But none are as cute as the Swedish competition known as Kaninhoppning — or, in English, rabbit show jumping.
Yes, that’s a rabbit. And yes, he or she is jumping over a miniature version of a fence similar to one found in an equestrian competition.
Rabbit show jumping dates back to the late 1970s or early 1980s, and mimics equestrian in many ways — not just by borrowing its fence design. The rabbits’ owners guide them through an obstacle course (not on their back, of course, but rather by command or by leash — you can see a blue one in the picture above) and the winning rabbit and owner is the one which completes the course with the least number of errors and, secondarily, in the shortest amount of time. The owners are allowed to redirect their rabbits a predetermined number of times (typically three) without incurring a penalty — after all, it can be pretty hard to steer a rabbit.
But before you mock Kaninhoppning too much, rest assured that these rabbits really can jump. According to Wikipedia, there are official records for the longest and highest rabbit jumps in the competitions. Those records — 3,000 mm long (about 9.8 feet) and 995 mm high (about 3.25 feet) — are both owned by owners (and rabbits) from Denmark.
That makes sense: Kaninhoppning is most popular in Scandinavian nations and its international federation is based in Sweden. But according to the Wall Street Journal, it has caught on in the United Kingdom as well. And that’s only the beginning. According to the Daily Mail (in an article which has lots of pictures of rabbits jumping over stuff), rabbit show jumping competitions can be found throughout Europe, in the U.S. and Canada, and even in Japan. (The website for the U.S. federation is, unfortunately, no longer operational.)
Want to see it in action for yourself? This overproduced video features about two dozen rabbits from the Canadian Rabbit Hopping Club as they leap over fences and through hoops, climb ramps, teeter on see-saws, and do other rabbity things on their quest for eternal glory.
Bonus fact: What does sculpting a moose and the flag of Norway into your facial hair earn you? A world championship beard, as seen here, from 2011. (The 2012 championships will be held in Las Vegas in November.)
From the Archives: Hare Today, Gone Tomorrow: When a sportscaster was traded for a cartoon rabbit.