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Old 02-13-2020, 04:12 PM
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Rabbits & Carrots


It seems pretty well accepted that carrots (other than the leafy part) are not a natural food for rabbits and they shouldn't be fed too much of it. (e.g. here, but all other sources I've seen seem consistent about this.) Question then is how this myth would have gotten started.

A lot of sources (e.g. here) attribute it to Bugs Bunny, and Bugs Bunny's fondness for carrots is in turn attributed to an imitation of a scene in It Happened One Night (which was a popular film in the years preceding the BB movie where the carrot theme first appeared).

However, my wife pointed out that the Rabbit character in Winnie the Pooh is also particularly fond of carrots, and that character predates Bugs Bunny carrot-loving character by 14 years.

Is it possible that the original WTP character wasn't particularly fond of carrots but was later modified to confirm with the Bugs Bunny stereotype? (I haven't read that book in decades.)

Or is there some other source for the myth?
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Old 02-13-2020, 05:20 PM
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Everything I've seen points to Bugs Bunny being the origin of this one. Never saw anything on Rabbit. It was added by Disney.

There are 113 mentions of Rabbit in Winnie-The-Pooh and All, All, All and the word Carrot doesn't appear once. In The house at Pooh Corner 199 Rabbit mentions, 0 carrots.
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Old 02-13-2020, 06:22 PM
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[Moderating]

Huh, not often that I get to move a thread INTO General Questions.

[Not moderating]

Carrots might not be particularly good for rabbits, but they probably do like them, and eat them as a part of their natural diet. All herbivores love sugary foods.
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Old 02-13-2020, 07:59 PM
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Carrots might not be particularly good for rabbits, but they probably do like them, and eat them as a part of their natural diet. All herbivores love sugary foods.
My daughter has rabbits and they love carrots. We donít give them too many but based on their reaction Iíd say they are a favourite.

I would imagine that if I let the rabbits loose in the veg patch they would be able to dig up carrots very easily.
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Old 02-13-2020, 11:30 PM
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Roger Rabbit is also seen to be fond of carrots, in the very final scene of the movie where Jessica promises to make him a carrot cake.
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Old 02-13-2020, 11:57 PM
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In Beatrix Potter's Tale of Peter Rabbit (1902), Peter is shown eating what look like carrots, but the text indicates they're radishes.

In Disney's version of the story, Country Boy (1935), Peter is shown wolfing down what are definitely carrots. This predates Bugs Bunny's first appearance in 1940.
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Old 02-14-2020, 12:08 AM
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Roger Rabbit is also seen to be fond of carrots, in the very final scene of the movie where Jessica promises to make him a carrot cake.
Which postdates Bugs Bunny by 48 years.
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Old 02-14-2020, 12:16 AM
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Puppy stealing a carrot from two rabbits, Tuck's Postcard, 1909.
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Old 02-14-2020, 12:17 AM
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I would imagine that they would be more likely to eat the tops than the roots, just because they're easier to access.
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Old 02-14-2020, 01:56 AM
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I recall reading that Popeye's fondness of spinach was meant to encourage children to eat vegetables. If that's true, maybe there was a similar idea behind Bugs Bunny and his carrots.
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Old 02-14-2020, 02:11 AM
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IIRC the RAF publicly attributed their aerial victories over Germans to carrots granting pilots improved vision rather than reveal that new-fangled thing called RADAR.

Last edited by RioRico; 02-14-2020 at 02:14 AM.
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Old 02-14-2020, 09:39 AM
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Originally Posted by Fotheringay-Phipps View Post
It seems pretty well accepted that carrots (other than the leafy part) are not a natural food for rabbits and they shouldn't be fed too much of it. (e.g. here, but all other sources I've seen seem consistent about this.) Question then is how this myth would have gotten started.
I wouldn't say that rabbits liking carrots is a "myth" or that they are not a "natural food" just because wild rabbits living in places away from people wouldn't encounter them. The European Rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus, the source of domestic rabbits, does in fact include roots in the diet, and root vegetables when they have access to them. Horses like sugar cubes even though they are not a part of a natural diet. I would say it's a myth that carrots should be a major part of a rabbit's diet.

Rabbits no doubt like carrots because of their sugar content. The problem is that people give them too much. It's like feeding people on a diet consisting mostly of chocolate chip cookies and potato chips. So a lot of websites concerned with care of rabbits will try to counter the stereotype of rabbits eating a lot of carrots.

