This article is from the WSSF 2006 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.
By Sue Foulds, Serendipity Stud, N.F.R.S., England
One of the things I have been asked to write about is the difference between showing in the U.K. and other European countries.
Firstly, the U.K. Exhibitors arrive at least an hour before judging commences. Many have had a long journey, usually by car, and once the
rats are safely in the show hall they are usually offered a drink. Exhibitors collect their pen numbers, and then spend a few minutes with
each rat, adding the finishing touches—a wipe with a piece of silk for an agouti or dark-coloured self, removing any pink staining from
lighter varieties, a last check for sharp claws, etc. Paul and I never bath any of our rats, as it strips their coats of essential oils, leaving them
soft and fluffy, rather than gleaming with health and condition. If rats are kept in clean cages, well-fed, and in excellent condition, they require
very little show preparation. We do wash their tails in soapy water before we set out for a show, but that is all they need other than the
The rats are shown in identical plastic tanks, with a sliding wire lid for easy access and to allow the judge a clear view of the animal. They are allowed pale wood shavings, or grey cat litter, and either carrot, apple, or cucumber [for moisture]—minimizing the choices keeps ownership anonymous. All rats must be placed on the show bench before judging commences, and exhibitors are not allowed to touch them again until the show is over.
The judge writes a critique of each animal, which the exhibitor receives at the end of the day. Some judges have someone to scribe for them, and there are usually two stewards bringing the entries in each class to the judge, opening the tanks, and then returning them to the bench when the class has been judged.
When I was first invited to judge abroad, it was in Sweden. Again, exhibitors arrive at least an hour before judging, but the rats have to pass a health check before being allowed to enter the show hall. As Sweden is such a large country and the weather makes it difficult to travel for much of the year, they tend to hold two shows on the same day. This actually works well—two separate judges each judge the rats entered under them. Most exhibitors enter their rats in both shows, but some choose to only enter under one judge. Each judge selects their own BIS, RBIS (Reserve BIS), and BOA (Best Opposite Age), and awards certificates to animals that they consider to be particularly good examples. At the end of the day, the two judges get together and agree on a joint BIS, who also gets a Cup. Luckily Paul and I were invited over together, and as we both like the same type of rat, we found we had picked the same top three in our individual shows, so the joint BIS was a foregone conclusion. Other English judges going over have not always been so lucky, finding that they had chosen no rats in common.
The main difference in Sweden is that the rats are not shown in tanks, or indeed any cage—when a class is called, the exhibitors wake their rats up, tempt them out of their hammocks, and stand in front of the judge holding their rats. This was alright in a foreign country, where we knew no one, but I would have hated to be faced with such a line-up of fanciers that I did know. They also have critiques, so you are also faced with making honest, if not always complimentary, comments about their rats to their face. The challenges are also fun, particularly if some exhibitors have more than one rat in the running, as they may have multiple rats on their shoulders, or hiding in their clothes!
Paul and I were then invited over to Finland last year. It was another
double show, and again we picked the same rats out,
albeit in a slightly different order. It differed slightly from Sweden in that the rats were still presented by their owners, but in
cages, not on their shoulders. However, some cages held 3 or 4 rats, so care had to be taken to select the correct rat first time, not
always easy as they recognize several varieties that we do not in England—e.g. Caramel, a pink-eyed Chocolate. We found that
the Marked rats excelled in Finland, having both good type and excellent markings, particularly the Hooded and Variegated.
Personally, I feel that the English shows are fairer, and certainly look more
professional. Anyone watching would see
each rat being judged in turn, and it is easy to follow the progress of the show. In both Sweden and Finland, an observer would
probably find everything slightly chaotic and would certainly not be able to follow what was happening. However, the atmosphere
in both countries is lovely, they made us feel exceptionally welcome, and we thoroughly enjoyed our stay. If it were not for
the flights being so expensive, we would definitely be tempted to take our rats over for a show, now that European travel for
animals is so much simpler.
I hope this has given you some idea of what showing in Europe is like, and how it differs from showing in the U.S.A.