My rabbit collection includes many pieces. There’s an antique porcelain rabbit planter, a nearly three-foot-tall carved wooden rabbit I bought at the Back Mountain Memorial Library auction a decade or two ago, and a framed print of a rabbit painted by the Dutch artist, Albrecht Durer. I also treasure MANY figurines of rabbits holding paint brushes, sitting amidst paint tubes, palettes, and Easter eggs. Stored in my memory are my plush velveteen rabbits named Bunny Pink and Bunny Blue, and of course my collection includes a copy of the book The Velveteen Rabbit as well as over 100 other rabbit items.
Of all the rabbits I collected over the years, my favorites were the live ones! My foray into rabbit parenthood began with Buffy, a cute buff-colored bunny I acquired from Vicky and Brian, two of my Gate of Heaven students in the1970s. The brother and sister lived here InSide the Back Mountain in a tucked-away homestead filled with lively kids, wonderful animals, and lots of love and laughter. A few years later, thinking Buffy might enjoy a companion, we rescued a rabbit from a family who no longer wanted the responsibility of its care and feeding. We dubbed the new rabbit Anthracite, since the black fur shone in the sun with beautiful deep hues of blues, violets and blue-greens, like coal. Ignorant of rabbit anatomical differentiation, we introduced Anthracite and Buffy. Suddenly the term “quick as a bunny!” took on new meaning! Buffy soon began building her nest–yes, rabbit mommies-to-be build nests–and stomping her front feet at Anthracite, communicating “back off and stay away!” In less than a month, about the time of our nation’s Bicentennial, we welcomed the babies: Betsy Ross, George Washington, Paul Revere, and more! We learned that rabbits have extraordinary breeding capabilities! Beginning at 5-6 months, they can have 3-4 litters per year, with 1-12 kits each time. The kits (newborns) are naked with closed eyes and ears. Like deer, the males are bucks and the females are doe.
There are over 50 different kinds of rabbits, including the sweet, laid-back Lops with their low, droopy ears; the Angora, a calm and docile rabbit type favored by old French royalty; the small and affectionate Lionhead rabbits with a wooly mane; the medium sized English Spot; the ginormous Flemish Giant (mine loved to sploot, which means to lay stretched out and relaxed); the calico cat look-alike named “Harlequin”; and the Rex, with its velvet-like fur.
Want good luck? Royal Air Force bomber crews in WW2 exclaimed “WHITE RABBITS!” upon waking to protect themselves. Many people in the past, even President Theodore Roosevelt, intoned “RABBITS!” on the first day of each month for good luck. In the Chinese Zodiac, rabbits are the luckiest of all twelve animals, symbolizing mercy, elegance, and beauty. 2023 is the year of the rabbit in the lunar (Chinese) calendar, and people born in the year of the rabbit are said to be calm and peaceful.
Rabbits are small, timid, cute, and clever. In most cultures they represent springtime, fruitfulness, and renewal. Humans have eaten rabbits almost since there have been humans and rabbits. They are ideal meat animals, since they multiply quickly, require relatively little care, and taste like chicken. Their big ears, used for communication, can rotate in almost a full circle. They love company and make great pets. Rabbits are intelligent, can follow commands, and even do little tricks like giving kisses and high-fives. Because their teeth never stop growing, they need to chew. If you want to protect your cords and furniture, supply apple branches or small poplar logs. Indoors, rabbits can be litter trained and will live 10-12 years. Unfortunately, they are one of the most common pets surrendered to rescues when owners tire of caring for the creatures. Rabbits, who are totally vegetarian themselves, are prey animals for everybody else; in self-defense, they startle easily and do not like to be picked up.
Leonardo Fibonacci, the great 12-13th century Italian mathematician discovered the Fibonacci Sequence in nature. History records the first question he posed: How many rabbits would be created theoretically in one year, beginning with one pair, if no rabbits died and no rabbits left the field? With that rabbit problem, Fibonacci discovered a divine proportion found throughout the design of the entire universe, mathematical theories later expanded upon by artist Leonardo Da Vinci.
It’s just as author John Steinbeck wrote: “Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple, learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen!”
Peter Cottontail sends greetings to all of us InSide the BackMountain: “Happy Year of the Rabbit!”
This article originally appeared in the April 2023 publication of InSide the Back Mountain.