After yesterday’s post about the Hairy Vikings/Hairy Bikers cooking clip EllaDee and I ended up in conversation about cooking rabbits.
The lovely Jason at one of my local bakeries does an amazing rabbit pie, so amazing in fact, that after lunch a while ago I was inspired to go to the local butcher and ask for a rabbit to make into my own stew.
I remember when that very shop used to have rabbits hanging up for a few dollars apiece, (no, it wasn’t that long ago!), so you can imagine what a shock it was when he said he could get one in for me but he didn’t keep them in stock because they were so expensive.
Rabbits? Expensive? What the!?
When we first moved into this house years ago the rabbits were so numerous that even our killer dog gave up worrying about them. They could pop through the fence and graze the grass in his run, right under his nose and it wasn’t worth the effort of getting up to see them off, another one would be back there chomping away before he even sat down again! His energy was far better spent on neighbours cats and unobservant bike riders.*
Their numbers are greatly reduced now but, quite frankly, I could probably go out and hit a few with my car this evening if I was so inclined. Telling the family that we are having Roadkill stew for dinner doesn’t have the same kind of warm feeling that calling it Rabbit stew does though… 😉
Since the first few breeding pairs were irresponsibly released in 1859 rabbits have become a huge problem in Australia. Their numbers rapidly reached plague proportions and they did immense damage to vast tracts of land.
According to the Department of Primary Industries there were 10 billion rabbits in Australia in 1926. That means 24 pairs turned into ten billion in just over 50 years.
In the early 1950’s Myxomatosis killed 99.8% of rabbits but, of course, the survivors eventually developed resistance to it. Unfortunately, by 1990 their numbers were back up to 600 million again. (I would love to know how they counted the little buggers though 😉 )
During the Great Depression in the 1930’s underground mutton was very popular with a lot of people, and the fact that it was freely available probably kept many impoverished farmers and their families alive. I bet they never ate rabbit for enjoyment again though….
It got me thinking, how can a feral pest be so expensive to farm for eating?
Naturally, I had to have a look for some rabbity tales of old and found the picture below of a boundary rider inspecting the rabbit-proof fence in Western Australia.
This fence was made in three parts and when it was finished in 1907 it was thousands of miles long, and the longest unbroken fence in the world. No matter how much work was put into maintaining this fence it was no surprise that rabbits still managed to infest the entire country.
I guess one reason for the eating bunnies being so expensive these days might be that keeping the manky wild rabbits away from the soon-to-be-devoured bunnies might be harder than we think!
*Fortunately, (not for the rabbits though) calicivirus was an effective weapon against them, and after its accidental escape from quarantine in the early 90’s infected rabbits around much of Australia. We noticed a rapid decline in the amount of rabbits here, although now they are starting to make a comeback. 😦
Other rabbit control measures are still being taken but sadly there is too much space here, and too many rabbits, for us to ever be able to get rid of them.