Monday, March 3, 2014

#154 Totally Irrelevant

As you can tell, I spend a lot of time trying to balance out real-life worldly events - which can be incredibly depressing - with noodling forays into subjects that are totally unimportant. Take bunnies for instance.  I was surprised to see bunny tracks in our driveway in Kingfield this past month - had never seen them up there before. It suddenly occurred to me that we see fox in the field quite a bit, and where there are fox there are most likely bunnies. I then realized that I know absolutely nothing about these critters, so I went on another escapist research mission.

The first thing I learned was that using the word bunny is technically incorrect. These cute little furballs are actually either rabbits or hares. Bunny is slang and an endearment used to describe a baby rabbit or hare, or a beginner female skier. Below is everything I could find out about how we started using the word bunny.

I then learned that, in Maine and New England, we see either New England Cottontails or Snowshoe Hares. What's the difference I inquired as I'm sure you are at this very moment?

First of all, and if you are going to be an armchair rabbit or hare expert, you need to know that baby-rabbits are called kittens, while baby-hares are called leverets (Middle English, from Anglo-French, hare skin, from levere, levre hare, from Latin lepor-, lepu. First Known Use: 15th century).

Next, you need to know your rabbits. The New England Cottontail:
• is a true rabbit
• stays brown all year
• gives birth to blind, hairless kittens that require considerable attention during
  their first two weeks of life
• does not live north of the Portland area
• has been recently listed as a state endangered species and is a candidate for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act too. Loss of habitat has caused a steep decline in New England cottontail populations throughout their range in New England and New York.

And finally, you need to know the difference between the above and the Snowshoe Hare which:
• is not a rabbit
• is larger than the cottontail with larger body, longer ears, and much longer feet
• turns white during the winter
• is born fully furred with their eyes open, and can hop about within hours of their birth.

So there you have it, everything you need to be totally knowledgeable about something totally irrelevant.

Totally Irrelevant • 8"x 8" gouache and graphite framed to 12" x 12" • $200

For more info on Maine's rabbits and hares, check out this web site:

Below is everything I could find about the word bunny. 

Origin: Early 17th century (originally used as a term of endearment to a person, later as a pet name for a rabbit): from dialect bun 'squirrel, rabbit', also used as a term of endearment, of unknown origin.

Another origin theory: The origin of that "bun," unfortunately, is a bit of a mystery. It is possible, although not considered likely, that a perceived resemblance of the bunny's tail to the bakery sort of bun explains the term. If true, this would also tie the rabbit sort of "bun" to the "bun" of hair worn on the back of the head in some hairstyles. Incidentally, the probable origin of this kind of "bun" is not very appetizing, being the Old French "bugne," meaning "swelling" or "boil."

Another possible source for the rabbit sort of "bun" is the Gaelic word "bun," which means "stump or root." This "bun" fits well with the stumpy tail of the rabbit, and is, in fact, the source of the use of "buns" to mean the human buttocks. But neither this stumpy "bun" nor the possible "bakery" derivation explains why the term was formerly also applied to squirrels, which, of course, sport luxurious tails. 

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