Rabbit agility, or ‘show jumping’, started in Sweden in the 1970s. Rabbits are trained to jump hurdles and to go up and down ramps and through tunnels, being led around courses by owners/trainers, wearing a harness and lead. Competitions have been held in Europe, Scandinavia and the USA.
Rabbit show jumping is increasing in popularity in Britain.
Rabbit show jumping
Show-jumping can provide good physical and mental stimulation for rabbits. Positive reward-based training enhances rabbit-owner bonds, providing companionship and stimulation.
Meeting individual needs
Rabbits’ needs must be met at all times. Deciding to train rabbits to show jump should only be made after careful consideration of whether it’s in the individual rabbit’s best interests.
We wouldn’t recommend show jumping for every rabbit - they're not all suited to it. Many lack the temperament, build or athletic ability to participate. Unfit rabbits could injure themselves jumping.
Juvenile rabbits can’t participate until their bones and joints are developed and strong.
If you're considering training rabbits to show jump or perform other activities, please speak to their vet for advice before undertaking training, to ensure they’re physically fit, are suitably aged and may benefit from the activity.
Training your rabbit
Rabbits are intelligent, inquisitive and playful. They can be litter trained, taught various tricks (e.g. coming when called, entering their cage on cue and retrieving objects) and learn to use cat flaps.
Only positive reward-based methods e.g. clicker training, should be used. Punishment e.g. shouting or physical coercion must never be used to train a rabbit.
Inexperienced owners should do basic training (e.g. encouraging rabbits to come when called, rewarding with a healthy treat) and see whether their rabbit responds positively, before attempting complex activities.
Owners can create agility courses in their gardens, instead of taking rabbits to shows. Seek expert advice regarding the equipment needed, to ensure jumps, ramps and tunnels are safe, and harnesses and leads are suitable and well-fitted. Before training rabbits to show jump seek advice from a vet/clinical animal behaviourist.
Shows and competitions
Rabbit welfare is the key priority before, during and after events.
Event organisers and owners should consider potential welfare problems that could arise during an event and make every effort to avoid/minimise problems before the event.
Find out more in our Rabbit Agility Factsheet (PDF 183 KB)