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Looking for an unsung State Fair animal? Hop to it

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(Photo: William Wilcoxen)

We crowd around Minnesota’s biggest boar and the sow with her piglets. We watch the cows as they’re led to and from the dairy barn. The horses parade around a coliseum.

But what about the rabbits? Oh yeah, there are rabbits at the State Fair, too …

You don’t have to remind Sage Hagans of that.

Sage and La Brea

Sage Hagans with La Brea (Photo: William Wilcoxen)

To the 16-year-old 4-Her from Minneapolis, there’s no better animal at the fairgrounds – although she does make her love for the creatures sound a little like a malady.

“I spent too much time in the rabbit barn and got the rabbit sickness,” Sage told BringMeTheNews. “Most people probably think I’m crazy.”

The rabbit disease strikes at a young age too. Sage was only 3 or 4 years old when she first visited the State Fair.

“I’d spend all day in the rabbit barns,” she says.

Sage was at the Fair Thursday with La Brea, who is a Satin.  That’s one of the 49 breeds recognized by the American Rabbit Breeders Association.

What makes a champion rabbit?

Rex sr. doe

This rabbit is a Rex breed, and a senior doe – meaning it’s more than 8 months old. (Photo: William Wilcoxen)

Some rabbits are raised for meat, others for their fur. Some have wool that can be harvested over and over like a sheep.

With four dozen different kinds that all have their own specialties, how can you tell which rabbits are really special?

Look it up in the book.

Amber 2

Amber Lalum of Wadena County with Prince Charles. (Photo: William Wilcoxen)

The Breeders Association (the ARBA, to those with rabbit sickness) lays out the traits that each of its recognized breeds should have in a book called “Standard of Perfection” (which Sage just happens to be carrying in her backpack).

Richard Steinberg of Owatonna, who has been judging rabbits at fairs since 1974, says the hindquarters are the most important body part for the meat breeds. And for the fur ones it’s … the fur.

What’s most important for those of us who aren’t judges and don’t have the rabbit sickness – at least not yet? It might be the cuteness factor.

When Sage Hagans is asked what she likes best about having rabbits, she answers: “They’re so sociable and sweet. You can have a relationship with them.”

Even if there is a sickness involved, it seems to be a healthy one.

The competition

The 4-H rabbit judging is scheduled for Saturday. It’s one of several livestock competitions happening through Sunday.

You can check out the 4-H livestock page here.

Here’s a look at a returning competitor, prepping for the big day.

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