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The Beginning

Rabbits have been around for a very long time - they were introduced by the Normans! The showing and exhibition of rabbits - known as "The Fancy" - started more than 200 years ago! By the middle of the nineteenth century there were many Local Clubs which had formed with the objective of holding regular shows for their Fanciers to enjoy. By the end of the 1800's Specialist Clubs had formed who were devoted to the improvement of individual breeds of rabbit. This structure still exists today with The Fancy still going strong, the number of recognised breeds steadily increased up to the beginning of the 1914-18 war but all of them were 'Fancy Breeds' with just two 'Fur Breeds'. During war time rabbit keeping was enjoying popularity and, coupled with the improved travel available, it meant that many Fanciers went overseas and saw many new breeds - not known in Great Britain - which had been developed.

Today there are over 50 recognised breeds and over 500 varieties! By the end of the 1914-18 war the most important Fur rabbit was the Beveren. This inevitably led a group of Beveren breeders in May 1918 to set up, in Birmingham, a new National Club called The Beveren Club. In the words of its seventeen founders, it was established "in an endeavour to raise the dignity and status of rabbit breeding with the best fur breeds."

Today, The British Rabbit Council continues to raise the profile and status of rabbit breeding. As new breeds were developed during the 1920's, they were standardised and adopted by The Beveren Club until the society had become a general fur breed club. To recognise its new status, it had two name changes, first to the British Fur Rabbit Society and then later to the to The British Rabbit Society. By 1928 the Society had 13 different fur breeds under its jurisdiction. It also managed its individual members, a number of Clubs and Agricultural Societies. However, things were happening in the rabbit world! There was at this time great deal of interest in Angora wool production and attempts were made to found an Angora wool testing centre. Although this idea was backed by a number of influential people, not only in the rabbit world but in the agricultural and scientific worlds, the idea was eventually abandoned. However, the meetings held did give rise to a new national organisation for rabbit breeders with the resounding title of......
The National Rabbit Council of Great Britain and her Dominions. Like The British Rabbit Society already in existence, this organisation became a forerunner to today's British Rabbit Council. The new organisation grew very rapidly but strife developed between the two national bodies. This eventually led, in 1934, to the two organisations merging with approval from all sections of the rabbit world and the affiliated societies.

The British Rabbit Council was born!

There had always been a need for the permanent identification of rabbits with the numbers being registered with a central organisation. A scheme was started in the late 1920's when the British Rabbit Society arranged for the formation of a National Rabbit Marking Council. This Council carried out a ringing scheme for a number of years but in 1938 The British Rabbit Council took over the ringing scheme with Fur & Feather handling the distribution of the rings. This arrangement was not entirely satisfactory and in 1946 the British Rabbit Council took over the whole matter - an arrangement which continues today. Until 1960, the British Rabbit Council was concerned not only with the showing of rabbits but also with the commercial farming of rabbits. The Commercial Rabbit Association was formed for commercial rabbit keepers and this organisation took over responsibility for the rabbit farmers. Today, The British Rabbit Council recognises that the rabbit is an enormously popular domestic animal and Britain's third most popular pet. It is a much loved part of many children's childhood as parents chose a rabbit to help teach their children about responsibility and commitment. The British Rabbit Council has made the decision to encourage the pet owner to join them so they also have access to good advice and that the Council can aid the welfare of the rabbit. The British Rabbit Council's objectives today do not differ too much from the original Beveren Club as the Council "promotes the breeding and showing of rabbits and helps pet owners with the welfare of their rabbits." Throughout its history, The British Rabbit Council has used its influence to help on a number of issues. For example, during the war regulations prevented landlords from prohibiting the keeping of rabbits. After the war, the association was largely responsible for having this particular wartime regulation put into permanent legislation thus insuring that rabbit keeping was not prohibited. Also, when there was considerable transit of rabbits by rail to and from shows, The British Rabbit Council played a large part in getting compensation from the Railways for delayed transit and hence loss of entry fees and rail fares. Other examples include a stock transfer scheme if rabbit breeders lost their entire stud in terrible flooding as they did once on the East Coast; the administration of the bran rationing scheme for the Government after the war; the provision of lecturers for Local Club meetings, and so on.

Today, The British Rabbit Council encourages research into diseases etc. amongst other topical issues. As the role of the rabbit has developed into a popular pet, the British Rabbit Council actively encourages good rabbit keeping amongst pet owners. The Newark Head Office receives many hundreds of letters or calls each month asking for advice or information on an extremely wide variety of topics concerned with the rabbit. These are not confined to individual people but are sometimes from official bodies, Governments or overseas.

In the late 1990's representatives from The British Rabbit Council have attended international conventions to secure the British Rabbit Council's place as a leading European rabbit organisation. Alongside all this extra work, the Council is still the governing body for The Fancy and has established over the years a comprehensive set of Show Rules. Each year approximately 1000 shows take place throughout Great Britain! Today sees a structure of District Advisors who give their time to help people in their regions. These are well respected members of great experience appointed by the Council to give advice locally. At shows, awards are available from the Council. The basis of these is the Challenge Certificate which is awarded to the best rabbit of its particular group.

The 'bible' of rabbit showing is the Breeds Standard Booklet. There is also a library consisting of a considerable number of books relating to the rabbit. It is difficult to sum up an organisation with such a long and interesting history - and bright future -as The British Rabbit Council. One thing, however, is very certain. The British Rabbit Council is made up of its members and exists to help all rabbit breeders and keepers. Most members consider that it is not only a pleasure to be a member but perhaps also a duty which allows him or her to give back a small part of the happiness he or she has gained from the Fancy.