Laura Orosco started raising one rabbit in FFA her junior year at Tokay High School in 2013. Now a student at the University of the Pacific, Orosco is spending much of her free time caring for 70 rabbits for show.
She watched over her rabbit cages early Sunday morning, waiting to bring out her French Lops for judging. She and many others young and old entered their various breeds of rabbits in a California Rabbit and Cavy show at the Lodi Grape Festival Grounds Sunday, Nov. 23.
“My goal is to place in the top 10 at Nationals with my French Lop. I’ve won local best in breed, but in the West Coast classes, I’ve hit in the middle of my category,” Orosco said.
Of the 48 different rabbit breeds, Orosco cares for five types — French Lop, Holland Lop, Lionhead, New Zealand, and Velveteen Lop rabbits.
Orosco began raising rabbits, admittedly, as a way to get out of writing a research paper. Over time, raising and showing rabbits grew to be a loved and time-consuming hobby.
“I’ve made friends just as crazy as I am, people with a common passion that make me feel like I’m not alone in this,” Orosco said.
She spends 3 hours a day and 6 hours on weekends caring for her rabbits. Daily, she must give all 70 food and water, and clean up their waste. On weekends, Orosco has to disinfect the bottles and food bowls to keep away bacteria and prevent infections.
Breeders stationed across the Cabaret and Zinfandel halls rivaled her levels of dedication to rabbit breeding, with children as young as 7 brushing, feeding and preparing their rabbits for show.
Rebecca Smith sat near her 7-year-old daughter’s Silver Fox rabbits , while her daughter was taking rabbits up to show. Formerly from Lodi, Smith signed up her daughter for the 4-H program in Sacramento last year, but she knew well what was unique about her daughter’s rabbits.
“They have different types of fur. If you brush it the opposite way it sticks up until you brush it down,” Smith said. “They’re called silver fox because their fur looks like a wild silver fox. Their undercoats are blue, while the topcoats are silver.”
Different breeds required different treatment pre-show. While the silver fox might only need a bit of brushing, a few other breeds required excessive grooming.
In one corner were several large English Angora rabbits, which were more fluff than animal. Breeder Betty Chu, from Morgan Hill, brushed out clouds of dust from these rabbits, combed them and then used an air blower to fluff their fur. These are bred for show and for the use of their excess fur, which is used for fiber, she said.
Breeders, friends and family members helped carry rabbits to their showing cages. One woman carried Dwarf Hodos in her arms with one peeking out of her sweatshirt pocket.
They swarmed judging tables to see their results of their hard work breeding and raising these velvety animals, and sometimes just to enjoy the cute way they wiggle their noses.
“I like how they stay calm and are all furry,” said Opal Cahoon, a 10-year-old from Oakdale. “I like how you can love them.”
Contact reporter Christina Cornejo at email@example.com.