Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day
Today's Musings, History & Folklore
"To rabbits, everything unknown is dangerous. The first reaction is to startle, the second to bolt."
~Richard Adams, Watership Down, 1972
In the language of lagomorphs (which includes rabbits, hares, and pikas), non-startled happy rabbits will perform a maneuver called a "binky." Rabbits will pop up into the air in excitement and twist their bodies into any number of acrobatic feats. Binkies are usually followed by running madly around in circles. A group of rabbits is known as a colony, nest or a fluffle (or, occasionally, a warren, though this more commonly refers to where the rabbits live). A group of baby rabbits produced from a single mating is referred to as a litter, and a group of domestic rabbits living together is sometimes called a herd. If you're more likely to see the rabbits wilder cousin, the jackrabbit or hare, a group of these called a "drove". 🐇
Today is International Rabbit Day!
International Rabbit Day seeks to promote healthy, caring environments for rabbits that are raised as pets, and for those living in the wild.
Hares and rabbits are both in the family Leporidae, but are separate species. Hares are larger than rabbits, and do not burrow, but make nests in the grass.
Until the 18th century rabbits were called coneys, which gave the famous amusement park in New York, Coney Island (Rabbit Island) its name.
Rabbits and hares even have a patron saint, St. Melangell of Wales.
In the early 7th century, Melangell (Monacella, in Latin), the young daughter of King Jowchel of Ireland, fled an arranged marriage and went to Wales to live a quiet life as a hermitess in devotion to God. She continued this way in the Tanat Valley in Powys in north-central Wales, until one day in A.D. 604, Brochwel Yscythrog, Prince of Powys, went hunting with his hounds in a place called Pennant. A frightened hare found Melangell and took refuge under her cloak. When the prince and the hounds caught up, the hare was said to be boldly looking out from under the hem of Melangell's robe, who was in divine meditation. The hounds kept their distance and refused to pursue the hare, despite having been urged on by the huntsmen.
Impressed by Melangell’s beauty and piety, Prince Ysgythrog granted her the land in the valley as her sanctuary; there she founded a community of women and served as their abbess for 37 years.
Agnes Stonehewer states in her 1876 ‘The Legend of St. Monacella’, that until the seventeenth century no one would kill a hare in the parish. She states, "If a hare should be pursued, it was believed that if anyone cried 'God and St. Monacella be with thee!' it was sure to escape.’"
St. Melangell remains the patron saint of hares, rabbits, small animals and the natural environment.
For a completely rabbit-free recipe, we offer variations on Welsh Rarebit (originally Welsh Rabbit), a dish like mock-turtle soup, completely devoid of its namesake ingredient.
Welsh Rarebit is an 18th century British dish made with a savoury sauce of melted cheese and other ingredients served hot, after being poured over slices of toasted bread, or in a chafing dish like a fondue, accompanied by sliced, toasted bread.
Welsh rarebit is typically made with Cheddar cheese.
The Art of Cookery (first published in 1747 and last published in 1843), gives recipes for variations, such as "Scotch rabbit", "Welch rabbit" and two versions of "English rabbit".
Scotch rabbit - toast the bread very nicely on both sides, butter it, cut a slice of cheese about as big as the bread, toast it on both sides, and lay it on the bread.
Welch rabbit - toast the bread on both sides, then toast the cheese on one side, lay it on the toast, and with a hot iron brown the other side. You may rub it over with mustard.
English rabbit - toast the bread brown on both sides, lay it in a plate before the fire, pour a glass of red wine over it, and let it soak the wine up. Then cut some cheese very thin and lay it very thick over the bread, put it in a tin oven before the fire, and it will be toasted and browned presently. Serve it away hot.
Served with an egg on top, a Welsh rarebit is known as a buck rabbit or a golden buck.
Kentucky Hot Brown is a variant that adds turkey and bacon to the traditional rarebit recipe.
And Welsh rarebit blended with tomato (or tomato soup) is known as Blushing Bunny.
For an interesting site detailing rabbit behaviors, click the portrait of St. Melangell by artist Jemima Jamison.
For a video of the "Startled Rabbits" dance performed by the Wessex Scottish Country Dance group, in 2011, see below.