Although I gave a couple examples of rabbits shown liking carrots pre-Bugs Bunny, they are often shown eating other vegetables as well. I wouldn't be surprised if Bugs were the source of the idea that rabbits eat carrots above all else.
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Old 02-14-2020, 09:49 AM
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Originally Posted by Colibri View Post
I wouldn't say that rabbits liking carrots is a "myth" or that they are not a "natural food" just because wild rabbits living in places away from people wouldn't encounter them. The European Rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus, the source of domestic rabbits, does in fact include roots in the diet, and root vegetables when they have access to them.
Also, wild precursors of carrots are much smaller and less tasty/sugary.

I am not an Oryctolagusollogist, but suspect an occasional carrot treat is fine. And not just for herbivores - Pluto the spaniel is fond of munching on carrots.
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Old 02-14-2020, 10:05 AM
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Originally Posted by Colibri View Post
I wouldn't say that rabbits liking carrots is a "myth" or that they are not a "natural food" just because wild rabbits living in places away from people wouldn't encounter them. The European Rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus, the source of domestic rabbits, does in fact include roots in the diet, and root vegetables when they have access to them.
If you look at the first link cited in the OP it says: "Rabbits don't naturally eat root vegetables/fruit", and I've seen numerous other cites saying essentially the same (e.g. here). Apparently they do like them, but it's not a natural food for them.
Quote:
I would say it's a myth that carrots should be a major part of a rabbit's diet.
The thread was about the notion that carrots are a particular rabbit food. Sorry if this was unclear.
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Old 02-14-2020, 10:26 AM
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Of note, the earliest cite in this thread, the picture with the puppy and rabbits, also has lettuce (or at least, some sort of green) in the rabbit coop. That's consistent with "rabbits like vegetables in general", rather than "rabbits like carrots specifically".

And long after Bugs, but the rabbits in Watership Down list both lettuce and carrots as examples of "flayrah", literally "food of princes", which they'll happily eat whenever they get a chance, but are not a routine part of their diet.
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Old 02-14-2020, 10:34 AM
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According to Elmer J. Fudd, "Wabbits wuv cawwots."
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Old 02-14-2020, 10:41 AM
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Originally Posted by Fotheringay-Phipps View Post
If you look at the first link cited in the OP it says: "Rabbits don't naturally eat root vegetables/fruit", and I've seen numerous other cites saying essentially the same (e.g. here).
Yes, I looked at the link. I don't consider the RSPCA (or the Washington Post) to be an authoritative cite on rabbit diet and natural history. The extent to which the statement is true depends on how exactly you define "naturally." Rabbits don't "naturally" eat carrots because they don't occur in their "natural" habitat, although you could argue that vegetable farms are now part of their natural habitat. They (and other sites making such statements) are overstating the case in order to make a point, that people feed rabbits more carrots than they should.

A better, more authoritative source is be Animal Diversity Web:

Quote:
Oryctolagus cuniculus is a generalized herbivore, eating a diverse diet of grasses, leaves, buds, tree bark, and roots. Gardeners know them to eat lettuce, cabbage, root vegetables, and grains.

Plant Foods: leaves; roots and tubers; wood, bark, or stems seeds, grains, and nuts fruit flowers
Bolding mine.

Quote:
Apparently they do like them, but it's not a natural food for them.The thread was about the notion that carrots are a particular rabbit food. Sorry if this was unclear.
I'm just clarifying in what sense carrots aren't a "natural" rabbit food. They may be a favorite food even if it's not natural. It's not a myth that horses like sugar cubes, even though they're not a "natural" horse food.
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Old 02-14-2020, 11:05 AM
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Interesting. I guess rabbits - carrots is sort of like tuna - cats. Do they make carrot flavored rabbit treats (such that they have a long shelf-life)? I know they do not make mouse flavored cat food.
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Old 02-14-2020, 11:16 AM
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Interesting. I guess rabbits - carrots is sort of like tuna - cats. Do they make carrot flavored rabbit treats (such that they have a long shelf-life)? I know they do not make mouse flavored cat food.
I’ve had various rodent pets; hamsters, gerbils, mice. They were fond of yogurt drops which were a treat (not a staple of the diet!) and were sweet, so I assumed rabbits would like them too.

