Unpacking the tall tale.
Rabbits are a byword for sex. It’s odd—why are these cute, whiskery, carrot-chomping pets synonymous with uncontrollable lust? How horny is Bugs really? Do bunnies really go at it like bunnies?
Rabbits have something about them. Different cultures independently associated them with fertility, seemingly due to two traits: they have a lot of babies and they frolic about in springtime, a happy, sexy-seeming combination.
Fuzzy-tummied fertility symbolsRabbits turn up in ancient Greek and Roman writing as a symbol of fertility—Aristotle and Pliny the Elder both mentioned them being the most fertile animals of all. In the Old Testament, rabbits were seen as unclean due to chewing cud but not having cloven hooves, and these two meanings led to them sometimes being used in art to symbolize uncontrolled lust – in a ‘disgraceful, hell-bound sin’ kind of way rather than a fun one. In Celtic times the rabbit was associated with the fertility goddess Eostre, which eventually led – via a fairly convoluted route – to the Easter Bunny. The Aztec god of fertility was named Ometotchtli, meaning ‘two rabbits’, represented as a pair of bunnies going for it.
Bunnies and bawdinessThe 13th-century word for rabbit was ‘coney’, rhyming with honey and derived from the Latin word cuniculus. However, it was similar enough to another word—see you next Tuesday—that it became a euphemism, turning up in plays by Shakespeare and Marlowe in ways that pretty much read as single entendres to modern eyes. Marlowe’s “The whore stands to be bought for each mans mony, / And seekes vild wealth by selling of her Cony”, from Ovid’s Elegies, doesn’t seem like wordplay at all anymore—it just reads as kind of unpleasant—but was probably good at the time. The use of the word coney for a rabbit fell out of use, mainly due to its euphemistic purposing being used more and more, but the association remained.
Rabbits’ rampant reputationIn the 20th century the expression ‘fucking like rabbits’ entered the lexicon to mean having an enormous amount of sex. Hugh Hefner chose a bunny as the Playboy symbol because of its “humorous sexual connotations”, saying it was “a fresh animal, shy, vivacious, jumping, sexy”. The most famous vibrator in the world owes its name as much to its shape as its zoological connotations, but its inventors must have been really pleased with themselves.
The reality of rabbitsSo do rabbits really, uh, go at it like rabbits? Kind of. More than having massive amounts of sex, rabbits have massive amounts of babies. While a lot of mammals have specific breeding seasons, rabbits are happy to breed all year long, and with females reaching sexual maturity at six months and living up to twelve years, gestation lasting only thirty days, litters including up to twelve babies and rabbits comfortably having nine litters a year, one female rabbit can give birth to up to a thousand babies. Rabbits are capable of superfetation, where an egg can be fertilized while another fetus is still developing in the uterus. This supposedly led some medieval scholars to think rabbits were capable of virgin births.
On top of all that, rabbits are also what are known as induced ovulators, which means rather than adhering to an ovulation cycle, ovulation is stimulated by intercourse, leading to very high hit rates in terms of impregnation.
However, a rabbit-on-rabbit session tends to only last about 20 seconds. That’s a pretty brief experience, especially when pregnancy is guaranteed, so all in all there are probably better animals to fuck like.