Ariana Cook displays the bounty of ribbons she collected at the PA Farm show by showing black Polish rabbits, including Ruby, whom she is holding.
Story by Rick Hiduk / Submitted Photo
(Originally published in the Daily Review)
A Bradford county 4-H member from Powell continues to expand her repertoire at the Pennsylvania Farm Show. Whether it’s bugs, bunnies, or potatoes, Ariana Cook applies herself meticulously to every project before she moves on to the next one. Last year, she garnered a red ribbon for an entomology project that included 50 different insects. Ariana is the daughter of Brian and Angela Cook and is in the 11th grade at Towanda Sr. High School.
Her attention to detail continued pay off this year when she took six rabbits she had raised to Harrisburg. They were all black Polish rabbits, and a young female named Ruby was one of the stars of the show. Ruby’s father, Cole, also did very well. In fact, Cole bested Ruby in one category, more or less bumping Ruby to another prize when Cole was selected by the judges as Best of Variety.
In rabbit judging, “variety” generally refers to the color of the rabbit, making the Best Opposite in this case a black Polish rabbit of the opposite gender. Cole and Ruby scored very closely, but a doe entered by another youth was assigned Best Opposite in Variety.
But Ruby was not out of the running – or hopping – by any means. When the judges selected another male black Polish rabbit as Best of Breed, the high-scoring Ruby became Best Opposite of Breed. When all was said and done, three of Ariana’s rabbits won Best Of or Best Opposite ribbons.
Cindy Williams, one of her 4-H advisers wasn’t surprised. “I noticed immediately her quest for knowledge when she started participating in the potato judging contest,” she related. “Ariana is not shy but always respectful when questioning a judge or myself about the identification of a disease or defect. She is detail oriented which, to me, explains her drive to learn as much as possible about her involvement in any project or endeavor.”
Ariana’s foray into rabbit raising started less than five years ago. “I bought my first pair of breeding rabbits in the fall of 2019 after I proved to my mom that I could care for them daily without being reminded,” she explained, noting that she already had a pet rabbit. “I had been looking at rabbits at the (Troy) fair for years, wanting to show them.” And her mother had shown rabbits as a 4-H member. Ariana’s first rabbit show was in 2020.
“Believe me, this is a project that is not only time consuming but also tedious,” Williams remarked, expecting a similar and favorable result of Ariana’s entomology win to her new venture. “It paid off a few ears ago winning at not only the fair but the farm show.”
“I learned about rabbits by talking to other Polish rabbit breeders, including Linda Elsbree, the rabbit show chairperson for the Troy Fair,” Ariana continued. Polish rabbits, she explained, have especially docile temperaments and are bred to be pets. Polish rabbits do come in other colors, including blue, broken, chocolate, blue eyed white, and ruby eyed white. Despite their relatively small stature, they are not considered dwarf rabbits.“Ruby is very calm and sweet,” Ariana noted. “She is content sitting on my lap.”
Ruby is a junior doe (less than six months old) that was born in September 2023. Like Ruby’s father, Cole, Ruby’s mother, Onyx, is also a champion, having garnered Best of Show at three fairs. When asked what about Ruby appealed most to the judges, Ariana explained that 45 percent of her score came from her near perfect head, eyes, and ears. “She is developing nicely in that area and in her body conformation, which is what they are looking for,” she related. “I am excited to see her mature for summer shows.”
So, Ruby has a bright future ahead of her, and so does Ariana. After nine years in 4-H, she’s still looking for different things to do. At this year’s Farm Show, Ariana finished ninth among the potato judgers as a member of a team that placed first. She also shows Boer goats, is planning to show rabbits again at the 2025 PA Farm Show, and “I hope to enter some crafts,” she promised.
“Ariana is a young lady who will go far in life,” Williams asserted. “I definitely believe she will accomplish whatever she chooses as her profession.”
Photo by Rick Hiduk
After helping her 4-H potato judging team to their first ever Grand Champions win on Jan. 9, Ariana Cook of Powell stopped in to check on the six Polish rabbits she had entered in the PA Farm Show, including her favorite and most decorated, Ruby.