National English Rabbit Club
Mr Phil Shaw
It didn’t seem like five minutes since we were packing the car to make the trip to Hereford, but the time had arrived for the 2015 National English A.S.S. held once again at the very popular Kegworth Village Hall. After dropping of cases at the hotel and being forced to drink a pint of lager it was down to the show hall to get everything set up ready for the big event. As we have come to expect everything is organised with great precision and the pen erectors were working away like a well-oiled machine, though some of them are just beginning to creak a bit, it’s a good job most of the clubs workers are still quite young. With all pens ready, club stands erected, all early arrivals checked in and cages secured it was back to the hotel for something to eat, a couple of pints and an early night to prepare for the eagerly awaited show, at 2.45am we were still putting the world and English fancy to right. As hard as Steve Germany, Brian Marsh, Phil Shaw and I tried; we just could not get Janet and Julie to stop drinking.
All too soon it was Saturday morning and the show hall began to buzz as English fanciers arrived from all areas, rabbits penned, that welcome cup of tea and a chance to catch up with old friends and hopefully over the weekend make new ones. Bang on time Club President Roy Wearmouth opened the show, welcoming everyone to the 123rd Adult Stock Show and introducing judges Phil Shaw, Derek Medlock and Eric Burton. Preliminaries over the judges walked like condemned men to their tables and the waiting was over, judging had begun.
With the hall beginning to settle down, eager expectation around the judging tables, stewards going about their work, it gives you a chance to wander around the show and take in the atmosphere and see just what it is that makes the National English Rabbit Club so special. Who can fail to be impressed by the display of 28 club trophies plus glassware a focal point at every stock show or the dedication shown by our cup steward Janet?
The new club stand had been erected next to the trophies and manned by Gary Lees who was being kept busy with a steady stream of members renewing subscriptions or in some cases joining for the first time. The 125 year celebration mugs were handed out as subscriptions were taken and I am sure everyone will agree Gary did a great job (and never moaned once). Duane Germany was doing his usual sterling work on the raffle (Saturday and Sunday) I can assure you there is no hiding place when he starts his rounds and the effort was rewarded with a grand total of £432.00. In addition to the raffle Samantha and Denise (Vogan) were going round selling tickets for two hampers that they had kindly donated with all monies raised going towards the 125 year Celebration Show. This was a very generous gesture from two new members to our club and raised £200.00.
While all this is going on the canteen staff are feverishly working away, cooking food, making sandwiches, and serving tea. I am certain if they haven’t got what you want either Ian or Mel will bake it for you while you wait, John and Eunice serving and washing up what a great team. With all colour classes completed and the best buck and doe decided the time had arrived for Best in Show to be judged, who would win the coveted Gold Shield? It was between Bernard Double (Black Doe) and Ian McConnell (Tort Buck) and the atmosphere in the show hall was tense as silence descended and cameras clicked away, finally to great applause the Black Doe was announced as the winner. Eric Burton had made his best, the U/5mth Black of Bob Chappell. The show begins to wind down, all stock fed and pens secured its back to the hotel to prepare for the evening do.
With 40+ sitting down for a carvery meal a nice atmosphere was created and the hotel staff worked extremely hard to ensure everyone was served as quickly as possible. It is always customary to present the Presidents Salver at the ASS dinner which is awarded for Meritorious Service to the National English Rabbit Club and to rapturous applause Keith Last was presented with the salver by our Club President. This is the cue for Duane to sell more raffle tickets for the fine array of prizes on display and everyone to prepare them for the main event; it is time for one of John Kay’s legendary quizzes. With all quiz papers handed out all attending were suddenly very competitive, I am sure I heard quite a few moans because the mobile signal was poor and answers could not be Googled. Great fun was had by all, but since when was jogging bottoms classed in the top five answers as a pair of men’s trousers (just behind a suit). All too soon the night drew to a close and this time a relatively early night was had by all.
On arrival at the show hall Sunday morning it wasn’t long before everything was in full flow once more. Judges finishing their joint judging, deciding various cup classes, Spotlight Area Competition in full swing, Roy and Steve still feverishly writing on prize cards, Janet preparing trophy signature forms, canteen staff dealing with a steady stream of customers everywhere you looked was a hive of activity. More and more people arrived, new faces, fanciers visiting for the day, rabbits looked at and discussed, in some cases as always happens when English fanciers get together new class winners found but slowly attention began to be drawn towards the pending Sale of the Stars. Auctioneer Bob Chappell prepared himself and the sale began, eventually all stock on offer came to the table and the eager crowd gathered around ensuring Bob was kept very busy taking a steady stream of bids from all sides missing nobody. The star of the auction this year was a Grey Buck donated by Russell Fenn that was eventually bought for £235 with the entire auction raising £1,440 which will go towards the 125 year Celebration Show.
