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Showing off their bunny hops

Agility training is a phrase often associated with dogs, but have you ever seen a rabbit weave through cones and leap over a jump two or three times its height?

If you frequent the Dakota County Fair, you may have. Dakota County 4H members have been showing off their bunnies' skills for the past six years, and they'll be back at the fair again this year with rabbit agility demonstrations and competitions.

Rabbit agility is an activity that helps gets rabbits out of their cages and interacting with their owners, said Jennifer Robinette, a rabbit agility coach for 4H. The courses are similar to those dogs run, with jumps, ramps, hoops, tunnels, weaving cones and teeter totters.

"It's pretty much the same, just on a smaller scale," Robinette said.

It's still somewhat surprising to see a bunny bound through the course.

"It's something you never thought a rabbit would do," she said.

That's one of the reasons 16-year-old Kennedy Roy enjoys the activity.

"It's a sport that rabbits actually get to be in," she said.

Roy and her bunny, Adele, are in their first year of competition, and if their practice runs are any indication, they'll put on a good show.

Traditionally, rabbit events at the fair are centered around showing. Agility, however, is an activity any kid and any rabbit can participate in. Results in agility are more obtainable than in showing, Robinette said. However, the kids who want to compete with their bunnies on an agility course need to have patience.

"The kids have to be willing to expect to have to go slow," Robinette said.

While some rabbits take to agility training well and are willing to run a full course without a handler, others aren't so keen on the activity. Finding the right rabbit is the first step. Training can also take a lot of time, as rabbits aren't as trainable as dogs.

One thing the rabbit handlers will have to account for is the heat. Rabbits don't do well in hot weather, Robinette explained, so even rabbits that normally run a course well won't do so well when the temperatures rise.

Fairgoers can watch rabbit agility (also called rabbit jumping) demonstrations all week during the fair times and locations are posted on the fair web site and will be listed in fliers at the fair. The competition will begin at 5 p.m. Friday in the sheep barn. Rabbits will compete in one of four classes: beginner, intermediate, advanced and elite.