Every act of aloha counts. Click here to DONATE to the MAUI RELIEF Fund.            

Hopped Up For A Bunny Hobby

Rabbits come in all sizes and colors, and enthusiasts say they’re great pets. Many will be displayed at the upcoming Pet Expo. We’re all ears

Rabbit lovers will be ecstatic to know that there’s a group of folks who shares a common love of rabbits and promote purebred rabbits while supporting those with interests in owning them as pets.

Noelle Sutherland

Image 1 of 4

Noelle Sutherland (left) shows Jasmine (center) and Aaron (right) Au Cocoa, a Mini Rex chocolate bunny. Lawrence Tabudlo photos ltabudlo@midweek.com

The Hawaii All-Breed Rabbit Club (THABRC), chartered by the American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA), was founded in 1986 to promote all aspects of raising and breeding pure-bred rabbits within the state. Although THABRC focuses on pure-bred rabbits, the club welcomes all pet owners.

The club offers a forum for rabbit raisers and breeders and provides opportunities to share with others in the group information about proper management techniques to keep rabbits healthy.

Very Hidden Valley Ranch rabbit breeder Noelle Sutherland of Wahiawa brought four of her pedigree Mini Rex rabbits to the home of Callman and Frances Au of Mililani. The Aus are long-time members and organizers of the Kunia Orchid Society, and their grandchildren Jasmine (9) and Aaron (2) Abe enjoy playing with rabbits.

At first they were wary of the fast-running creatures, but soon felt at home feeding grass and non-poisonous weeds to the bunnies.

Rather than giving their rabbits pet names, breeders tattoo a series of numbers and/or letters on the inside of the ear. This is equivalent to the micro-chipping of dogs and cats, and each bunny that will be displayed at a rabbit show needs this identification.

The numbers and letters reflect information such as the sex, parents, color or birth weight.

But for those wishing to keep rabbits as pets, Floppy and Thumper work just fine as names.

Jasmine named the four Mini Rex rabbits herself. Spotty the broken black (black and white) rabbit, Summer Girl the broken tortoise (brown and white) rabbit, Licorice the black rabbit, and Cocoa the chocolate rabbit were all friendly companions for the children. The broken tortoise and broken black colors partner white with any color of patches or spots.

“They’re my favorite animal,” Jasmine said as she petted Summer Girl, the broken tortoise-colored rabbit. “They bounce around, and they’re cute with their big ears.”

Mini Rex rabbits weigh between three and five pounds and are known for their plush, velvety fur, and its relatively small size and cat-like ability to clean themselves makes it an ideal pet for children.

Most rabbit breeders recommend that children be age 6 or older before receiving rabbits as pets. Sutherland’s mantra is, “No bunnies for babies.” This is because small breeds are very delicate, and all rabbits often love to kick with their back feet, which could result in scratches.

Sutherland, who has been raising rabbits for 30 years, also recommends bigger breeds for children because they are too big for the children to pick up. “They can just pet them,” she says.

When a rabbit is scared, the whites of its eyes will show, but none of the rabbits Jasmine and Aaron played with showed any sign of fear. Sutherland provided large cages for the rabbits and children to play in – this prevents the rabbits from scurrying away.

THABRC members include adults and children, ranging from single pet owners to breeders who specialize in fancy, wool and meat-producing type rabbits, and members also hold informational and project meetings quarterly around the island. There are all-breed ARBA-sanctioned shows annually on the various islands.

The annual Pet Expo is coming up May 12 and 13 at Blaisdell Exhibition Hall, and THABRC will have a booth with more than 20 breeds of bunnies big and small, as well as guinea pigs.

THABRC president Sandy Tsukiyama will be bringing her Flemish Giant rabbit, which weighs about 20 pounds. Flemish Giants, the largest breed of domestic rabbit, have a minimum approximate weight of 14 pounds. On the flip side, the Netherland Dwarf rabbit averages about 2-and-a-half pounds.

Tsukiyama was a long-time special education teacher at Roosevelt High School and used her rabbits as Animal Assisted Therapy. She found the presence and petting of rabbits to have a calming influence on some of the excitable special education students.

THABRC members are available for rabbit care and breed presentations and participate in events throughout the year during displays at the Hawaii Veterinary Medical Society’s Pet Expo and the Church of the Crossroads’ Fall Fair in November.

For more information or to coordinate a presentation call 227-7258 or 342-2617, or visit sites.google.com/site/hawaiiallbreedrabbitclub.