Sunday, April 08, 2007

Why The Easter 'Bunny' Is A Fraud

The image of the so-called Easter 'Bunny' is well known at this time of year. Most people assume that the term 'bunny' refers to the fact that the animal in question is some kind of rabbit. It is not. The animal that should be depicted is instead a hare.

The image of the hare, as being associated with the Spring time comes about due to the hare's association with the Anglo-Saxon goddess of Spring, Eostre. Indeed, the very name 'Easter' for this current festival derives from this goddesses name. Relatively little is known about Eoster, although the Venerable Bede discusses this goddess in De Temporum Ratione.

Generally speaking, hares differ from rabbits in being somewhat larger, in particular they have longer ears and legs. Another significant difference is that rabbits are born bald and blind, while hares are not born this way. Rabbits often live in underground warrens, while hares prefer shallow depressions in the ground. There is some evidence that the burrowing behaviour of rabbits is a recent adaption. Indeed, due to the influence of the flea born disease Myxomatosis, there is some evidence that rabbits in afflicted areas have reverted to living above ground again.

The image of the Easter bunny (or hare) is probably based upon the Brown Hare (Lepus capensis), that can be found in both Europe and North America. The notion of a 'Mad March Hare' was popularised by Lewis Carroll, but can be found much earlier in the works of John Heywood (1497-1580). Heywood uses the phrase "Mad as a march hare" in his Proverbes, ii.v.

One final point that is worthy of note. There is no evidence of either rabbits or hares ever laying any eggs!

The CP

2 Comments:

Anonymous Toasted Suzy said...

Has a hare ever died and been resurrected? Has it, smarty?!

I don't THINK SO!

TS, being goofy.

1:58 PM  
Blogger Tenured Radical said...

CP,

I thought YOU were the Easter bunny!

TR

7:53 AM  

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