Hop Little Bunny

During the Easter period, the characteristic motifs of the feast – the egg, the lamb and the rabbit – always come into the limelight. Symbols that remained from pagan fertility rituals get on well with the Christian traditions and ceremonies. The Easter Bunny is very popular, but it is not the only famous rabbit. Let’s recall the bunny heroes of our childhood, without entirety, and let’s get to know real rabbits better as well.

Húsvéti üdvözlőlap - Balatoni Múzeum, CC BY-NC-NDMy first literary reminiscence with rabbits is attached to Winnie the Pooh, my favourite tale book, in which Rabbit is an always-worrying character, who has a lot of friends and relations. The Checkered-Eared Rabbit (or the Bunny in a Suitcase) was also popular and it is even available in plush-toy form nowadays. Naturally, Bugs Bunny was the big favourite, the cheerful Looney Tunes cartoon hero eating carrots constantly and playing tricks on the others all the time. And don’t forget about the famous character Peter Rabbit from Beatrix Potter’s polished story-books and the rabbit called Kalán from István Fekete’s animal stories, while the White Rabbit shows the way to Alice in Wonderland.

There are hares in the Hungarian folk tales as well as in the Russian cartoon Nu, pogodi! (Well, Just You Wait!), and you can even see a Killer Rabbit in the cult film Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Aliz, a lány, aki követte a fehér nyuszit plakát - Vojtina Bábszínház, CC BY-NC-NDIn one type of hare stories, the rabbit is vulpine, smart and outwits its enemies. These are for example Joel Chandler Harris’s Uncle Remus stories. While in the other type of stories, the hare comes on a snag like in La Fontaine’s The Tortoise and the Hare or in the Hungarian folk tale The Hare and the Hedgehog. Lately, an ‘underground gang-leader’ called Snowball made both children and adults melt, due to the cutely drawn animated cartoon The Secret Life of Pets. What I like the most about it is the perfect rabbit character and the way they contrasted the aggressive dominant behaviour with the lovely, fluffy bunny outfit.

The hare can be found in the North-American Indian mythology; there were hare gods at the Aztecs, while there are horned hares with wings in the legends of the Bavarian Mountains. You can find Moon rabbits in the Far Eastern mythologies (like the companion of the Moon God, guarding the elixir of life). Moreover, the hare is one of the Zodiac signs in the Chinese astrology and a constellation is named after it (Lepus). There are many proverbs, beliefs and superstitions related to rabbits. For example coward or shy people are also called rabbit-hearted. The rabbit-foot and tail are believed to bring good luck, thus these bunny accessories were often hanged on key-chains in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Anyway, a bunny is a kind of ‘accessory’ that is used in ads favourably, because it sells the products. Just think about the well-known cocoa or battery brands.

Húsvét - Vitéz Szénásy Bélánál, Budapest, 1940 - Magyar Kereskedelmi és Vendéglátóipari Múzeum, CC BY-NC-NDRabbits are thought to be kind, timid and tame animals; this might be the reason why we use the different forms of the word for endearments: bunny, honey-bunny. However, a rabbit can be combative as well, when it has to protect its territory from another rabbit for instance. It can use its sharp claws on its front paws when attacking and can bite into the fur of the other animal. Two fighting hares are able to inflict lethal wounds on one another. Naturally, if a predator turns up the rabbit takes its bunny-heels at once and has a good chance to leave the predator behind, because it has few enemies matching in rapidity. There are only two predators (except for birds of prey) that can catch up with a rabbit: the cheetah and the lion. It counterplots its chaser by sudden skips and direction changes and the predator usually gives up sooner. Being the proud owner of two dwarf rabbits I can affirm that the rabbit is not coward, but cautious, extremely considered and prudent, like prey animals in general. Since ‘daydreaming’ might even cause its death.

Vadnyulak - Balatoni Múzeum, CC BY-NC-NDIt is also important to make it clear: the rabbit is not a rodent. Lagomorphs are the members of the taxonomic order Lagomorpha, of which there are two living families: the Leporidae (hares and rabbits) and the Ochotonidae (pikas). Leporidae has 61 living genera. While rodents have two incisors, leporidae have two more behind the front ones. They can live on very little alimentary substance because the bacteria living in symbiosis in their long caecum can process cellulose of herbs and of other plant tissues, thus they can digest them. If you are not cautious enough, newspapers and carpets can also be part of their evening meal menu. However, they cannot bear a long time without eating. They have to eat in every 2-3 hours in order to keep their digestion working, because their metabolism is very fast. If they cannot eat for a half day (due to an operation for example), their colons can be damaged; and a day-long starvation might even cause death.

Nyuszik - Nagyerdei Kultúrpark Nonprofit Kft., CC BY-NC-NDRabbits are very prolific animals: a female rabbit can litter several times a year among favourable circumstances. They are ideal domestic animals for breeding as their feeding does not cost a lot and their fur can be utilized as well. However, a lot of people feel repugnance to eating rabbit meat. Not surprisingly, regarding the facts written above, many of us cannot abstract from the image that lives inside us about bunnies: small, fluffy, cute animals with large innocent eyes and long silky ears. Well, you cannot eat something like this, can you?

In the recent years, there has been a growing number of people who keep dwarf rabbits as pets. There are fewer problems with them compared to dogs, they can be kept is small flats, they become toilet-trained soon and they are as interested and sociable as cats among others. Don’t forget to hide wires and cables before putting them in your flat, because they might chew these things and might get an electric shock. If you get to know bunnies better, you might realise that they also have their own characters, can be taught, can be trained to sit on your lap, and they also endure travelling in small carriers if they get enough hay for the journey.

Kellemes húsvéti ünnepet - Thúry György Múzeum, CC BY-NC-NDFinally, I would like to ask you not to buy a rabbit for Easter without being able to undertake the role of a careful master for the following 8-10 years, and to make sure you can find a vet specialized in bunnies. It might sound strange, but the rabbit is regarded as ‘an exotic animal’ and a ‘simple’ vet often cannot even find out its sex when it is young. Collect information about the proper rabbit-keeping practices, because there are many kinds of food that they must not eat, because of poisoning, distention and death in the end.

If you want to caress bunnies at Easter, you can visit many animal-caressing events. There will be Easter festivals in the Grassalkovich Castle of Gödöllő, in Siófok at Lake Balaton and in Vajdahunyad Castle in Budapest among many others. You can even adopt abandoned bunnies in the Budapest Zoo.

Balatoni Múzeum kisgrafika - Balatoni Múzeum, CC BY-NC-ND

Zita Aknai

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