Bouncing bunny heads for Rabbit Grand National

Sports fans are familiar with racing horses and greyhounds – but this bouncing bunny is bringing a fluffy new element into animal athletics.

Harley the rabbit, from East Ardsley, is set to take on his Swedish counterparts in a floppy-eared version of the Grand National.

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His 14-year-old owner and trainer Demi Smith is one of just a handful of rabbit-jumpers in the country.

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But now she is hoping that three-year-old Harley will have a spring in

his step to beat the competition in the Rabbit Grand National, in Harrogate, at the weekend.

The Woodkirk High School pupil got into the craze after seeing it on the Internet.

Demi said: "It was quite easy to get Harley to do the jumps.

"He would do anything for food.

"I used to make him go over the jumps with dandelion leaves but now he will go over by himself so I don't need to use food anymore.

"Some of my friends think it is a bit odd but they know I have rabbits so they are used to it now.

"A lot of people do horse jumping and dog agility but I think that rabbits are less accepted even though it is a similar thing."

Harley will be among 3,000 gerbils, guinea pigs, hamsters, mice and rabbits for the Burgess Premier Small Animal Show – dubbed the Crufts of the small animal world.

He will be taking on 12 rabbits in the Grand National, which features a timed display and tackle course that is based on horse jumping.

But Demi has high hopes for Harley, who already has a string of victories to his name.

She added: "The Swedish contingent may feel they have the competitive

edge, as the sport originated in Sweden in the late 1970s, but we're

confident that we can keep the title on home turf.

"In all of the competitions we have taken part in Harley has placed so I'm expecting him to do well."

The current world record for the highest bunny-jump was set in 1997 by Danish rabbit Tosen, who jumped almost a metre.

The long jump record was set by another Danish rabbit, Yabo, who hopped three metres in 1999.

The Rabbit Grand National will take place at intervals throughout the weekend at the Yorkshire Event Centre.

Tickets to the show are 7 for adults and 3 for children. A family ticket is 18 for two adults and three children and entrance for children under five is free.

Tickets can be purchased on the door.

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