13 Warm & (Literally) Fuzzy Portraits From Inside A Rabbit Breeders' Convention

Photographs and captions by Katya Rezvaya.
Much like many bunny breeds, the American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA) is probably one of the largest groups you’ve never heard of.

ARBA, which promotes the development of 49 breeds of domestic rabbits and 13 breeds of guinea pigs, is made up of over 23,000 members across the world. They are young and old, breeders and enthusiasts, professionals and hobbyists. The one thing they have in common? Their beloved rabbits.

The bunnies are bred for meat, as pets, or as show animals, and some breeders raise dozens per year — often too many to bother naming. (For those who intend their rabbits to be food, it's easier not to name them.) It's very easy to end up with a lot of rabbit on your hands, and not just in terms of controlling breeding. Many of the larger kinds, such as the Flemish Giants, can weigh more than 20 pounds. On the other end of the bunny spectrum, the smaller breeds, such as the Netherland Dwarf, can max out at just a few pounds. Each breed has its enthusiasts, with national specialty clubs to promote almost every accepted breed.

Photographer Katya Rezvaya has never owned a rabbit of her own, but she has adored them “since childhood.” She became fascinated by the breeding community after watching a documentary about ARBA called Rabbit Fever. Last fall, Rezvaya went to ARBA’s annual convention in Portland, OR, to document the breeders and their community.

“[The] first thing that I remember were endless rows of cages,” she told Refinery29 by email. She said that there were about 20,000 animals at the five-day show. “I didn't even know that so many types of rabbits exist,” she said. Rezvaya was especially impressed by unusual breeds, such as the Giants and the soft, fluffy Angoras. “The usual reactions of people when I show their images was like: ‘Is that a rabbit?!’” she said.

The convention is an opportunity for the breeders to buy and sell their animals or related goods, as well as compete against the other breeders for titles like Best In Breed and Best In Show. For some of the younger breeders, it’s an opportunity to win a title, too: Every year, the convention names a Royal Court, including a Rabbit King and Queen. “It’s a very exciting event for these kids,” Rezvaya said. “It seemed like a Rabbit Oscar!”

She said that while some of the breeders gave their rabbits numbers instead of names, others shared close relationships with their animals. One teenage girl from California told a story that illustrated the bond between bunny and breeder: “The cage got opened at one of the shows, and all four rabbits ran out,” Rezvaya recounted. “She started to cry, as [she] thought she was never going to catch them.”

“And as she was crying and going to get her mother, all four rabbits just started to follow her,” Rezvaya said. “They followed her like she was their mom.”
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Photographs and captions by Katya Rezvaya.
Virginia Anderson, 10, from Dallas, OR, with her "Black Otter Rex" breed bunny, Romeo. Virginia has been raising rabbits for three years, and now has 34 rabbits of five breeds.
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Photographs and captions by Katya Rezvaya.
Peyton Brackenbury, 12, from Richland, WA, with her "French Lop" breed bunny. Peyton started breeding rabbits at the age of 6.
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Photographs and captions by Katya Rezvaya.
Kaytlyn Starmer, 18, from Fresno, CA, with her "Holland Lop" breed bunny Henry. Starmer got a pet rabbit in 2012 and started raising more. She now has 15 animals.
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Photographs and captions by Katya Rezvaya.
Rabbit Queen 2015 Christine Toering, 17, from Tucson, AZ, with her "Himalayan" breed bunny, Drogan. Toering has 20 rabbits of five different breeds.
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Photographs and captions by Katya Rezvaya.
Marcus Rhoden, 34, from Chesaning, MI, with his "English Angora" breed bunny, Felicia. Rhoden has raised rabbits for 17 years, and now owns 10.
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Photographs and captions by Katya Rezvaya.
Calvin Dow, 13 from Orting, WA, with his bunny. Calvin has raised rabbits for three years; he doesn't give names to animals. His family has 60 rabbits.
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Photographs and captions by Katya Rezvaya.
Bill Nelson, 66, from Burbank, SD, with his "Polish" breed rabbit. Nelson has raised rabbits since 1983 and now has about 60 animals. There are too many for him to give them names, so he gives them numbers; this one is DL11.
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Photographs and captions by Katya Rezvaya.
Leo Lucey, 12, from Granite Falls, WA, and his favorite "Mini Rex" breed shoulder rabbit, Captain Adorable. Leo has been breeding rabbits for three years, and has 22 rabbits.
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Photographs and captions by Katya Rezvaya.
Daniel Hathaway, 54, and Susan Hathaway, 58, from Bandon, OR, with their "Flemish Giant" breed rabbits, Defiance and Enterprise. The Hathaways have been married for 34 years and have 26 Flemish Giants.
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Photographs and captions by Katya Rezvaya.
Amber Read, 11, from Goldendale, WA, with her "American Sable" breed bunny, Doe. Amber has too many rabbits now to count, she says.
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Photographs and captions by Katya Rezvaya.
Rebecca Young, 16, from Kerman, CA, with her "English Lop" breed bunny, Cromwell. Rebecca started rabbit-breeding one and a half years ago. This is her first convention; previously, she only participated in local shows.
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Photographs and captions by Katya Rezvaya.
Catherine Sandy, 12, from Richland, WA, with her "White Crested" breed guinea pig, Susan. Catherine started breeding three years ago and now has 15 guinea pigs. This is her first convention and show.
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Photographs and captions by Katya Rezvaya.
Tommy Bentley, who declined to give his age, from Camas, WA, with his "Dwarf Hotot" breed bunny, Ozwald. Bentley got his first rabbit in an auction for $2 and called him Ozzy Osbourne; he won at the show. Ozwald is a grandson of Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne. Bentley now has 12 rabbits.
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