Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Rabbit Hopping Competitions Take a Leap in Popularity

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Rabbit Hopping Competitions Take a Leap in Popularity

Article excerpt

LEBANON, Pa. - "This is like a brand new sport. It came to the United States in the '80s, but it's just suddenly become a national sport - a national pastime," said Tami Steele, owner of Alikatt Bunnies.

Ms. Steele, of North Lebanon Township, in southeastern Pennsylvania, was referring to competitive rabbit hopping, a sport that is burgeoning in popularity.

Rabbit hopping had its humble beginnings in Sweden in the 1970s, where the first rules and procedures were based on horse jumping. Later, these rules were perfected for the rabbit and the sport began its global journey.

Currently, rabbit hopping usually consists of small single or larger jumps, sometimes combined with other equipment, such as teeter totters and bridges. The rabbit is attached to a harness and led through the course by the owner.

While the sport may seem taxing on the little animals, rabbit hoppers will be quick to point out that not only are rabbits naturally adept at these sorts of skills, they also thoroughly enjoy them. In fact, most are naturals.

"We do train our own rabbits, but the rabbits really do their own training," said Ms. Steele.

A rabbit's instinctive tendency is to run in zigzags, attempting to confuse any predators. The rabbits will learn by example, however, eventually becoming excited enough to get out on the course.

"They'll start watching the other rabbits and see how much fun they're having, and then try to imitate them," said Ms. Steele.

She has been involved with rabbit hopping since fall 2011, when her daughter became interested in the sport during a 4-H meet.

"I saw someone doing it, and I was like, that is so cool," said Alexis Steele, who shows and hops rabbits competitively.

"She said 'Mom, I want to do rabbit hopping.' So I said, 'OK, how do we do this?' " said Tami Steele.

The first obstacle they encountered was a lack of supplies in the local area. The two conquered this by handling it themselves, hiring a local woodworker to build a set of jumps for them. …

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