long jump contests.
The world record in high-jump is held by a Danish rabbit called Tönsen, who jumped 99.5 cm. Another Danish rabbit called Yaboo made the record for the long jump, measured at a staggering three meters.
Rabbits are kind of crappy pets sometimes, if you don’t get the right breed – they poop too much, they are high strung and have sharp teeth. Maybe no one else would call a bunny out on these things, but I say they don’t have much going for them. This doesn’t seem to be the most intense, competitive sport, but with the focus of the well-being of the rabbits, that seems to be a good thing. Training can’t be easy, but with the tight regulations on safety and treatment, and a swift follow through on consequences to breaking these regulations, bunny show jumping is something to be admired.
Bunny jumping isn’t exactly sweeping the nation. But it’s steadily growing. They’re cute. The Swedish Federation of Rabbit Jumping has swept the small northern nation, with nearly 800 members from about 20 affiliated clubs. Norway and Finland also established federations in 2002 and 2004, respectively. The sport is growing in the States, Germany, Denmark and the UK. Canada even has a little club going out of a 4-H program.
Like I said, bunnies are only good for two things: bouncing, and reproducing. I’m all for making a sport out of bunny show jumping, but if you think about it, they would probably do much better as a species competing in a sport for the other one.