Hopping Down the Bunny Trail
Spring has sprung, which means it's time once again for that usually shy and secretive mammal the rabbit to endure a brief, yet intense period in the spotlight. Rabbits have since ancient times been considered symbols of hope, life, and renewal, particularly during springtime when fertility levels are highest. Then along came Easter and with it a whole new level of responsibility for the rabbit.
It was actually a European hare, or brown hare, that held the impressive credentials of being the original Easter Bunny, according to a Germanic legend dating back to the 1500s. The ritual of children preparing nests and eagerly anticipating the arrival of Oster Haas (Easter hare), who delivers brightly colored eggs on Easter morning, has taken place in German-speaking countries for centuries. In the United States the cottontail rabbit has been designated as the official deliverer of Easter treats. This is easily evidenced by the lyrics in popular holiday tunes such as "Peter Cottontail," and the presence of that signature fluffy white behind in every commercial rendition of the Easter Rabbit imaginable.
How are the Easter Hare (brown hare) and the Easter Rabbit (cottontail rabbit) equipped for the daunting tasks associated with their profession? Let's take a closer look at the unique features of these members of the family Leporidae to find out.