Sally with award winning English Angora Chocolate Doe

Sally May has been breeding English Angora rabbits for over 45 years as Bourne Stud Angoras, well longer than we can remember. They have always been a part of our life. Sally is our Mum and has been dedicated to her angoras since 1975, they are part of who she is and she wouldn’t be without them.

Her love of the English Angora has been a long one, and her passion for the English breed is shown in her dedication to breeding in accordance with the breed standard and reviving the Chocolate colour in partnership with Gillian Holford.

Sally has made so many friends in the Angora world and across the world as well. She is very well known for her knowledge on all aspects of showing, breeding, and caring for them. She has been inspired through her journey by those before her like Mrs Pratley, Peggy Grant Dalton and Joan Birkett. She has made great friendships with other Angora breeders like Yvonne Fothergill-Hobbs, Leslie Hordon, Richard Grindley and too many more to name. 

A litter of Bourne Stud Chocolate English Angora rabbits

Over the past 45 years she has bred lots of Angora rabbits and given them all so many names it is now hard to find new ones for the various babies. Her method for naming is based on the first letter of their parents and some get quite tricky to follow on from like PJ. Her naming inspiration has come from many sources including her love of reading for example Lord of the Rings as well as TV influences like Star Trek and Harry Potter.

Showing has always been a key part of Sally’s hobby with her Angora rabbits and she has been very successful in producing some fine show quality English Angora rabbits. She has competed at all levels winning Stock Shows, Challenges, Best in Shows and so many awards it is hard to see the sideboard with all the rosettes, cards and trophies. Her family and friends are very proud of her achievements. 

As children we spent much of our life at Rabbit shows, terrified of Mrs Pratley (we suspect now that Mum inspires the same sense of awe), and we were a dab hand at grooming and stewarding by the age of 7.

Sally May of Bourne Stud Angoras won Best Fancy with her Sooty Fawn doe at the Three Counties Show in 2017

I also have fond memories of helping hand rear orphaned baby Angora bunnies and watching them grow up into delinquent pets mostly as I wasn’t a very good influence on their upbringing. We also had the opportunity to star on the classic kid’s show ‘Hey Look That’s Me’ in 1983, sharing our love of Angoras. 

We both have many childhood memories of helping Mum twice a day every day feeding the bunnies and once a week were on cleaning out duties which was a way of us earning our pocket money. However, when you realise that back then Sally had over 100 Angoras at any one time, it was quite a lot of work though she has scaled down now. Looking back though we were very fortunate to have so many animals in our lives.

A look back over the past 45 years of Sally May

Most weekends throughout the early years of her rabbit breeding hobby, Sally was out at a rabbit show, usually with us both in tow. She still continues to support the shows and up until the start of last year was travelling around the UK to all the main rabbit and product shows chauffeur driven by her husband Derek. More recently she has taken part in the current virtual rabbit shows and actively supports the National Angora Club in her role as Club Treasurer.

A selection of hand knitted gloves made by Mum using pure Angora wool and mixes with Angora wool

Not only does Sally love her Angora rabbits but she is very creative and uses the Angora wool product in her spinning, felting and knitting. The Angora fingerless gloves she makes are a must at this time of year, and if you have not tried them, then you should get yourself a pair as they will keep your hands so warm or why not have a try and make some yourself.

Since retirement, Mum has also had the chance to share her love of Angora’s with the world, and has appeared in articles for the Express, Telegraph and Tatler, and has also appeared on the One Show sitting next to Emma Thompson. Her rabbits have also starred in various YouTube videos.

Left to right: Elijah, Peanuts, Storm and Rufus of Bourne Stud Angoras

So this is our tribute to our mum who is an amazing lady with a true life long passion for the English Angora rabbit. Long may she long continue to inspire so many others to take up the hobby of keeping Angora rabbits successfully and happily.

Article by Dr Orlanda Harvey and Amelia Williams MICFor