Easter Bunny Origins: Rabbit History, Habitats and Habits

Where the Easter Bunny origins came from, including an up-close look at rabbit history, habitats and habits.

| March/April 1987

"Here comes Peter Cottontail,
hoppin' down the bunny trail, hippity hoppin',
Easter's on its way."

Easter Bunny Origins: Rabbit History, Habitats and Habits

Here comes Peter Cottontail . . . yes, indeed. You know it's that springtime of year again when you hear children (and children's TV and radio programs) belting out the old familiar ditty.

"Peter Cottontail" was written by Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins back in 1949. In the 38 years since, the loony little tune has become as musically evocative of the nonsectarian aspects of the Easter season as "Here Comes Santa Claus" is of Christmas with the Easter rabbit now almost (but not quite) as prominent as jolly old Saint Nick himself.

Bringin' ev'ry girl and boy, baskets full of Easter joy, things to make your Easter bright and gay. 

How in heaven's name—have you ever wondered?—did a concept as preposterous as an egg-laying rabbit (a male rabbit at that) ever manage to become associated with one of the most sacred of all Western religious observances?

Thereupon, as they say, hangs a tale. The story of Peter Cottontail had its beginnings in the old days-the very old days. Back then, centuries before the birth of Christ, the forerunner of the Easter bunny was already a celebrated figure in the springtime fertility rites of the ancient Celts. But this prototypical Easter bunny wasn't a cottontail rabbit at all (they didn't exist in Europe in those days), no sir; he was a European hare. Rabbit, hare—so what's it matter, you ask? After all, they're both furry little critters that hop and chew and wiggle their noses. Granted, it's a hare-splitting distinction, but for those of us interested in the nature of all things natural, it remains a distinction worth clarifying.

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