Competition is fierce at the prestigious American Rabbit Breeders Association Convention

By Helena Sung
Updated November 17, 2009 05:07 PM

Who was the best-looking bunny of the bunch at this year’s 86th annual American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA) Convention and show? The coveted title of Best in Show went to Hollywood, an 8-month-old black broken Mini Rex rabbit from Sanger, Calif. “It was overwhelming,” Hollywood’s owner, Douglas King, tells “To win at ARBA is the pinnacle. It doesn’t get any bigger than that.”

Hollywood (pictured right) beat out 13,000 rabbits of 47 different breeds who came from around the world for the ARBA convention earlier this month, the largest animal show in the country. (By comparison, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is limited to 2,500 champion dogs.) King hasn’t missed an ARBA convention since 1991, but this was his first time winning the big prize.

“The judge had it down to two rabbits: my rabbit and an American Fuzzy Lop,” King recalls. “He kept going back and forth over them.” Hollywood, meanwhile, was doing her best. “She struck a pose and didn’t move all through the judging and it helped her win,” says King. “If she would have fussed, she would have been in trouble, but she posed perfectly and I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

When the judge announced that the Best in Show was the Mini Rex, the crowd erupted in screams and cheers. “I was so overwhelmed. I even got a little teary eyed, which isn’t like me,” says King. “All this hard work and all this effort, time and money has paid off. What got to me the most is that this is in the history books. My name will be there forever, and I think that’s just amazing.”

Since getting his first bunny at 8, King has spent the past 39 years raising rabbits. He is one of the top breeders of Mini Rexes in the country. “It’s been a passion, and rabbits have always been a huge part of my life,” says King, whose day job is working as general manager of a manufacturing company. “My parents never really liked rabbits, but they allowed me to have them.”

It was their “gentle nature” that drew him to the animal. “You can have numerous rabbits, they’re very clean and don’t make a lot of noise,” he says.

The Mini Rex breed is renowned for its short, super plush coat that feels like velvet. “They weigh about four- to four-and-a-half pounds, are even-tempered and calm,” says King. “They’re real popular as pets because they feel so soft to the touch, and have a very gentle nature.” Mini Rex rabbits live for 8 to 10 years.

To prepare for competition, King spent hours each evening after work grooming his rabbits. (He entered a total of eighty in the show.) “I would do a little more conditioning and finishing of their coats, and that was the winning edge,” says King. “People always want to know my secret, and it’s just water. I use strictly plain old water on my hands and just rub the coat, and that water pulls out the dead fur.”

Hollywood always stood out from the 200 other rabbits King keeps housed in a barn on his property. “She was one that I’ve been watching ever since she was 3 months old. I knew she was special,” says King. “She’s the best rabbit I’ve ever raised and I knew that going into the show.”