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Rabbit skin rugs

Rabbits in Australia

Rabbit skin rugs

Sue Cook’s family rug

In January 1993, Sue Cook from Bendigo, Victoria, wrote to the Museum about her father’s rabbit skin rug and the significance of the rabbit industry in northern Victoria before the introduction of myxomatosis:

The ‘rabbit skin rug [was] made from 36 skins caught by Alf Morrison around 1945, for his wife. The skins were sent away to be tanned, dyed, stitched together and mounted on brown felt … . The rug has been used as a quilt and as a throw-over for a couch. It is still currently in use … .

McMillans is a small district near Cohuna and my father’s farm was part of the district. The local hall was built with voluntary labour and money raised from rabbit drives by farmers in the community. This was just after the Second World War and the money was raised over two years. The rabbit drives were conducted between milkings (a dairy farming district) and groups brought their own equipment (rabbit netting wire and chutes made with steel posts). Portable frames were made for the yards and people used sticks to shoo the rabbits into the catching area. The rabbits were caught in the Pyramid Creek area. The rabbits were gutted but not skinned and were hung in pairs on a pole. This was all covered in hessian to keep the flies off and [was] collected immediately by freezer truck (‘if not collected immediately, they went white and were no good’). Approx. 600-1000 per drive went to the freezers.

In the Museum's collection

Rabbits provided many rural families with food and income through sale of meat and skins. During the 1930s and 1940s it was popular to make rabbit pelts into rugs and coats as an affordable alternative to expensive and fashionable furs.

This rabbit skin rug in the National Museum’s Thelma Jean Smith collection was made from rabbits collected in the Riverina area of New South Wales in the mid-1940s.

Large rabbit skin rug that is lined and edged with emerald green felt. The edging is scalloped and has a zig-zag fringe.
Rabbit skin rug, Thelma Jean Smith collection, National Museum of Australia. Photo: Dragi Markovic.

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Do you have a story to tell about rabbits? Let us know your rabbit memories through the fields below, or follow our People & Environment blog to join our conversation about Australians' relationships with rabbits and other animals in Australia.

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Robyn Walton
09 Aug 2016 4:31pm

My husband Bryan Walton, now 87 years of age was trapping rabbits from a young age with his mates along the riverbank in Gilgandra. Her is the very proud owner of a rabbit skin rug which consists of 49 yellow, 22 black, and 3 white skins. The black are arranged in a diamond shape with the 3 white lying along the middle. those are surrounded by the yellow skins. He and a mates sister shot the skins in Gilgandra in the early 1940s.