Judging Rabbit Breeds by the American Rabbit Breeders Association
Rabbit show judging is based on the rabbit’s physical appearance, not performance. Breeders and judges look for different traits in the various breeds. In the United States, the ideal features of every breed are described in one book, the Standard of Perfection.
Published by the American Rabbit Breeders Association, the Standard of Perfection (or “SOP”) has a section for every breed of rabbit and cavy. It outlines a number of things:
- The acceptable colors and how they are shown. Not every breed allows the same colors, known as “varieties.” Some breeds have only one accepted color; others have dozens. The breeds with numerous accepted colors group them into classes in the show room.
- A scale of points. Out of 100 total, points are allotted to various features of a breed to help judges determine their importance. In most breeds, body type carries the most points. However, this can vary widely. The Harlequin standard puts only 10 points on general type; the Holland Lop standard gives it over 80. Some breeds like the Silver Marten don’t place any points on the ears, but the ears are worth over 30 points in English Lops! Note however rabbits are not judged on a point system in the United States, but by comparison. The judge chooses the rabbit that they feel best fits the overall description, and does not allot a certain number of points for each part of the rabbit and then tally them up. Some other countries do judge this way, though.
- Descriptions of the desired traits in the breed. This includes body type, fur quality, color descriptions, markings, and more. Also ideal, maximum, and minimum weights where applicable. Some breeds, like the Flemish Giant, do not have a maximum weight. Others, like the Netherland Dwarf, have a maximum weight of only three pounds!
- Lists of faults and disqualifications. Faults are like penalties; disqualifications make an animal ineligible for an award. For example, in Mini Rex, a flat coat is a fault, but Mini Rex fur over 7/8 inch long is a disqualification. Mini Rex should also be disqualified for coats under 1/2 inches.
- Sometimes the standard also includes additional notes on handling and evaluating that particular breed.
- Color and black/white photos of every breed.
In addition to the breed-specific information, the ARBA Standard of Perfection includes lots of information on all breed faults and disqualifications, the ARBA condition standard, meat class judging, a glossary, and how new breeds and varieties are accepted into the standard. All information on judging rabbits and cavies (guinea pigs) is included in one book.
The Standard is revised by the ARBA and national breed clubs every five years. The current edition is in effect from 2011 – 2014.
The entire Standard of Perfection is copyrighted by the ARBA and may not be reproduced online or in print, even by national breed clubs, without written permission.
This book is a valuable tool for show rabbit breeders and an essential resource for rabbit and cavy judges, ARBA registrars, and youth participants in showmanship, royalty, and other contests. It can be purchased directly from the American Rabbit Breeders Association or from rabbit cage suppliers.