They are cute and soft, colorful and unique, and excellent teachers of life skills, particularly responsibility. At least that is what Jacob Dailey, 16, of rural Goessel, found out about rabbits while raising and showing them over the past 11 years.
“I wanted to do something different,” Dailey, a member of the Goessel Goal Getters 4-H Club said. “I also liked the subtle competitiveness of showing them. There is always more to learn, and I like the people I have met through the project.”
Dailey, who lives on a cattle, goat, and crops farm near the western edge of Marion County, attends school in Canton-Galva. He is usually the person to beat in rabbitry competitions from the Marion County Fair in Hillsboro, the McPherson County Fair in Canton, the Sedgwick County Fair in Cheney, and all the way up the ladder of district, regional, state, and national level competitions as far away as Indiana and Minnesota.
“Working with rabbits has really helped my people skills,” Dailey said. “When I first started I was pretty shy, but now I have friends all over, from Calif., Fla., Canada, N.Y., and a lot around Wichita, but I look forward to seeing them at the different rabbit competitions each year.”
Dailey does more than just participate in rabbit shows, he often wins them. More than 30 different trophies, plaques, medals, belt buckles, and other awards decorate the wall of his room and give testament to the extent of rabbit knowledge packed away in his brain. At the state competition last fall, he earned royalty status as runner-up to the King in showmanship. Judges rank showmanship competitors solely on their presentation of knowledge according to scorecards. Officials award the top placers in sequential categories of Lord/Lady, Duke/Duchess, Prince/Princess, and King/Queen.
“Rabbit showmanship is more a prepared speech about what you know than anything else,” Dailey said. “The idea is to talk enough that you answer any questions the judge might have, before they have a chance to ask it. You have to introduce yourself, and then talk about the breed and every part of your rabbit. You discuss all the good points and faults of your rabbit and you get docked if you miss anything. There are many different hair types and breed sections and sub-sections; you have to talk about all those, as well as any disqualifications. Sometimes it can take hours.”
Hours of preparation and practice helped Dailey reach the high level of competition he is currently at, and though several of his close friends are following a course of judges training, he does not have a goal of going that far with it, yet.
“To be a judge you have to take a lot of tests, serve as an apprentice, and then find a judge to serve under as an intern for a year. It just takes a lot of time and I have other things I like to do too,” Dailey said.
He is a competitive baseball player and top-notch academic student at Canton-Galva, as well as a state-winning photographer in 4-H. In addition, he is developing a growing interest in outer space and design.
“I’m interested in pursuing anything to do with aerospace engineering,” he said. “I’ll probably always have the rabbits, just need to downsize some while going to college in a few years.”
Until then, Dailey’s 25-hole rabbitry, filled with numerous varieties of Netherland Dwarf, Black-and-Tan, and Fuzzy Lop rabbits, keeps his mind turning and body busy.
“They’ve helped me develop good work habits. That’s for sure,” he said. “They depend on me; people on my rabbit teams I compete with depend on me to hold up my end of the knowledge. I’ve learned to set and reach goals, and to meet deadlines.”
Dailey sells extra rabbits in spring though farm stores such as Orschelin’s or the Chisholm Trail Country Store in Newton. He said the project is not a moneymaker, but he is able to help pay for the pellets the rabbits eat. He also sells top quality show rabbits to others at shows, or to 4-H members in the area wanting to get started with a quality project.
Dailey is a member of the Kansas Rabbit Breeders Association and the American Rabbit Breeders Association.