rabbits-msg - 8/20/09
Medieval rabbits. As pets and food.
This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.
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Mark S. Harris AKA: THLord Stefan li Rous
Stefan at florilegium.org
From: alyclepal at aol.com (AlyClePal)
Subject: Rabbits in Period: info sought
Date: 8 Feb 1997 14:32:05 GMT
Greetings, Gentles. As the happy owner of four fully trained house
bunnies I've found myself at events and demos with at least 2(they come in
pairs). While I do have some documentation about rabbits in period as
pets and food sources, I would greatly appreciate being pointed towards
more. I am doing a period petting zoo for an event in April and would
like to include some facts on all the animals in a childrens coloring
handout. Thanks, Alyssa
and Corby and Buttercup and Galahad and Gretchen:)
From: djheydt at uclink.berkeley.edu (Dorothy J Heydt)
Subject: Re: Rabbits in Period: info sought
Date: 8 Feb 1997 14:58:55 GMT
Organization: University of California at Berkeley
Oh, gosh, I raised rabbits back in AS single-digits, and did a
fair amount of research at the time. Rabbits (as distinguished
from hares) are native to Europe but not to England, having been
imported in Roman times. I can't recall when it was that people
stopped keeping rabbits in warrens--that is, an area in which you
allowed the rabbits to burrow in the ground and then you fed them
and trapped them--and started keeping them in hutches. It had
happened by the end of our period, because Thomas Tusser, writing
in Elisabeth I's time, gives instructions on when to breed them.
"Let doe go to buck," he says, in the month of February, meaning
you put the doe in the buck's hutch and not vice-versa (else she
will defend her territory and probably be unwilling to mate).
You might look up a copy of Tusser (One Hundred Points of Good
Husbandry and the expanded Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry)
and see what else he says. It's been a while.
I remember discovering, you will pardon a rather lame pun, that
it was best to start breeding the rabbits on Sexagesima Sunday
(six weeks before Easter) so as to have cute little two-week-old
bunnies to hop around the grass at the Easter barbeque we went to
in those days.
Dorothea of Caer-Myrddin Dorothy J. Heydt
Mists/Mists/West Albany, California
PRO DEO ET REGE djheydt at uclink
From: jmackie at sharra.otago.ac.nz (LabRat)
Subject: Re: Rabbits as Food (was Rabbits in Period)
Date: 13 Feb 1997 02:17:44 GMT
Organization: University of Otago, Dunedin, NZ
if you are in england between the romans and the normans then
rabbits are out. the romans wiped them out, the normans reintroduced
them. not sure what date the romans finally manged to wipe them out
but certainly before the 600AD start of SCA period.
From: albinsal at pilot.msu.EDU (Sally V Albin)
Subject: Rabbit Trivia
Date: 15 Feb 1997 14:28:10 -0500
Nice discuussion on bunnies. I love bunnies, (especially in a nice BBQ
sauce:)). The reason you could wipe out rabbits and not hare is that they are
different species. They're so different they can't interbreed. Amusingly,
modern domestic rabbits are descended from the European wild rabbit and can't
breed with American wild rabbits either.
To the person who stated that rabbit meat is lacking an essental amino acid,
where did you get your information? All my info says that rabbit is the
healthiest available. Of all the animals general eaten, rabit is the lowest in
sodium and fat, the highest in protein, the most digestible, can be cooked any
way that you can cook any other meat, and it's 100% white meat. It's also
delicious. They're easy to keep in a garage, basement, or backyard and
butchering them requires a very small space and very little special equipment.
(Can anybody tell I raised the little critters for years:))
From: alyclepal at aol.com (AlyClePal)
Subject: Renn. Angora Person!!!
Date: 16 Feb 1997 15:18:47 GMT
Help, my computer ate your email about bunnies in period before I could
get to it, and all the other posts about bunnies just went into the wrong
area for me to use. Could you please get back in touch. BTW--the cover
of "Italtian Renaisance Interiors" has a painting--in the hall you can
plainly see 2 housebuns eating greenery. I'll get the rest of the info on
that to you soon. Thanks, Alyssa
From: Elaine_Crittenden at dxpressway.com (Elaine Crittenden)
Subject: Re: Renn. Angora Person!!!
Date: 16 Feb 1997 10:18:39 GMT
Organization: Digital Xpressway - Dallas, TX
The Cluny tapestries (Musee National dy Moyen Age, Paris France) have more
than two dozen "long ears" in all sorts of positions incorprated into the
backgrounds of the various scenes. ;-)
Also---the Cluny tapestries' period is 1480-1490.
