York & North Yorkshire

Jumping rabbits in Harrogate for 'grand national' event

Thousands of small animals are expected in Harrogate as the town hosts what is described as the UK's first "rabbit grand national".

British rabbits have been in training to take on Swedish champions.

The event, which is more akin to show jumping, will allow the animals to show how high they can leap.

It is part of the Burgess Premier Small Animal Show which is being held at the Yorkshire Event Centre over the weekend.

Hailed as "The Crufts of the small animal world", the show will feature more than 3,000 rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, mice and rats.

The rabbit grand national is new addition to the event, which has been running for 89 years.

Organisers said British rabbits had been in training to "take on serious international competition from four of Sweden's finest jumpers, who are flying in with their owners".

They said 13 rabbits would take part in a course, which is based on horse jumping, but designed to be "rabbit friendly".

The current world record for the highest jump was set in 1997 by Danish rabbit Tosen, who jumped almost 1m.

Rabbit trainer Maureen Hoyle said: "Rabbits are much more intelligent than people give them credit for."

Ms Hoyle, from Huddersfield, who is entering her Himalayan miniature lop Smudge, said: "Rabbits will naturally jump over any object in its way.

"I get quite a few jokes about me and rabbit jumping... that's the general of the public, they can't believe that rabbits enjoy jumping."

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