Special Australian Hybrid Pygmy Rabbits
In Chinese culture, rabbits occupy a fairly prominent position. Among other things, they are one of the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac, with all the associated beliefs, connotations, traditional wisdom, etc.
Rabbits generally occupy a less prominent place in most Western cultures, although they are associated with the Christian holiday of Easter — at least in North America — but in more of a secular than a religious context. For example, Easter bunnies made of chocolate go on sale, and form. a common theme of decorations in retail stores, hotels and restaurants during the Easter season each Spring.
Years ago, when our children were small, my wife made a business trip to the Spring GuangzhouTrade Fair. On the way to the train station for the return journey to Hong Kong she came across a street vendor with a box full of very cute, lovable little baby white rabbits.
Above the box of rabbits was a hand-written sign in Chinese characters which proclaimed that these little cuties were Australian pygmy rabbits which were already fully grown. The vendor claimed they were a brand new hybrid breed of rabbits, and an ideal pet for apartment-dwellers. This sounded very cool, and my wife bought two to bring back to Hong Kong. Easter was just around the corner.
The purchase price included a small wire cage, so my wife proceeded happily on to the train station with her newly acquired pygmy rabbits in the cage, under her arm. She boarded the train without incident. Soon after the train was underway, the conductor walked through the car, checking tickets.
After my wife presented her ticket, the conductor asked for the rabbits’ tickets. A lively and lengthy discussion ensued, with my wife vigorously questioning the need for baby rabbits to pay the same fare as fully grown humans, the conductor insisting this was required as a matter of policy, and so on and so forth, back and forth, forth and back, as the train sped through the Guangdong countryside, clacketa, clacketa, clacketa.
The debate on hare fares was deadlocked for quite some time, but eventually, the conductor pulled rank and threatened to prevent my wife and the two rabbits from leaving the train as it approached the destination. Little did the two Australian pygmies know, they were nearly the subject of an international incident.
My wife finally relented and paid full fare for the two rabbits, significantly raising the entry costs of our family’s arrival into the community of rabbit owners. She arrived home to a heroine’s welcome, and we all set about welcoming the new pets into our home. The kids were excited. So was I.
This was before the internet age, or we no doubt would have immediately engaged in googling “pygmy rabbit, Australian” and various related search items, to find out more about the care and feeding of these rare new hybrids.
Instead we built a nice little cage as a home for them, and placed it on our patio, at the edge of the garden, and put plenty of lettuce and carrots as well as a supply of water in there, and these cute little hybrids did what all rabbits would do in such circumstances: which is to engage in an active, almost constant program of inputs (eating, of lettuce mainly) as well as an equally impressive volume of outputs (you get the picture), with the latter requiring a fair amount of clean-up.
For the first day or so, my wife and I consoled ourselves that, since the tiny rabbits were already fully grown, the clean-up activities would remain manageable and not become too tiresome. In other words, no big deal.
But then a funny thing happened. With each passing day, and each passing head of lettuce, the rabbits were growing bigger and bigger, very quickly, as if on steroids.
When they first arrived, as high-priced train passengers from Guangzhou, they were the size of a pair of potatoes. Within a couple of days, they were as big as twin mangos; and soon afterwards, the size of porky papayas. Before we knew it, our hybrid pygmies were nearly as big as watermelons.
Obviously, the rabbit vendor by the train station was a very clever chap. Whether or not he knew that Easter was coming up shortly was unclear, but he had a well-attuned marketing sense, and we took the bait: hook, line and sinker. And lettuce.