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Ryan Bowman is in his 10th and final year in the Stillfork 4-H Club and will attend his final Carroll County Fair as a showman this year, before moving onto his post-high school career. Bowman will not only show goats, ducks and pigs, but rabbits which are special to him.
"I have been going to the fair with my grandpa, Sam Plott, who is a 4-H club leader, for years," said Bowman. "I have been working with rabbits since I was around 9 years old. Grandpa owned rabbits so it was always easy for me to get into and learn."
Bowman said that he works with the Californian breed and participates in showmanship and market judging at the fair. He was 2002 Reserve Champion Meat Pen, 2013 Grand Champion, Showman of Showman last year, Senior Showmanship two years ago, and received other various accolades.
"You have to work with rabbits often and they get used to being handled," said Bowman. "You have to be very patient with them."
Bowman explained that showmanship judges want to know what you know about the rabbit. Those who show are responsible to pose the rabbit, name the body parts, flip rabbit over to examine it and more. It is recommended to not practice more than 15 minutes at a time with the animal. Contestants have to stand with the rabbit facing them and hands to the side.
Market rabbit judges examine the meat. They check the loin, back legs and hips, shoulders and overall shape. Their weight must also be monitored and should be as close to five pounds as possible.
The rabbits can be bucks or does but for market rabbits does must be owned from where the pen of three meat rabbits come from. THe meat type is worth the most points, then condition of the rabbit, uniformity and finally the fur.
"It is pretty sad that this is my last year doing this," said Bowman. "It is has been a pretty big deal in my life. My sisters, Sarah and Ashley, are 12 and I am going to continue to help them out with the fair in the future. I can live through them for a few more years."