WATERLOO, Iowa — When 7-year-old Lucy Abbas first held Charles, her eyes lit up as the fragile silver and white rabbit nestled comfortably in her arms.
Abbas wasn’t alone in her affections, however. Friday afternoon, dozens of other children ogled rabbits large and small, all of them raised by children and teenagers for the Black Hawk County 4-H and Future Farmer’s of America fair.
“They’ve been asking me to get them a rabbit all-day,” said Abbas’ mom, Emily Abbas.
Friday afternoon, children took tours of rabbit pens, and learned about the different breeds and ways to take care of the furry pets.
Twenty-four of those rabbits belonged to 13-year-old Rebecca Ackles of Cedar Falls.
“It’s funner than you think it really is,” Ackles said.
When Ackles was 5, she adopted her first rabbit from the Cedar Bend Humane Society. Instantly, her family was hooked. These days, visitors can find 63 different rabbits hanging out at Ackles’ home.
“I just love their personalities. Some days they can be in a good mood or bad mood,” Ackles said. “When you’re in a bad mood, they’re also in a bad mood, and they don’t want to be held or anything.”
For 12-year-old C.J. Lyon, raising his two rabbits is a piece of cake compared to his other livestock. However, he enjoys their companionship since, “they’re so gentle compared to sheep and goats,” Lyon said.
To care for them, Lyon makes sure their nails are clipped and they are well fed, though, “it sure takes them a long time to get through 50 pounds of feed,” Lyon said.
Ackles spends three to four hours every day tending to her rabbit’s needs.
When she’s not caring for them, she enjoys reading rabbit books every night and bringing them to competitions during the day.
Though the 4-H competition is relaxed, she enjoys their emphasis on growth. At other competitions, if a rabbit doesn’t place, Ackles said competitors are told to get rid of their rabbits.
“I really don’t want to get rid of any of my rabbits, because I find that it’s not nice for the rabbits,” Ackles said. “It’s not their fault they didn’t get a good ribbon.”
Ackles has every breed, from big to small. She’s raised a 24 lbs. French Lop Doe named “Oprah,” and she owns brown baby Castors that are reminiscent of toasted marshmallows
And though her family owns a plethora of different rabbits, for Ackles, she views them all as equal.
“Every rabbit is pretty much the same,” Ackles said. “It doesn’t matter what ribbon you get or anything. They all deserve a blue because of how good they are.”