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Rabbit show contestants hop to competition

Don't let their cuddly animals fool you, the exhibitors in the FFA market rabbit show at this year's Lawrence County Fair were fierce.

"I'm not really looking to place or anything," said 15-year-old Kara Justice. "This is only my first year."

OK, maybe the competition wasn't fierce, but it was certainly stiff at the Monday morning show.

More than 80 competitors showed two rabbits apiece in nine different weight divisions attempting to hop away with the coveted grand champion trophy.

Ashley Mannon and Rachel Turvey, both 16-year-old Kitts Hill residents, had different reasons for raising rabbits, although they agreed, as did most of the contestants, that the small size was a big attraction.

"Well, they're not really hard to take care of," Mannon said.

Although Mannon may be all about convenience, Turvey was all about the cash.

"Rachel's in it for the money," Mannon said with a laugh.

"That's my thing," Turvey agreed. "Depending on what you place you can make a lot of money."

Turvey may claim to see her rabbits as just a payday, but she was one of the few contestants who had taken the time to name her animals, Kenzie and Karlie.

Mannon's brother named one of her rabbits Snuggles, but she wasn't sure which as no one could tell the two animals apart.

That's the whole point according to judge Travis West, program manager for the Ohio State University Extension.

"You're looking for two rabbits that look almost identical, that's the ultimate goal," West said. "The loin is the most important, and then the firmness of flesh, those are the two most important things."

Overall, West was impressed with the crop of bunnies in the show.

"They did very well," West said. "There were several pens that could compete in any other county fair in the state."

That sort of praise requires a lot of tender love and care from exhibitors, many of whom seemed to have a talent for connecting with their animals.

Does that mean that the morning's grand champion will have a hard time selling her prize rabbits on Friday?

"Yeah, I'll be alright," Erin Morris said. "Š When the check comes."

Market rabbit winners

Grand Champion - Erin Morris

Reserve Champion - Karissa Gilmore

3rd - Kaylyn Haas

4th - Megan Herrell

5th - Shelby Belville

6th - Autumn Boggs

7th - Ashley Mannon

8th - Kristen Zollman

9th - Shelby Haas

10th - Ashley Jenkins