.....Elaine (Dallas, TX) aka Lete bithe Spring (Steppes, Ansteorra)
Date: Fri, 14 Feb 1997 11:24:06 -0400
From: troy at asan.com (Philip W. Troy)
Subject: Re: Rabbits as Food (was Rabbits in Period)
manth at ozemail.com.au (Aramanth Dawe) wrote:
> jmackie at sharra.otago.ac.nz (LabRat) wrote:
> >if you are in england between the romans and the normans then
> >rabbits are out. the romans wiped them out, the normans reintroduced
> >them. not sure what date the romans finally manged to wipe them out
> >but certainly before the 600AD start of SCA period.
> >keep well
> If anyone knows _how_ the Romans managed to wipe out rabbits, even in
> such a relatively small area as England, there are a few thousand
> farmers in Australia who would be _very_ interested!
I'd have to say that if the Romans managed to "wipe out" rabbits in
Britain, it was presumably prior to 410 C.E. .
On the other hand, hares appear to have been unaffected throughout. True,
they aren't the same as rabbits, but they are largely interchangable from
a culinary standpoint, apart from their size.
From: Margaret Snellbaker <msnellba at dolphin.upenn.edu>
Subject: Rabbits in period: info sought
Date: Tue, 18 Feb 1997 19:11:30 -0500
Organization: University of Pennsylvania
**APOLOGIES...THIS IS GRAPHIC AND NOT FOR EVERYONE**
This goes back to an "old" posting I just caught up to... and I'd like
to relay some interesting, albeit grim, trivia. Mundanely I am a
veterinary nurse, and rabbit history and husbandry were part of my
education. A small part, but I have a penchant for remembering the
wierd stuff, too. So, this is reliable info...I'll find the source if
Since meat was forbidden during Lent, fish became a primary source of
protein. Some monks (Franciscian, I think) are credited with
domesticating rabbits, but you rarely find out WHY. Well, for what it's
worth, rabbit fetuses were not considered meat. Yes boys and girls, mom
rabbit was killed near-term, and during Lent the near-born bunnies were
food. I guess this would be the next-closer step beyond veal. One
would presume that after Lenten restrictions were over, they resumed the
practice of eating weaned rabbits. This would allow them to get more
meat per pregnancy, and not have to slaughter the doe. I'm also
guessing that this is when they began breeding for color and size
In Service to the Kingdom of the East,
From: alysk at ix.netcom.com (Elise Fleming )
Date: Wed, 2 Jul 1997 16:21:08 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: SC - Re: sca-cooks V1 #184
Greetings! Margaret wrote:
>Well, if you're talking about the early Celtic peoples of Britian,
>they didn't eat rabbit because rabbits didn't exist in England much
>before the Normans. I believe they were a Norman import (again,
>working from memory, I believe the source is Ann Wilson's Food and
>Drink in Britian)
From Maggie Black's _A Taste of History_, page 63, "The Evidence for
the Foods Eaten in Roman Britain": "Not only were large game kept in
parks, small game such as hares were kept in 'leporia' or hare gardens
attached to the villas of the more well-eo-do Romas so that they would
be quickly available when needed for the table."
From: Stephen Bloch <sbloch at adl15.adelphi.edu>
Date: Mon, 7 Jul 1997 12:07:52 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: SC - rabbits and hares
Miscellaneous bits of information from various secondary sources:
1) From C. Anne Wilson's _Food and Drink in Britain_,
"The hunt scenes on Castorware pottery, with running figures of dogs,
hares and deer in low relief, reflect the continuing popularity of the
sport in the third and fourth centuries AD. The Nene valley potteries,
where Castorware was made, were on the edge of thickly wooded hunting
"One creature which disappeared temporarily [during the early medieval
period] was the rabbit. The _leporaria_ were lost when the villas
decayed, and escapers were unable to withstand the many predators in the
vast forest tracts of early medieval Britain...."
[in the later medieval period]
"Rabbits had been reintroduced from France, and their earliest
settlement on islands such as Lundy and the Scillies towards the end of
the twelfth century was followed in due course by the establishment of
coneygarths on the mainland. As the forest receded and beasts of prey
became rarer, escapers from the rabbit warrens bred more readily
outside, and eventually there was a large wild population to supplement
the enclosed groups. In Scotland, too, every burgh soon had its rabbit
warren and warrener. But highlanders had no truck with coneys, and
instead coursed the native mountain hare...."
"Hares and coneys were the poor man's game, coursed on foot with
dogs.... Henry VIII had to forbid the sport for a time, for hares in
the snow were too easy a prey, and in his day they had become 'decayed
and almost destroyed' at the hands of the hunters...."
"Coneys had continued in France from Roman days... By the sixth century
AD domestic rabbits were being bred for their litters in French monastic
courtyards. But when they eventually reached England again, they were
usually enclosed in warrens....
