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Rabbits in History

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At the time the coney was introduced into Great Britain (eleventh century), they were mostly kept in warrens, huge open enclosures where coneys lived almost wild. People feared that they might not survive outside in the winter so a nucleus breeding stock was kept in hutches. These were called Clapper Coneys. From among the clapper coneys some were kept as pets, even in those hard, hungry and practical days. The pets were called Sweethearts - isn't that delightful!

The word rabbit was originally the name for a baby coney, but became used for the adult quite recently. This is why we don't have one defined name for a baby rabbit now, but must steal Kitten or some such from other animals.

Xenophon uses only the word 'lagos',"hare", in the "Cynegeticus". He says there are two types of this animal, though; I don't know if he means to include rabbits or not. The earliest reference I know to 'rabbit' (kuniklos) comes from the historian Polybius, writing in the second century BC -- about 250 years after Xenophon. According to the Oxford Latin Dictionary the Latin word 'cuniculus' is simply a transliteration of the Greek kuniklos. In modern Greek, anyway, a hare is still a lagos (though I see you transcribed it as 'logos'), and a rabbit is a 'kouneli', presumably from kuniklos.

See Also: The History of Easter


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