Involving younger generations in heritage breed conservation is crucial to our mission of protecting endangered livestock and poultry breeds from extinction. As we celebrate Rabbit Month and recognize the sixteen rabbit breeds on the Conservation Priority List, we want to highlight how young people can get involved with these heritage breeds. Whether by joining 4-H clubs or starting rabbitries, there are many opportunities for youth to impact breed conservation.
A Conservationist in the Making
Sara Forry is an excellent example of a young person making a difference in rabbit conservation. Sara is new to raising a heritage breed. She acquired Standard Chinchillas in 2022 after falling in love with the breed at the 2021 American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA) Convention. Since then Sara has learned about the breed’s history and shares her knowledge with others. In 2022 she wrote a presentation titled “I Like My Rabbits Rare” that focused on Standard Chinchillas and ways people can help heritage breeds gain exposure. She not only gave the presentation as her 4-H demonstration in 2022, but the video was also played at the 2023 Pennsylvania Farm Show. Her goal in 2023 is to get more youth 4-H members interested in raising Standard Chinchillas.
Sara currently serves as the 2022 ARBA Princess and the 2023 Pennsylvania State Rabbit Breeders Association Princess. She is a member of ARBA, the Pennsylvania State Rabbit Breeders Association, and the American Standard Chinchilla Rabbit Breeders Association.
Ways to Get Involved with Rare Breed Conservation
American Rabbits, courtesy of Kimberly McJunkin
If you’re passionate about rare breed conservation, there are numerous ways you can get involved in preserving heritage breed rabbits. Joining a local 4-H club is an excellent option that allows young people to learn about animal husbandry and take part in shows and competitions. Starting a rabbitry is another possibility, but it’s important to seek parental oversight and conduct in-depth research on rabbit care. The Livestock Conservancy also offers a Student Membership ($25 per year) for young conservationists.
Young people can also volunteer at local farms or animal shelters, raise awareness about the importance of preserving heritage breeds, and share their knowledge and experiences with their friends, family, and communities.
Resources for Raising Rabbits
Youth Microgrant Recipient Carter Benini
Thinking about adding rabbits to your backyard or farm? Heritage breed rabbits offer variety so you can find a breed perfect for your 4-H project. When choosing a breed, start with our Pick-A-Rabbit Chart which includes all sixteen breeds on the Conservation Priority List. Details include information on climate, temperament, experience level, and more.
If you already have heritage breed rabbits, The Livestock Conservancy offers Youth Microgrants. Funding for projects by individuals from eight to 18 years of age is available for applicants actively working with at least one breed on the Conservation Priority List. Microgrant applications open in late May 2023.
Carter Benini was one of our 2022 Youth Microgrant Recipients. Carter breeds Blanc de Hotot rabbits. He is an active member of the American Rabbit Breeders Association and his local 4-H Club in Delaware. He loves teaching others about Blanc de Hotots and works with both disabled individuals and his local community college. Carter plans to use his Livestock Conservancy Microgrant to improve his outdoor rabbitry and expand his breeding program.
ARBA also offers great resources for rabbit owners, including youth contests. The Association has been dedicated to the promotion, development, and improvement of domestic rabbits since 1921, with membership totaling more than 20,000. In 2020, ARBA began sanctioning Rare Breed Specialty shows for the first time. “These shows are a wonderful opportunity for our members to showcase their rare breeds and market these animals to individuals sharing a similar passion for breed conservation, “ shared Eric Stewart, Executive Director of ARBA. “Just as popular meat, fur, fiber, or fancy breeds appeal to particular demographics, rare breeds also appeal to a specific population who are seeking the chance to be part of breed conservation.”
Rabbit ownership continues to grow in popularity and they are an important presence on many small farms and homesteads throughout America today. The Livestock Conservancy wants to help both youth and adults get involved in heritage breed conservation, so please contact us if you have any questions!