2) From _The Complete Book of Greyhounds_, ed. Julia Barnes,
"... if the Romans did not bring the Greyhound with them, they imported
something even more important -- the brown hare. The indigenous hare of
the British Isles is the blue hare, which lives in high uplands in
Britain and everywhere in Ireland. The Romans obviously considered the
bigger and faster European or brown hare as a more suitable quarry for
their Greyhounds, and it has flourished in the lowlands and downland of
Britain ever since.
3) From "Twelfth Century Greyhounds in Merry Old England", by Laurel E.
Drew, in _Celebrating Greyhounds -- the magazine_,
"... greyhounds as such were termed _leporariis_. The entire document
[the 1183 _Boldon Book_, a census similar to the _Domesday Book_ but
covering northeastern England], written in Latin, was issued by the
ecclesiastical scholars in the bishop's retinue."
The article (and presumably the _Boldon Book_) discusses using greyhounds
to hunt deer, but doesn't mention using them for hare or rabbit, aside
from the etymological clue in the name _leporariis_.
Summing all this up, it appears that
(a) One kind of hare was native to at least parts of the British Isles.
(b) Another kind of hare, and possibly the coney or rabbit as well, was
introduced by the Romans from Europe.
(c) Coneys were largely or entirely wiped out by British predators
(which presumably found them an easy target by comparison with the
larger, faster hares) when the Romans left.
(d) Coneys were re-introduced from Europe in the 12th or 13th century.
mar-Joshua ibn-Eleazar ha-Shalib
sbloch at panther.adelphi.edu
Math/CS Dept, Adelphi University
Date: Fri, 19 Sep 1997 10:30:51 -0400 (EDT)
From: Uduido at aol.com
Subject: SC - Hares
In a message dated 97-09-19 08:40:42 EDT, you write:
<< It does stand to reason that a genuine wild rabbit (or
hare) would be a little darker in color and stronger in flavor than a
factory version. >>
For the record hares are NOT rabbits. Hares have a longer more lean body, the
hind legs are shapped somewhat differently and they have longer heads and
ears. They are also a seperate species, taste different and should not be
construed as 'wild rabbits' . Also cooking techniques are somewhat different
with hares requiring much lengthier cooking to produce a tender product which
is splitting another 'hair'. :-)
Date: Wed, 22 Jul 1998 10:55:35 -0400
From: renfrow at skylands.net (Cindy Renfrow)
Subject: Re: SC - fetal???
Just an aside to this thread -- "The Hunting Book" by Gaston Phoebus, 14th
c.(lots of pictures, little text) says that rabbits were hunted using nets
& snares, and spaniels, ferrets, or smoke to chase them into said traps.
If ferrets were used, they were muzzled to keep them from eating the
rabbits in their burrows. The rabbits were stewed, according to Phoebus.
Now, under this system of harvesting the bunnies, there must have been
quite a few pregnant does caught. He makes no mention of the fetuses, so
I'm assuming they were either put in the stew pot or given to the spaniels
BTW, in the pseudo-science of humours, would not fetal rabbits, if eaten
separately, have been considered cold & moist, & therefore unsuitable for
all but strong hardworking people?
I think if you want to find recipes for fetal rabbits you'll need to look
in early sources like Apicius & Pliny & Athenaeus, where there are
descriptions of things like suckling kid slaughtered with a belly full of
I looked in Le Menagier & didn't find anything.
Date: Wed, 22 Jul 1998 12:26:29 EDT
From: PhlipinA at aol.com
Subject: Re: SC - fetal???
Mordonna22 at aol.com writes:
<< Both my Grandfather, who lived in Alabama all his life, and both of my
fathers-in-law who lived in South Carolina called this "wolf season," and said
eating squirrels or rabbits at this time of year could kill you or make you
The reason that rabbits, particularly, and squirrels as well, are not eaten or
killed in the summertime is because both are susceptible to a particularly
vicious parasite, tullemia, which can be transferred by contact with the blood
of an infected animal. This is why, when I was helping Ras butcher the rabbits
for Will's Revenge ( and Ras was butchering me ;-P ) I wore rubber gloves and
checked every rabbity liver for white spots. We were using domestic rabbits,
among which the infection is rare, but with something that nasty, too many
precautions cannot be taken. Just one contact with a wild rabbit can pass it-
that's why commercial rabbit breeders always have their cages a few feet off
The parasite dies shortly after the first frost, which is why the hunting
regulations, at least here in Ohio, are as they are.
Date: Wed, 22 Jul 1998 13:43:34 -0500
From: "Decker, Terry D." <TerryD at Health.State.OK.US>
Subject: RE: SC - fetal???
