Have you ever wondered about the dichotomy between “bunny” and “rabbit”? Rabbits are everywhere, from the great outdoors to our television screens. They might seem so common that a little bit of digging into their biology and what they symbolize can often lead to surprise. What all about bunnies makes them so special? Come with us down the rabbit hole — pun intended — and you’ll see what we mean.
Rabbits, Bunnies and Hares: What’s in a Word?
The words “bunny” and “rabbit” are in part synonyms and in another way are like accessories to each other. “Bunny” comes from the Celtic/Scottish word “bun,” which dates back to the 1600s and was used to describe someone’s rear-end or the hide of a rabbit that someone may have hunted or trapped. At some point in the 1800s, “bunny” started to catch on as a colloquial term for a young woman or girl. This slang is still in use today, albeit with a more “adult” context a la a Playboy bunny.
Rabbits were most commonly referred to as “coneys” up until the 1700s. This is where the name for Coney Island comes from (I had always thought it was an ice cream reference!). Hares are the crocodiles to rabbits’ alligators. A hare will be bigger than a bunny/rabbit and live in grass as opposed to the ground. Hares generally live in the wild, while bunny rabbits are more domesticable animals.
As far as the Easter Bunny goes, it came from Germany just like Santa Claus. Many people abstained from eggs because of Lent, so they always resumed eating eggs on Easter. Since eggs only stay fresh for so long, this also may be why we hard-boil our eggs before we decorate them. Decorating them makes sense, because who wants to look at eggs for very long?
Eventually, German immigrants brought over their practice of “Osterhase,” a chase to find decorated eggs, to the states in the 1700s. How a rabbit became the mascot of an egg-related holiday that’s also meant to commemorate the Resurrection of Christ is unclear, but historians speculate that rabbits as a symbol of fertility fit so well with spring that the animal eventually became emblematic of the holiday.
Reference Rabbit Roundup: 4 Posts That Are All About Bunnies
Here at Reference, the subject of bunnies is certainly not off limits — and is perhaps even an area of interest among our staff and readers. Aside from the Easter Bunny, the Energizer Bunny, Bugs Bunny, Roger Rabbit, Thumper from Bambi and other rabbits are all touchstones in culture today, so it’s fitting that we’d want to know more about what these animals are really like.
As a species, the rabbit is small enough to be a pet and fast and independent enough to live in the wild. Plus, their mostly herbal diet makes them approachable enough to be considered “cute.” There’s a lot to appreciate and admire about bunnies.
Even More Facts That Are All About Bunnies
Rabbits have excellent hearing and can rotate their ears 180 degrees. That ability helps bunnies pinpoint the location of particular sounds to helps them avoid predators. The term “rabbit ears” for one’s cable antenna goes beyond the description of their appearance — their rotational range and reception function make the term rather fitting. Movement of the ears also assists rabbits’ body temperatures because rabbits’ blood flows differently when their ears are in different positions.
You might be surprised to find out that rabbits don’t actually eat carrots. They don’t enjoy root vegetables in general; grass hay is a bit more their style. They don’t need to be bathed often because they are very clean animals, but brushing them regularly can keep them happy and healthy. They also enjoy eating fruits and other sweets.
Like deer, male and female rabbits are referred to as “bucks” and “does” respectively. Maybe it’s an antlers thing?
Rabbits might see their biggest time in the spotlight around Easter and spring, but National Rabbit Day is actually on the final Saturday of September every year. This checks out, because rabbits are everywhere, and there is a lot to celebrate.