By ERIN MAYES
Louise Erbe's French lop hopped away from Saturday's Mother Lode Youth Rabbit Show at the Calaveras County Fairgrounds with the Best in Show title.
The rabbit, which rivals certain small dogs in size, hasn't yet been named he's just one of the long-eared show animals Louise has been raising for as long as she can remember.
By now, she knows what the judges want.
"They pick the rabbit that holds up to the breed's standards and doesn't have any missing toenails or discolored toenails," the 16-year-old 4-Her from Stockton said, going on to explain what color toenails each breed is supposed to have. Judges, apparently, are very particular about the toenails.
The 4-Her's proud father, Larry Erbe, said Louise picks rabbits to raise and show on her own because she is extremely knowledgeable about what qualities to look for.
The rabbit show is in its 21st year. It was started by Joan Miller, who passed away in 1997.
"She did it for the kids," Tuolumne County 4-H leader Bob Miller said of his late wife.
Bob Miller has been involved in raising rabbits for 29 years and has been with the 4-H program for 35 years.
"It draws the whole family together," Miller said.
Show Secretary Bruce Swenson agreed that raising rabbits is a healthy pastime for children.
"It builds confidence," the Mi-Wuk Village resident said. "For a lot of them it's almost a therapy."