> Does anyone know if this is a parasite confined to this continent, or may this
> be a reason for a universal "season"? Is it possible that the people of the
> era knew of the effects of eating small game killed at this time of the year?
I believe that it is tularemia which is being discussed. Tularemia is a
disease caused by a bacteria (Francisella tularensis) which infects rodents
and is transmittable to humans by ingestion or blood-to-blood contact. It
is an American disease and is named for Tulare County, California where it
was first isolated.
Date: Wed, 22 Jul 1998 16:34:23 -0500
From: "Decker, Terry D." <TerryD at Health.State.OK.US>
Subject: RE: SC - fetal???
Here's what Utah Wildlife Resources says about rabbits and tularemia:
TULAREMIA IN RABBITS AND HARES
Tularemia is a disease which occurs throughout the Northern Hemisphere and
can be found in many mammals including hares, rabbits and rodents common in
Utah! The disease is also called rabbit fever, fly fever and Ohara's
disease. It has a particular affinity for cottontail rabbits. Tularemia is
caused by the bacteria (Francisella tularensis). Tularemia can be
transmitted to man either by the bite of an infected tick or deer fly,
direct contact through the skin via dressing an infected animal, eating of
contaminated flesh, or inhalation of dust that is carrying the bacteria.
After entering the rabbit's body, via the bite of an infected parasite, the
bacteria quickly multiplies and invades different organs such as the liver
and spleen. If while dressing your rabbits, you notice one in which the
liver, lungs or spleen are covered with tiny, whitish miniature
discolorations or one in which the liver and spleen are swollen, it is
probable that the rabbit has tularemia. Immediately wash your hands with
strong soap and hot water and rinse in disinfectant and discard the carcass.
Tularemia is a serious disease, if left unchecked. But don't panic! Based on
statistics from around the United States, chances of catching Tularemia are
For the full text, try:
Date: Fri, 23 Oct 1998 13:58:28 -0800
From: david friedman <ddfr at best.com>
Subject: Re: SC - Coneys
According to C. Anne Wilson in _Food
and Drink in Britain_, "until well into the seventeenth century" rabbit
meant the baby animal, under a year old, and coney was the general term for
Date: Mon, 16 Mar 2009 19:51:45 -0400
From: Johnna Holloway <johnnae at mac.com>
Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Messenger Hares
To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>
<<< I think tomorrow we should discuss chocolate bunnies and messenger hares
because I have come across this neat church carving of a rabbit that
looks like a number of chocolate molds.
I first came across messenger hares in this imported volume:
Westwood, Jennifer and Jacqueline Simpson. */The Lore of the Land/*.
London: Penguin Books, 2005.
It also turns up in Malcolm Jones' */The Secret Middle Ages/*. Sutton,
2002 in the section titled
"The Hare Messenger"on pages 137-138.
The story concerns a group of peasants that are late with the rent. They
catch a hare, being fleet of foot, and attach the rent in a pouch around the hare's neck. They then tell the hare to take the pouch to the landlord. Of course the hare runs off and is never seen again. the tale dates back to Odo of Cheriton in the 13th century. Hares that can carry letters appear in other tales, and the tales always comment upon the foolishness of those that would
dispatch a hare in such circumstances.
Both books include a picture of a carving from the interior of Saint
Mary's Church in Beverley, England.
"Founded c. 1120, St Mary's was soon adopted by the Guilds. A tower was
added in 1524. The tiny Chapel of St Michael, with its ingenious spiral
staircase dates from the same period as the Percy tomb in the Minster.
140 carvings of medieval musical instruments decorate the Minister and
St Mary's. The extraordinary chancel ceiling, painted in 1445, is a
pictorial record of the kings of England."
"prominent upon the arch which leads into St Michael's chapel is the
carved stone figure of a rabbit dressed in human clothes and carrying a
staff. This is known as the pilgrim rabbit because it is dressed in the
manner of a pilgrim in bygone times. The church authorities are so proud
of this rabbit that it has been adopted as St Mary's church logo."
Or Search under "pilgrim rabbit" in Google images to see pictures.
The question here is how old is the carving. Jones uses the word
"contemporary" but contemporary to what? The Middle Ages or to early Victorian England? There is an association that indicates that perhaps Charles Dodgson saw this very carving in the church when he was young and that he recycled it into
his White Rabbit that leads Alice astray in Wonderland. The White Rabbit in one scene reaches into his pouch and pulls out a sandwich.
The White Rabbit Chocolate Shop says the carving dates to 1325 as does
the wikimedia entry.
I think it looks like inspiration for those Easter Rabbit chocolate