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Old June 21st, 2003, 09:47 AM
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A rabbit farm of one

By Barbara Duckworth
Calgary bureau

Clint Dunford went to a cattle show and fell in love with a lop-eared rabbit.

On his next birthday, he was the proud owner of a black and white female named Oreo.

While one is fun, the 10-year-old 4-H member from the Foothills Poultry and Rabbit Club would like to own more.

"I'd like to have quite a few because they're fun," he said.

Oreo had seven babies this year, after a four-week pregnancy. Clint was able to sell them all as pets for about $20 each.

"It was a little bit hard to sell them," he admitted.

While he liked the money he earned, he realized more livestock means more labour.

"I could get more, but I would have to take care of them all the time. I don't like too much work, but they're worth it."

Part of the payoff comes from 4-H membership, which has taught discipline and poise when showing his rabbit.

At this year's 4-H on Parade in Calgary, he won reserve grand champion showmanship. The Calgary show is the largest 4-H achievement day in Canada. It ran from May 30-June 1.

Rabbit judging involves an examination of the animal's overall condition, weight and fur quality. Health, cleanliness and condition of feet and nails are also checked.

Like all livestock competitors, Clint has felt butterflies before show time, but feels he has improved with experience.

"My first couple times I was nervous," he said.

Now a seasoned showman, he is ready to talk rabbits with passersby.

He keeps his rabbit in a special cage in the family garage where the temperatures are suitably cool for bunnies.

He feeds it specially prepared rabbit pellets and has learned that sunflower seeds produce a shiny coat. Special treats include carrots and spinach, but plants like rhubarb are off limits because they are poisonous.

Lop-eared rabbits are raised as pets and can live in a home. They weigh between five and seven pounds with a lifespan of up to 10 years. They can be litter trained and respond well to their owners.
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