It was very wet day for an agricultural show, but off to the Cumberland Show we trundled, My Father, Brother and I (Mum stayed at home - a wise move) The year was 1980 and I was 7 years old. After a few torrential down pours we finally made it to a tent I was interested in. Inside were rabbits, cavie's and poultry. Immediately I found myself fascinated with what was going on. I had a rabbit at home and I just wanted to go and get him and let him compete with all the others there. My dad and brother were not this engaged and tried to usher me out of the tent, but I wasn’t for leaving. Just at the point where I thought I was to be dragged out kicking and screaming by the hood of my jacket, someone in a white coat came over and said that if I was interested and I wanted to stay there, they would look after me, inside the circle of pens and I could watch what was going on from there. WOW I thought and without a second moment to contemplate, I was walking into the centre of the ring.
I stayed for another couple of hours until my father and brother came back to say they were now leaving for the day and I had to come along now. I really didn’t want to go, but I had pushed my luck far enough. I talked of nothing but rabbits on the journey across town in the car and I was still talking rabbits when I walked in the front door. Mum was there to greet us and was at one moment seemingly enjoying the conversation, - and then I blurted out ‘I WANT TO SHOW MY RABBIT!!!' At this moment, she burst into floods of tears and made off swiftly upstairs. It appeared I had upset her somehow.
About an hour later she came down stairs with a box full of books and smaller boxers and envelopes etc and sat me down in the middle sitting room and started to unpack it.
This box, turned out to contain the club accounts for a rabbit club called Cockermouth & District RC and dated back to the 1930's and 40's There were balance sheets, member’s lists, schedules, Address & Telephone books with judge’s names in from the era and photographs upon photographs. Among these she pulled out, many had my Grandmother (her mother) on them and also my mother as a very young 7 year old child - and many with Ermine Rex Rabbits and Dutch on. On some of them was a man I only knew from pictures - My Grandfather (her Dad). He has died 6 months before I was born and I never got to meet him, in fact he never even found out he was to be a Grandad as he died a few weeks before my mum got the news. He and my Grandmother (Mr & Mrs Dick Horsley) were the Joint Secretarie & Treasurer of Cockermouth & District Rabbit Club at the end of the 1930's and right through the years of World War Two.
My Grandfather bred and Showed Ermine & Havana Rex and also Dutch. Although he was talked about quite a lot around the house at home, this hobby that he had had for all those years had never been mentioned, not even when I got a Rabbit as my Pet.
I had just came home from a day out, proclaiming I wanted to do one of the most unusual hobbies you could ever imagine, and all the long my Grandparents had had this bobby - My Mother had been involved all her childhood in this Hobby - and here was I, asking to start in a hobby I had only just learned existed that afternoon..
From there, as they say - The rest is history - and 37 Years later, here I am still in that same hobby, and still loving it just as much
pictured is my Grandmother in 1988 with a litter of Black and Blue Fox Dwarf Lops
The rabbit I decided I wanted to show at the local agricultural show was a Cross Breed Chinchilla Buck called Supa Ted. In 1981 I returned to the Cumberland Show won 2nd prize and I was hooked. Little did I know that that first show would be the start of something that has expanded over 37 years and for a long time was my only passion in life. Almost immediately I was introduced to Susan Carlile and bought from her a pet English doe, which I called 'Spotty' - what else?
She gave birth to the first litter of rabbits I ever had. There were two Agouti's in the litter. Three Agouti English marked and a Black Otter which I kept and called Diamond. Netherland Dwarfs were soon added to the stud from Susan and a lady called Margaret Jones. She was packing up and I acquired most of her stock when she finished.
It was at this point that my mother became more than just a chauffeur for me so I could get to the shows. She decided that she would like to have a couple of rabbits for her self to show. And so came more Netherland Dwarfs. At the time she really fancied two colours, Seal Points and Oranges. Neither of these colours were very common, but she managed to acquire her first Seal Points from Mr & Mrs Ian Mumford and her first trio of Orange Netherland Dwarfs came from Dave & Sandra Mason from Newcastle who were at that time, Secretaries of Hexham Rabbit & Cavy Club.
pictured is one of her Orange Dwarfs from Many years later (2010)
In 1984 I saw a breed at Bacup show which I had never seen before. It was a Dwarf Lop. I was in love! This was absolutely the breed for me. Unfortunately they were a relatively new breed and very thin on the ground. Early in the following year Susan Carlile managed to acquire a pair of Dwarf Lops. The buck came from Margaret Dillon and the doe came from Harry Whittaker and she started to breed them with great success. It was a good few months later that I managed to find some for myself.
These were two does (a REW and an Iron Grey) from a man called John Mills from Ulverston in south Cumbria, and about a month later my first buck arrived from Don Riley & Stephen Smith (SGD Stud) and bred from pure Keith Jones stock. From the SGD Buck (pictured right) and the Iron Grey Doe from John Mills I produced my first 3 BIS winning Dwarf Lops bred here at Ruskin - ALL in different litters. I bought another buck from John a year or so later and when mated to the REW doe I had had from him, we produced another BIS winner, this time being a Seal Point.
Around 1986/1987 Susan Carlile starting to produce long coated Dwarf Lops and had heard of a breed just standardised called the Cashmere Lop and wondered if these were similar. Well they weren't just similar, they were Cashmere Lops (the Cashmere Lop being the longcoat mutation of the Dwarf Lop) and obviously, they caught my attention and I just had to have one. The first one I had from Susan was an Agouti doe called Countess and she did quite well at shows, including winning BoB at the Northern Lop Club show held at Sandbach that year, but it wasn't until Marcus came along that the Cashmere breed really took a hold of my heart for a while a least (although the Mini Cashmere is still being bred here at Ruskin - completely separate from my Mini Lop lines however)