HITCHCOCK — A pen of 4-H rabbits raised by a first-time competitor from the island will be auctioned off Wednesday at the Galveston County Fair and Rodeo.
Maddy Moreau, a junior at O’Connell College Preparatory High School, raised a trio of rabbits that ranked 21st out of 81 pens, based on their overall health, the size of their teeth — “they have to look like Bugs Bunny,” she said — and ideal weight — the rabbits must be under 5 pounds.
Moreau is one half of the Buccaneers 4H club she started last year with friend Emily Low, a senior at O’Connell who lives in League City. The island is frequently unrepresented at the fair and rodeo. Fair coordinator Melondy Bender said only a handful of 4H and Future Farmers of America Clubs participated this year.
Moreau said she was new to the world of raising and caring for livestock and said she and Low decided to join 4H for something to do.
“I’ve always wanted to get into this,” Moreau said. “Who doesn’t want a backyard full of bunnies? I just didn’t expect so many of them.”
Sandra and Robert Low, Emily Low’s parents, volunteered to sponsor the club and purchased the pregnant female rabbits that rodeo rules mandate participants must start with, rather than purchasing kits, or baby rabbits, directly from a breeder.
Reality settled in, Moreau said, when each rabbit gave birth to nine kits.
As it turns out, a backyard full of bunnies requires a lot of work and isn’t always cute. The girls raised the rabbits largely by themselves in their backyards but turned to Robert Low to ink the contestants’ ears with the appropriate identifying code closer to Saturday’s competition. While he had experience with the livestock industry, Robert Low admitted tattooing rabbit ears wasn’t in his repertoire.
He had to resort to YouTube for instructions on how to tattoo a rabbit’s ear for the sake of the team.
“It’s one of those things you watch and learn,” Moreau said. “I knew a lot of the technical aspects but hadn’t actually done it, so we left it up to him.”
It’s been a learning process for the whole team, they said.
“Make sure you do it right the first time,” Emily Low said. “They screamed like pigs. If you get nervous, animals can sense that. They are more scared of being held down than the actual tattoo.”
There is a local support system for parents, children and their mentors involved in 4H at the county extension agents office, Robert Low said, but 4H lacks the benefit of funding and resources funneled to Future Farmers of America clubs, which are run by high schools.
“You’ve got to find someone affiliated with these services or else you have to teach yourself how to do it yourself,” Robert said. “It’s all about education.”
Judges ranked about 260 rabbits, including the six that represented the Buccaneers, in a four-hour period Saturday, which made it one of the largest rabbit shows in the last 20 years of the fair, rabbit Chairwoman Lisa Thurmond said.
Thurmond attributed the increase in the local rabbit population literally to spring being in the air.
“It’s thanks to the good weather we had when they were raising the rabbits,” she said.
Moreau and Emily Low’s rabbits were born in February.