Looking into the sport of rabbit jumping

Jump starting a career. Wikipedia Commons

It’s really hopping.

Who’s ready for one of the most adorable sports to hit the big stage? Rabbit Jumping, more formally known as Kaninhoppning, originated in Sweden in the early 1970s. This sport combines the best of two worlds: our adorable floppy-eared friends and horse show jumping. Having the ability to enjoy watching an animal complete a course, while having an animal that is less expensive to care for is a win-win for everyone. 

However, this is not just cute bunnies hopping through a course, Rabbit Jumping is a serious sport that has very specific rules involved. First, what everyone cares about, the rabbit who takes home the golden carrot at the end of the day is the one who completed their respected course in the shortest amount of time with the least number of faults. Participants will have two minutes to complete the course with as few faults as possible. Faults are accumulated in a few different ways: if jumps are knocked over, if the rabbit jumps diagonally over the jump and most of their body is outside of the jump rather than being overtop of it, if the rabbit is lifted over the jump and the rabbit must also be in front of the owner. There are also two primary ways that they can be eliminated from the competition as well. If the rabbit exceeds the two minute time limit or if they go wild and jump the course in the wrong order. 

Besides a bag of carrots, what happens when they win? They gain the very desired promotion point which is needed to hop to a higher level of difficulty in jumping. The difficulty levels are mini, easy, medium, difficult, elite and veteran. The difference between each level is the height of the jump, the length of each jump and how many jumps need to be completed in the two-minute time requirement. This of course is only applicable for the straight course and crooked course. The advancement with the high jump and long jump events are not quite as time consuming as there are only non-elite and elite levels. To gain their promotion points they must either jump a minimum of 60cm high or a 160cm long. Once labeled as an elite they compete for certificates, and once they’ve obtained three certificates they are rewarded a Champion title. As you can tell this is serious business; they are not just here to look adorable. 

There are a few things to take into consideration when preparing for such an intense competition. The first is regarding the set up of the actual course. Hurdles that the rabbits are required to hop over need to be constructed in such a way that they can easily be knocked over without causing any sort of bodily harm to the rabbit. Second, to ensure the safety of the rabbit the handler is not permitted to use any forceful techniques or harm the rabbit in any way. It is severely frowned upon to punish your rabbit for doing poorly. We all have bad days. Once again the safety of our prize competitors are top priority, meaning that their handlers must ensure that they have a proper harness on and are not allowed to use collars. Collars cause neck damage and our fuzzy bundles of competitive fury need to be kept safe. They are also very strict regarding how the course is run to ensure the safety of both the competitor and the handler; meaning the handler is not allowed to walk over the jumps and needs to walk beside them to lower the risk of tripping and help to ensure that they do not go over their two minute time limit. Finally, there are no babies allowed; competitors must be at least 4 months old and the handler must be at least 7 years old. 

In case you thought that jumping was second nature for rabbits you would be wrong. There is an intense training process that these little bunnies go through to ensure that their jumping is competition ready. These little balls of fury need to get used to hopping around in their respective harnesses. Once they get accustomed to their new accessory they need to get used to hopping on their leashes. It’s recommended that you take them out in a calm environment where you can spend some quality time getting used to the leash. You then want them to get used to lower jumps, give them an opportunity to investigate the jump before actually having them attempt the jump. Once they’ve been successful, do not forget to praise them before you lead them over to the next jump. You can then begin to increase the height of the jumps as your rabbit begins to get better and more accustomed to the task at hand. It is important to remember that even though jumping should be in their nature, it is not made for every rabbit and some do not enjoy partaking in the activity. Instead of running the risk of harming your floppy-eared friend by forcing them to participate in jumping, retire your dream and enjoy the love that they can offer you. Or get yourself a second fuzzy friend to train up to take home the championships instead. 

It is important that we take a moment to appreciate the world record holder, the well-respected rabbit, Dobby and their owner, Julia Samson. Dobby holds the record in high jump as they jumped 106cm (41.7 inches) in height. If that was not impressive enough, Dobby also holds the record in long jump as they cleared a distance of 301cm (118.5 inches) in length! They may be adorable but their jumping is not to be taken for granted. 

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