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Rabbit tales at the National Museum
An early call by the National Museum for responses to objects from the Museum’s collection of rabbit-related objects resulted in tales ranging from the intriguing and illuminating to the arguably ‘tall’. And now we’re asking for you to share your story.
The Grey Invasion
In 1992 the Museum completed ‘The Grey Invasion – Rabbits, Land and People’, one of our first projects exploring Australia’s rabbit history. At the Royal Canberra Show, curators set up a display featuring a trap, trapper’s hoe, bait cutter and felt hat from the Museum’s then small collection of rabbit-related items, and invited people to share their stories of rabbits and rabbiting.
Over the three days of the show, many people came forward with rabbit memories, and curator Denis Shepherd later travelled to towns across south-eastern Australia to gather more stories.
One couple from Narrandera, New South Wales explained that they purchased their first new car – a Renault – with money they made from selling rabbit skins. Another man said that he was able to earn about £100 a week from selling the skins of rabbit he had trapped in the rough country around Inverell during the late 1940s. This was a significant improvement on the £5 a week, plus keep, he could earn as a jackeroo.
One man said that the freezing works where he was employed during World War Two sold rabbit meat as ‘fresh chicken’ to American soldiers stationed in Australia. A Ukrainian family related how they were astonished when they arrived in Australia to see photographs captioned as showing a rabbit ‘plague’. They saw them as ‘so much food running around’ and told how all the rabbits in the Moscow zoo had recently been stolen and eaten.
A professional rabbiter told of working in one paddock for seven years without managing to rid it of rabbits, while another explained how he ensured his continued employment by taking a few days off work whenever rabbits were giving birth. And one man insisted that his grandfather’s method for killing rabbits in rocky country involved peppered carrots – any rabbit that ate the bait would sneeze so much it would smash its head on a rock.
Read some of these stories below:
Rabbits in the Museum’s collection
Some of the visitors at the 1992 Canberra show offered to donate rabbit related objects to the National Museum and some of these items are now part of our National Historical Collection. Explore the pages on this website to learn more about these collections, or visit the Museum to see our rabbits exhibit in the Old New Land gallery.