With the show reaching its climax the trophy presentation began and a very proud Bernard Double stepped forward to receive the coveted Gold Shield to a spontaneous and prolonged round of applause. As each trophy winner was announced the applause just went on and on a very fitting end to a great stock show. With all trophies boxed and collected, pens emptied, exhibits boxed, goodbyes said the hall was suddenly very quiet with just the dedicated "pen fairies” left to clear everything away. Thirty minutes later you cannot see we have ever been there; all that’s left are the memories, the friendship and the dedication of a great group of fanciers drawn together by the one thing that matters to us all the lovely English rabbit. To quote Steve Dixon when asked if he had enjoyed the show “my only regret is that I should have started coming ten years ago”
If you have never attended a National Stock Show why not make the effort in 2016, you will not be disappointed.
In my view self’s which are kept for breeding must ONLY BE KEPT FOR A GOOD AND WELL THOUGHT OUT REASON. For example the bucks and doe, or both may because of age not have another litter– the buck may not belong to you, and you may not have another chance to use him, or very occasionally one may keep a self from a litter in which there was an out standing one bred which perished. There are probably the only reason to keep a self for breeding, as a general rule one would keep marked - if the marked are not good enough, certainly don’t keep the self, and also forget the mating!
The only reason to keep a self is– occasionally if you wish to check the colour a certain buck may be breeding, it is interesting to rear one as it is easier to see colour in a solid mass! But kill it when it is big enough to eat (a rule to yourself, never to be broken) Self’s which are retained for breeding must be outstanding for type, coat and colour, if they are not do not breed with them. I work on basis that you cannot be quite sure what you are putting in for markings, therefore make sure your basics are outstanding, because you are then at least moving your stud forward in the most important fixable features. In every instance I have used self’s, three times in the years I have had black’s, it has been a youngster from the last litter of an old doe.
I have included the fact that one may wish to retain a self from a litter in which there has been an outstanding youngster, this is because I am a great believer that if you get a litter with outstanding one in it, you should use everything in that litter that is decent, if you lost a very good one and there is not much else keep a self. Apart from exceptional circumstances such as I have outlined, I would be very hesitant about using self’s, one could be putting in to many unknowns if you did it very often. On the other hand, on the odd occasion pressing enough, you could be cutting down your chances by not trying!
The Best of Luck!
When Keith asked me at Hereford to write an article for the year book, I started to think what could I write about. Could I write about how I bred my gold cup winner or how I bred my gold shield winner, but after keeping English rabbits for over 50 years I still haven’t won ether. So my theory's aren’t much help to any one. The closest I got was in 1991 adult stock show, first Black and runner up for the Gold Shield won by Prior and Curtis. This rabbit won me my first best in show at an agricultural show 199 exhibits. The National judge at the show had stood in for another national judge who had to pull out for health reasons. A few months later at Doncaster I showed under that particular judge, not mentioning any names eight black English adults, I came eighth nothing changes, I was also runner up at last years show with a Blue to Bernard Double.
At that time the late Frank Tennick had a very good Black buck, according to Frank was ideal for my doe, so the following year I took the doe to be mated with Franks buck. I can remember coming back thinking I would keep the gold cup winner and give the gold shield winner to Frank. After 2 litters, 6 Charlie's, 4 Self's and one marked we were still as far away as ever. So that theory didn’t work , Frank always said we had everything but luck.
Since I retired I have shown my English rabbits at more shows, going to shows mostly with Roy Wearmouth ( National English President). What an ambassador for our National club, Roy knows everybody, (if he doesn’t he still speaks to them mostly FEMALES).
Going to these shows, and I think we are all guilty, the usual conversation is he got that wrong, that one wasn’t as good as that one, etc, etc. We all seem to know better than the judge’s. I start to think about my late father and one of his favourite sayings “ there is beauty in every face, but not every eye that can see it”.
I am writing this article after coming back from Metz (France) a great experience 12 1/2 thousand rabbits30 to 40 English mostly Blacks being good heads, clean eye circles and lovely clear ear roots, spoilt by chains being very small spots and very heavy marked. Asking price varied from 60 euro's to 150 euro's £45 to £114not many sold.
No 1st, 2nd, 3rd, only points scored, points varied from 93 to 97 many with the same score, hope it never takes off in this country.