They do, and good grief I found carrot-flavored ones:
https://www.chewy.com/wild-harvest-y...-pig/dp/206286

Last edited by Atamasama; 02-14-2020 at 11:16 AM.
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Old 02-14-2020, 11:31 AM
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Interesting. I guess rabbits - carrots is sort of like tuna - cats.
I was going to make that analogy. Tuna and milk are stereotypical favorite foods of cats, even though they are not part of a "natural" diet. (Adult cats are even lactose-intolerant.)


Quote:
I know they do not make mouse flavored cat food.
One of the little jokes in Once Upon a Time...In Hollywood was that Brad Pitt fed his dog raccoon and rat flavored canned dog food.
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Old 02-14-2020, 11:51 AM
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I've heard basically the same thing in regards to chimps or monkeys and bananas. They will eat them and do love them but it's almost like giving them a candy bar or something.
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Old 02-14-2020, 01:44 PM
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I had a detailed post and managed to lose it, so I'm just going to address this in summary form.

The association of rabbits with carrots long predates Bugs Bunny. Poisoned carrots were used as bait for rabbits in 19th century Australia. Early 20th century stories and pictures of rabbits emphasize their fondness for carrots. I even found a 1915 article about farming rabbits that emphasizes the importance of carrots as a rabbit food.
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Old 02-14-2020, 02:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
[Moderating]

Huh, not often that I get to move a thread INTO General Questions.

[Not moderating]

Carrots might not be particularly good for rabbits, but they probably do like them, and eat them as a part of their natural diet. All herbivores love sugary foods.
I can attest first hand that Buttercup the Bunny does indeed love carrots, they are a close second to dried apples. They are, however, not a part of his natural diet. Rabbits are grazers, and should eat primarily grass. Timothy hay is the recommended food for rabbits.
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Old 02-14-2020, 02:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Fotheringay-Phipps View Post
It seems pretty well accepted that carrots (other than the leafy part) are not a natural food for rabbits and they shouldn't be fed too much of it.
My experience with human beings (including myself) suggests that fondness for a food and "shouldn't be fed too much of it" are not mutually exclusive.
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Old 02-14-2020, 03:42 PM
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Beatrix Potter's books have been popular since they appeared in the early 1900s. As Colibri mentions in Peter Rabbit is shown eating radishes that look a lot like carrots. In her Story of a Fierce Bad Rabbit, https://www.gutenberg.org/files/4526...-h/45265-h.htm
a nice gentle rabbit is given a carrot by his mother
https://www.gutenberg.org/files/4526...mages/i013.jpg
and the bad rabbit steals it:
https://www.gutenberg.org/files/4526...mages/i019.jpg

Potter supposedly used real animals for models for her illustrations but I have to say that the bad rabbit looks more human than animal

Last edited by gkster; 02-14-2020 at 03:43 PM.
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Old 02-14-2020, 04:32 PM
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Next thing you’re going to tell me is that mice don’t have a primarily cheese-based diet and an elephant can’t sustain itself indefinitely on peanuts.

And did my dog die because I only put bones in its food bowl?
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Old 02-14-2020, 05:04 PM
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Next thing youíre going to tell me is that mice donít have a primarily cheese-based diet and an elephant canít sustain itself indefinitely on peanuts.

And did my dog die because I only put bones in its food bowl?
Actually, I think before the advent of commercial dog food, the house dog was primarily given kitchen scraps, so bones may have been a main food source back then, which may explain where that idea came from.
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Old 02-20-2020, 09:17 PM
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We used to give our rabbit untrimmed whole carrots and it was fun to watch her "inhale" the entire vegetable, starting with the green top. She'd stay in one spot and pull the carrot bit by bit onto her mouth until she got to the pointed end.

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Old 02-20-2020, 11:39 PM
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Go to Google books. Type in 'Rabbits' + 'Carrots' in the search bar and select 19th century. You'll find a reasonable number of 19th century references that carrots are a typical / preferred / favourite rabbit food, including in various rabbit-keeping manuals.

Carrots certainly don't dominate in 19th century pictures of rabbits, but they are there. It comes into its own when rabbits are anthropomorphised, so carrots become a handy food prop (in every sense).
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Old 02-21-2020, 10:53 AM
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Originally Posted by Spectre of Pithecanthropus View Post
We used to give our rabbit untrimmed whole carrots and it was fun to watch her "inhale" the entire vegetable, starting with the green top. She'd stay in one spot and pull the carrot bit by bit onto her mouth until she got to the pointed end.

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I'll send my younger two out in the spring to pick dandelion flowers for the rabbit. It is very amusing to watch him eat them stem end first.
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