- Associated Press - Saturday, December 5, 2015

BOODY, Ill. (AP) - When a good idea jumps out in front of you, the savvy entrepreneur hops right to it.

A case in point would be the splendidly named Thumping Trails Rabbitry. This is a bunny breeding business in Boody that first hit the ground running two years ago and has been riding happy trails ever since, pulling in customers from as far as Texas and Arkansas for its prize-winning progeny.

Chelsea Cuttill, 28, takes care of the bunny business and is ably assisted by her husband, Scott, 31. Their fuzzy, or rather furry, logic is that show quality rabbits have die-hard fans and the customer base is pretty much built in. Rabbits who come along and are not up to pedigree show or 4-H standards still make great pets and add up to another rich slice of the customer pie.

As for rabbits that aren’t pedigree but don’t get chosen as pets either, well, they can always end up in a different kind of pie. That may seem a little harsh, but rabbits breed like rabbits, and their bountiful food qualities are not to be sniffed at. The meat tastes pretty good and readily absorbs the flavor of seasonings, and the Cuttills claim the nutritional value leaps to something like 10 times that of chicken.

“I like it fried, and I love rabbit noodles,” said Chelsea Cuttill.

“Kind of like chicken and noodles, except with rabbit,” said her husband.

They are also quick to point out that the bulk of their bunny customers are only interested in up-market rabbits for showing and breeding or for pets, and so other people don’t tend to use the rabbitry like a supermarket. With prices that start around $20 and jump up to more than $100 for top-of-the-line rabbit models, shopping Thumping Trails purely for the larder would get pricey.

Chelsea Cuttill said what sells her rabbits are their outstanding pet and show qualities. She has five breeds in 15 color variations and, as a supreme example of cuteness elevated to the quantum level, she displays a baby rabbit known as a “lionhead” because they develop a mane-like collar around the neck.

Sitting in her hand, its fluffy head and twitching nose and bright eyes give it the look of an impossibly delicate and fluffy toy that has sprung to life.

“Scott calls them Ewoks, like from the ‘Star Wars’ movie,” Cuttill said. “They will get to about 3.5 or four pounds.”

And it turns out that rabbits are just like people: Most are nice, a few not so much. Some rabbits, despite their general reputation as being bottom-of-the-food-chain fodder for whatever comes along with suitably offensive dentition, are willing to fight back. Scott Cuttill remembers a pet rabbit he owned as a kid that had the run of the house and didn’t mind getting in his face.

“I was like 5-years-old, and he would steal my cookies,” he said. “He just figured that cookie was his; he was kind of evil.”

But the good news is that rabbits respond to kindness, and his wife said the more you handle and pet them from an early age, the more user-friendly your bunny will become. They also don’t have brief hare today, gone tomorrow lives either, and a well-cared rabbit can keep you company for up to 15 years, according to Cuttill.

“And you can actually train rabbits,” she adds. “They are like cats; you can litter train them. They make really good pets.”

Thumping Trails takes its name from the behavior of a determined example of the mini “Rex” breed of rabbit called “Max” that had the run of the Cuttill house and stood his ground like a monarch.

“So there I was, trying to think of a name for my rabbitry, and Max, my rabbit, is running around the living room,” said Cuttill. “All of a sudden, my cat comes in and Rex thumps the ground with his foot, which is a kind of pay-attention-to-me, dominance kind of thing. So he thumps, and then he poops, and he thumps and then he poops. I am like, ‘Ok, I’ve found my name.’”

But “Thumping Trails Pooping Rabbitry” didn’t quite have the aplomb she was looking for. Plain old “Thumping Trails” sounded much better.

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Source: (Decatur) Herald & Review, https://bit.ly/1MDF7me

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Information from: Herald & Review, https://www.herald-review.com

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