Rabbits are bad listeners

Weniger sisters enjoy participating in rabbit agility at the fair

Farmington’s Lauren and Mackenzie Weniger hold their rabbits, Flashers and Caramel, after a rabbit agility demonstration at the Dakota County Fair last week. (Photo by Andy Rogers)

Farmington’s Lauren and Mackenzie Weniger hold their rabbits, Flashers and Caramel, after a rabbit agility demonstration at the Dakota County Fair last week. (Photo by Andy Rogers)

When the Weniger family came to the Dakota County Fair a few years ago, it wasn’t the thrilling rides or the sugary treats that captured their attention.

Sisters Lauren, 9, and Mackenzie, 13, were enamored with the rabbits, particularly the agility demonstrations in which rabbits and their owners attempt an obstacle course.

“It was fun to watch them jump over things and see how fast they can run,” said Mackenzie, whose family lives in Farmington.

The girls asked their parents if they could have pet rabbits, join 4-H, and join in the fun.

They quickly learned that rabbits are not the best listeners. They’ll respond to a gentle tug, but they also might decide to lay down midcourse or take off in the other direction.

The hope is the rabbits will circle around the cones, leap through tires, traverse ramps, and dance over 2-inch-high pipes along the agility course with relative ease.

“If they won’t jump, you have to give them a little push, but you lose points,” Mackenzie said.

This year Lauren and Mackenzie were among about 40 youths who participated in the rabbit agility demonstrations throughout fair week and during the competition on Friday night. There are beginner, intermediate and advanced classes. It’s almost all rabbit-dependent.

Like the halls of a high school, the rabbit community features several diverse personality traits. Some are introverts while others are anxious for an ear scratch. And there are the jocks – the speedy, agile and confident rabbits. They make the best rabbits for competition.

“It’s easy for our kinds of rabbits, because they’re runners,” Lauren said. “They’re better at jumping than showing.”

Experience also matters.

“Last year was a bit frustrating because they would lay down like, ‘Do I have to?’ ” Mackenzie said. “You had to lift them up to jump over things.”

After a year of experience, the rabbits seemingly know what they’re getting into.

“It’s more fun because they know the course,” Lauren said. “They start to get the hang of it.”

During the offseason, the girls take their rabbits – Caramel and Flashers – for walks around the yard to make them more comfortable wearing a leash. fm-fair-rabbits-2

“We set up sticks for them to jump over but they don’t really like that,” Lauren said.

4-H has held rabbit agility competitions before, but this is the first year they’ve been outside under a tent with more room for spectators.

Rabbits are popular pets in urban settings. The biggest expense is the cage, and rabbits don’t need to make regular visits to a veterinarian like cattle do.

In a more populated county such as Dakota, several youths who participate in rabbit agility live in the city, miles away from a farm.

But rabbits might just be the beginning for the Weniger sisters. Mackenzie said she wants to leave the city and be a farmer when she grows up.

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