The Story of the Rabbit in the First World War
This book tells the stories of rabbit keepers and their rabbits during the Great War. It was published on Armistice Day 2018, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the end of World War 1.
The Fancy Goes to War
At the onset of the War, younger rabbit fanciers enlisted. Older fanciers struggled to keep rabbit shows going, and started breeding rabbits for meat. As German U-boats sank merchant ships, home food production had to increase. The Government promoted rabbit breeding, and the Food Production Department joined with fanciers in the National Rabbit Scheme. A Rabbit Club was set up at Buckingham Palace. The King was the President, and Princess Mary a member.
Feeding Rabbits in Wartime
The rabbit journal, Fur and Feather, continued to report the rabbit shows, and keep fanciers up to date with regulations on feeding their rabbits. It was an offence under the Defence of the Realm Act to feed human food to animals, punished by imprisonment. There were grave shortages of hay and oats, which were sent to feed Army Horses in France. Fanciers had difficulty finding substitutes.
Rabbits for Food
Many new rabbit keepers, outside the Fancy, took up breeding rabbits for food. However, standards of hygiene were poor. Wood for hutches was scarce. Among the unfortunate crossbred rabbits raised for the table, coccidiosis reached epidemic proportions. Hundreds of rabbits died.
Helping “the Boys” Start Up Again
When fanciers returned from the Armed Forces after the War, those left at home set up a scheme to provide them with free rabbits. Prices of rabbits had soared, due to the demand for breeding stock for food. However, no returning troops wanted Angoras!
Rabbits At the Front
We know that rabbits served as mascots on the Western Front. They also served in the Air Force, Navy, and in the Submarine service. Australian rabbits also served – as dinner for the troops! These made a welcome change from bully beef and hard Army biscuit.