I’ve often wondered about the oddness of the Easter Bunny. What does a rabbit have to do with Christianity? And why on earth would a rabbit produce eggs?
A little internet research was enough to find some answers. First, our Christian festival of Easter, while clearly celebrating the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, coincides with an ancient time of feasting linked to Eastre (or Eostre), who was the Saxon goddess of Spring and dawn. Eastre’s favourite animal was a large bird, which in mythology, she transformed into a hare. Perhaps coincidentally, both eggs and hares/rabbits have long been regarded as symbols of fertility, celebrated at spring time. Eggs and hares/rabbits have also featured in Christian art and customs, and in the 17th Century, there are the first records from German churches of Easter hares bringing Easter eggs to children.
Whatever about the origins of the large, fully clothed, friendly, egg-producing Easter Bunny, his prominent presence at this time of year offers a useful opportunity to mention helpful information about caring for modern day pet rabbits.
- While the Easter Bunny is always on his own, pet rabbits love company, needing at least one other rabbit to be happy bunnies. The best combination is a neutered male and neutered female.
- Although he delivers chocolate eggs, the Easter Bunny would definitely never eat them. Rabbits need fibre based plain diets, with plenty of clean hay, grass and leafy greens such as broccoli, cabbage and kale, not lettuce or rabbit “muesli” which can contribute to serious teeth and stomach problems.
- The Easter Bunny is often shown wearing a jacket, but real rabbits don’t need clothes. Their living environment should be enough to keep them warm and safe. Their home should be large enough for them to move around freely, waterproof and draught-proof, with clean, dry bedding and a big attached exercise run that allows them run rather than just hop.
- The Easter Bunny would definitely enjoy an Easter Egg hunt. Although rabbits should never eat chocolate, they are inquisitive, playful animals who need plenty of opportunities to dig, forage and explore.
- The Easter Bunny is happy and healthy, and the same should go for all rabbits. Pet rabbits should be checked every day for any signs of illness or injury and taken to the vet if there are any concerns.
- The Easter Bunny never seems to get any older, but typical pet rabbits live for 8 to 12 years of age. To maximise their life span, rabbits needs regular health checks and vaccinations at the vets, just like cats and dogs.
Many families take on pet rabbits in the springtime, and while it’s true that they can make excellent children’s pets, they do need careful adult supervision to make sure that their welfare is optimised.
Happy Easter everyone, and may you enjoy whatever the Easter Bunny brings to you.