HARRISBURG, Pa. — The arena was packed as spectators watched rabbits from all corners of the state leap their way through the Celebrity Rabbit Hopping Competition.
Eight local celebrities were paired with 4-H members and their rabbits to navigate through a 50-foot-lane filled with hurdles up to two feet tall — smaller replicas of jumps seen at equine competitions. Also, in comparison to equine shows, the rabbit that knocked down the fewest poles and completed the course in the fastest time won.
Merrigold the rabbit placed first, exhibited by Tom Moyer representing the Farm Show Scholarship Foundation and coached by her owner, Annika Gulling, Silver Spring, Md.
Other local celebrity participants included Deputy Chief of Staff for the Office of Gov. Tom Wolf Sam Robinson, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Dunn, abc27 News anchor Valerie Pritchett, Executive Director of Feeding Pennsylvania Jane Clements-Smith, Pennsylvania Representative Leanne Krueger-Braneky, Miss Pennsylvania Kayla Repasky, and Leslie Richards, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
All of the participating rabbits were trained and equipped with the proper jumping harness, but the celebrities were new to working with their randomly assigned rabbit.
Each rabbit is trained for rabbit hopping and is coached by their 4-H owner, but this was the first public hopping performance for the winning rabbit, Merrigold.
Rabbit hopping was developed in Sweden during the early 1970s and was introduced into the United States in the 1980s. In 2013, the American Rabbit Breeders Association chartered the American Hopping Association for Rabbits and Cavies and recognized rabbit hopping as an official sport right here in Pennsylvania.
Other results (celebrity, rabbit and owner):
2nd — Deputy Chief of Staff for the Office of Gov. Tom Wolf Sam Robinson with Jasmine and Kathryn Rush, Collegeville, Montgomery County.
3rd — Executive Director of Feeding Pennsylvania Jane Clements-Smith with Elliott and Libby Kent, Mercer, Mercer County.
— Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture