As far as Don Barnhart is concerned, no rabbit herd, or show for that matter, is complete without a little mischief, mayhem and fun.
Don started raising rabbits in 1982.
"It's hard to say why I started," Don said. "But, I raise Netherland Dwarfs, and when I saw that rabbit it was like a magnet to me."
Don maintains a small herd, by breeders' standards, of about 35 Netherland Dwarfs. Being small allows him to really focus on improving the quality of his rabbits, but it also increases the competition with his friends at shows.
"The people that I compete against, all my good friends, have 200 to 300 rabbits. So, when I compete it's really pathetic," Don joked. "It's hard to bring more than a couple to a show, so I have no margin for error. If something goes wrong with one of my rabbits, that's it."
Because of that, the wins that Don gets mean that much more.
"In 2000, I had one of my bucks, Charisma, win its group at the Netherland Dwarf National Show," Don said. "He beat out about 175 rabbits and was up for Best of Breed. He then went on to win about 12 Best of Breeds in shows around the south, and I've been waiting ever since to repeat that."
In addition to the Netherland Dwarf National Show, Don is a regular at the annual American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA) National Conventions, and many shows throughout Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia.
It was at the 2006 ARBA National Convention in Fort Worth, Texas that Don met his good friend and Rock & Roll Dwarfs partner, Doug Sprague.
Don and Doug ship rabbits back and forth between their homes in Brownsboro, Alabama, and Spokane, Washington, to help each other produce competitive dwarfs.
"It's a very long distance partnership, which is unusual," Don said. "But what brought us together is our sense of humor. We make it a habit to go to shows and spread a few laughs."
One of Don's favorite stories, that still makes him laugh and is possibly his greatest comedic moment, also occurred at the Convention in Fort Worth.
"We went out to one of these big cowboy bars that advertised a mechanical, bucking bull," Don said. "They also had a still one there that you sat on with a cowboy hat and took a picture with a fake crowd in the background. All my friends played it straight and tried to make it look like it was real. When I got up there, instead of climbing on the steer like I was gonna ride it, I crawled up and grabbed around its neck and put my thumb in my mouth and bugged out my eyes like I was petrified! We laughed at it the rest of night, and it was later auctioned off at banquet for about $100. To this day, people come up to me and say how great that moment was."
Don says raising rabbits is just a hobby, and that it's therapy from his busy corporate job selling German robotic equipment.
"I travel a lot with my job and it's quite busy, so I love the quiet time I spend with them," Don said.
Don says his favorite part about raising and breeding rabbits is the possibilities. Netherland Dwarfs have 36 recognized color varieties, more than any other breed.
"When I'm breeding rabbits, I can't wait for that litter to be born," Don said. "I can't wait to see the possibilities for a good rabbit and the varying colors."
Breeding is also one of the things that surprised Don the most about raising rabbits, and because of his breed of choice, it has been a challenge.
"I was surprised at how hard it was to raise this particular breed," said Don. "Because it's a dwarf breed, litter sizes are smaller than normal rabbit breeds. Dwarf type is also hard to replicate."
Don feeds his rabbits, Purina® Rabbit Chow™ Show Formula that he gets at his local Purina® dealer, Garvin's Feed & Seed in Huntsville, Alabama.
"The consistency of the Purina® products is remarkable, and I can rely on it," Don said. "Every time I open that bag it's the same as the last, and I know that's important."
In addition to feeding his rabbits Purina® feeds, Don is a Purina® Rabbit Ambassador and has been for the past eight years.* As an ambassador Don helps people with their feeding problems and explains the benefits of Purina® products.
"I enjoy spending some time at the Purina® booth at the ARBA convention, meeting other rabbit breeders and chatting with Purina® staff," Don said.
To learn more about Don and Rock & Roll Dwarfs, visit http://rocknrolldwarfs.com.
* Ambassadors are paid by Purina Mills, LLC in connection with their participation in the Ambassador program.