“As the Swedish rabbits cleared the jumps and raced around the course, the spectators at
Earls Court smiled and applauded. Scanning the hundreds of happy onlookers, I couldn’t help but think why has rabbit jumping not become more popular here? Show jumping with rabbits, what’s not to like?
Clambering over the hay bales and squeezing into the crowd to watch another round of jumping, it struck me how noticeable British jumping rabbits were by their absence. Surely rabbits from the UK can jump? There must be British rabbit jumpers who would happily attend showcase events and less experienced enthusiasts who would love to learn from the Swedish team? Why fly rabbits over from Sweden?”
These were my thoughts as a pet journalist during the London Pet Show in 2012. In 2016 Burgess Pet Care continue to sponsor the Swedish Rabbit Jumping Team, flying rabbits to UK pet shows, and promoting them as ‘popular attractions’. British rabbit jumping, which can be divided into a few competitive jumpers with RJGB, and handful of regional hobbyists with RJUK, remain absent.
Originating in Sweden in the 1980s, rabbit jumping (known there as Kaninhoppning) has grown in its homeland and spread across the world. The Swedish national federation now has around 1,000 members, and the pastime has traveled through northern Europe, and jumped to the United States, Canada, Japan and the UK – but still in a small way.
On the surface, I always found the bond of training and handling, healthy exercise, and the spectacle appealing. It showed that rabbits are active animals, they respond well to training, and that “A Hutch is Not Enough” for their living quarters. Today, however, I feel rather uneasy about rabbits flown in from Sweden, ‘performances fives times a day’, and the label of ‘popular attractions’.
It is obvious that any sponsor, including Burgess Pet Care, wants to attract attention to their brand. In bringing together crowds of ticketed customers, there is the opportunity to sell products whilst raising awareness about rabbit welfare. Yet the lack of British involvement suggests this is about the standard and consistency of jumping at the show. It is about entertainment; entertainment where only specially trained animals flown into the country can perform. The terminology again is making me uncomfortable – but surely as ‘performing pets’ connotations of the circus are unfair? It certainly is a tricky one.
When ‘more rabbits’ are being flown to UK shows, Burgess Pet Care and UK pet shows need to think carefully.
Can ‘Rabbit Show Jumping’ be packaged as rabbit welfare awareness, when rabbit transportation between Sweden and UK could potentially be stressful? Does the public want to see performing animals from overseas at UK pet shows?
What do you think? How you feel? Please consider the Animal Realities and SHARE.