Stutsman County 4-H'ers raise, breed rabbits at young age

A rabbit show was held Wednesday, June 29, at the Stutsman County Fair that runs through Saturday, July 2.

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Stutsman County 4-H members are lined up waiting to have their rabbits judged on Wednesday, June 29, 2022, at the Stutsman County Fair. Josie Walton, second from right, said she enjoys raising broken black New Zealand rabbits.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun
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JAMESTOWN – Being around rabbits when they were younger has gotten two Stutsman County 4-H’ers involved in raising, training and showing them at shows such as the Stutsman County Fair.

Josie Walton, 16, Jamestown, received her first rabbit – a lionhead cross that was litter-box trained – when she was 5 years old. Walton, who has been in 4-H since she was 8, said she became interested in rabbits because her father and sister showed the rabbits as well.

Kaitlyn Ryun, 11, Woodworth, has been around rabbits her whole life. Kaitlyn, who has been 4-H since she was a Cloverbud, said she recently got her barn redone and picked up a few breeds and got rid of some. She currently has 25 younger rabbits that aren’t old enough to show at rabbit shows yet. She also has about 20 adult rabbits.

“Now I have New Zealands, mini lops and Polish,” she said.

Walton and Kaitlyn showed their rabbits in the rabbit show Wednesday, June 29, at the Stutsman County Fair that runs through Saturday, July 2. Twenty-nine participants over four classes – showmanship, breed, market class and Cloverbuds – participated in the rabbit show.


“A rabbit show is a little smaller this year than it was in past years, but we still had a good turnout,” said Christina Rittenbach, Stutsman County Extension agent for the North Dakota State University Extension Service. “They are all very intelligent and passionate about their rabbit projects and all did a really great job.”

Ryun said she spends about half the day taking care of the rabbits. She said she has to clean out the cages daily, feed and water the rabbits and keep the barn clean.

Walton cleans the cages and feeds her rabbits daily, which takes about an hour. Depending on the day, she takes another 30 minutes to an hour working on flipping the rabbits onto their back and having them socialize with people so they will stay in one spot without giving them much attention.

“I take them to school and other programs like that for kids so they are used to being handled by young ones,” she said. She said she also takes them to nursing homes.

The more the rabbits are handled, the more tamer they get, Walton said. She said flipping them and being around other people is part of the preparation for a show.

When she flips the rabbits on their backs, she checks their stomach for fleas, their nose to make sure they don’t have any symptoms of runny eyes or nose and sneezing and makes sure their arms aren’t wet.

Kaitlyn also prepares her rabbits for the shows. She trims their nails 15 days before a show — a task she normally does every 30 days — and brushes their fur and checks their teeth.

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Stutsman County 4-H members share a moment while showing their rabbits for judging on Wednesday, June 29, 2022, at the Stutsman County fair. Kaitlyn Ryun, center, said she has about 20 adult rabbits and 25 young rabbits that aren't old enough to show at her home in Woodworth, North Dakota.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun

“Just making sure they are completely healthy and ready,” she said.


Walton said she raises New Zealand rabbits, which are good for breeding but also used for meat. She said does usually weigh around 10 pounds and bucks get to about 10 to 11 pounds.

“If they get past 11 1/2 pounds you can’t show them anymore,” she said. “It’s hard to get them overweight because they are herbivores. Unless they have really high sugar diets or smaller cages they won’t typically get overweight.”

Walton enjoys raising broken black New Zealand rabbits because they are more interesting. Broken black rabbits aren’t one solid color and have a solid black color with white.


“If you breed a broken black to a broken black you can get a charlie which is less than 10% color,” she said. “You could get broken black … and you could get a solid black or a booted which would be less than 10% white. Broken blacks you want the perfect blanket pattern which would be just the giant spot in the back.”

Kaitlyn said she also competes in American Rabbit Breeders Association shows where the quality of competition is tougher.

“Those are more competitive,” she said. “They have more show quality rabbits.”

If you go

The Stutsman County Fair schedule for Friday, July 1:
8 a.m.: dairy show
9 a.m.: beef show
1 p.m.: gates open, food concessions open, midway opens and wristband session begins
5 p.m.: sign in premium sales buyers
5:30 p.m.: beef breeding presentation
6 p.m.: market livestock premium sale
6:30 p.m.: James River Rodeo Inc. performance
8 p.m.: Briana Helbing — on stage
10 p.m.: ZZ3 — on stage
10 p.m.: merchants exhibits, home and hobby and 4-H exhibits close
11 p.m.: midway wristband session closes
1 a.m.: fair closes

Masaki Ova joined The Jamestown Sun in August 2021 as a reporter. He grew up on a farm near Pingree, N.D. He majored in communications at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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