The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Pets

October 8, 2013

Students enjoy learning about rabbits, cavies through club

For Colby Templin, 8, of Exeter Township, raising his Dutch chocolate rabbit, Coco, is a way to stay close to his farm roots while living in suburbia. His grandfather, Robert Wolfgang, owns a farm in Betchelsville.

Templin, a third-grader at Lorane Elementary School, has raised rabbits since he was 3. And he's developed his knowledge of animal husbandry through his involvement in the Berks County 4-H Rabbit and Cavy Club.

The group of about 15 youths from elementary to high school come from as far away as Gilbertsville to participate. They come with parents, grandparents and on their own to learn about caring for, breeding and showing rabbits. They teach each other through monthly presentations of research, and they are guided by three adult rabbit experts.

They meet at the Berks County Agricultural Center in Bern Township once a month, often bringing their rabbits and guinea pigs in carriers.

"My daughter has just blossomed," said Amy Casper of daughter Genevieve, who is in fourth grade at Gilbertsville Elementary. "It's given her a lot of self-confidence, something positive in her life."

Genevieve, though she struggles in school, has found success showing her rabbit, Satin Girl, a Jersey wooly. She recently won a blue ribbon for best of breed at a American Rabbit Breeders Association show in State College, Centre County.

In addition to two presentations from members and a demonstration of rabbit tattooing, the group's October meeting featured a costume party - for the rabbits. The 4-Hers lined up with their costumed rabbits and traded treats.

Genevieve hand-stitched angel costumes for Satin Girl and her other rabbit, Char.

Club President Kim Callahan's rabbit, an unnamed velveteen lop, was dressed as a witch. Callahan, 18, graduated from Oley Valley High School in June and announced to the group that she just obtained her groomer's license.

Callahan said she has had a lot of animals: guinea pigs, turtles, horses, dogs and cats, birds and pigs. No, she said, she doesn't live on a farm; she just loves animals.

For Jillian Urand, a sixth-grader from Conrad Weiser Middle School, the romance with rabbits is also connected to farming.

She said she was inspired to join 4-H by a visit to the Pennsylvania Farm Show and directed to the Berks group by a newspaper article her grandmother gave her.

If her costume is any indication of her interest, it's clear she's devoted: Urand dressed as a cow to match the cow costume of her dwarf hotot, Anthony. You almost couldn't tell them apart.

The group takes new members in February.

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