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Richland teen, pet bunny hop to victory at state farm show

| Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014, 3:02 p.m.
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Ariana Franchi’s rabbit, Zotzy, won best of variety and best of show in the American Fuzzy Lop class at the Pennsylvania Farm Show on Jan. 3.

A Pine-Richland High School senior and her four-legged companion leaped over the competition to take top honors at the Pennsylvania Farm Show, held Jan. 3 to 11.

Ariana Franchi, 17, of Richland, and her American fuzzy lop rabbit, named Zotzy, won best of variety — broken and best of breed in the youth class, open to exhibitors ages 18 and under, at the farm show in Harrisburg.

Zotzy was exhibited against 29 other American Fuzzy Lops in his category, Franchi said. She competes with the Butler Bunni Bunch 4-H group based in Butler County.

This is Zotzy's fifth title, making him a grand champion winner. Ariana's mother, Lesa Franchi, said the white-and-brown rabbit has a big personality fit for a champion.

“All rabbits have different and unique personalities — and our grand champion, he has oodles of personality,” she said. “The girls had him out at the farm show on Monday, and he'd hop from one end of the table to the other visiting people. He's like this ambassador and all these people came up and were petting him. He's the perfect outgoing bunny.”

Lesa Franchi said her two younger daughters, Tessa, 15, and Alaina, 12, also show rabbits and participate in the Butler Bunni Bunch 4-H.

“It's a great educational experience,” Lesa Franchi said. “They're learning communication skills, learning a lot about the rabbits.”

Rabbits are judged on a number of things, said Butler Bunni Bunch 4-H coordinator Bryan Rager.

Judges look at the quality of the fur, the body type, bone structure and weight. If a rabbit's paw is white, the toenails on that paw have to match the color.

They're also judged in different varieties within their breed based on color. Solid is a white rabbit, and broken is a rabbit with white and another color.

Rager said Ariana Franchi is the treasurer for Bunni Bunch 4-H and has done well with the added responsibility.

“She's outgoing, helps all the littler kids,” he said. “She's definitely one of our better kids. When she shows (rabbits), she shows very well.”

The Franchis became involved in raising and showing rabbits three years ago after the youngest daughter, Alaina, wanted a small animal as a pet. They foster puppies and kittens from the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society, Lesa Franchi said, so adding another pet to the mix was no problem, but she told her daughter she needed to do some research first.

“I said it had to be friendly, small and easy maintenance,” Lesa Franchi said. “She came back with wonderful documentation and presentation on why she wanted one.”

After settling on a rabbit as the best choice, they got Zotzy from a breeder in Ohio who helped educate the family on the basics of rabbits.

The Franchis' herd has grown significantly over the past three years, giving the girls added responsibility. It now includes an English angora, lionhead, Holland lop and a couple more American fuzzy lop rabbits.

“We've had a few litters too, which is fun,” Lesa Franchi said. “They're learning about the whole process.”

Rachel Farkas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-779-6902 or rfarkas@tribweb.com.

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