Half a century ago, Belgian Zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans first codified cryptozoology in his book On the Track of Unknown Animals.

The Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ) are still on the track, and have been since 1992. But as if chasing unknown animals wasn't enough, we are involved in education, conservation, and good old-fashioned natural history! We already have three journals, the largest cryptozoological publishing house in the world, CFZtv, and the largest cryptozoological conference in the English-speaking world, but in January 2009 someone suggested that we started a daily online magazine! The CFZ bloggo is a collaborative effort by a coalition of members, friends, and supporters of the CFZ, and covers all the subjects with which we deal, with a smattering of music, high strangeness and surreal humour to make up the mix.

It is edited by CFZ Director Jon Downes, and subbed by the lovely Lizzy Bitakara'mire (formerly Clancy), scourge of improper syntax. The daily newsblog is edited by Corinna Downes, head administratrix of the CFZ, and the indexing is done by Lee Canty and Kathy Imbriani. There is regular news from the CFZ Mystery Cat study group, and regular fortean bird news from 'The Watcher of the Skies'. Regular bloggers include Dr Karl Shuker, Dale Drinnon, Richard Muirhead and Richard Freeman.The CFZ bloggo is updated daily, and there's nothing quite like it anywhere else. Come and join us...

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

JON DOWNES: Why Black Rabbits may be more important than you might otherwise think..

I read Gavin Lloyd Wilson's article about black rabbits with particular interest. It has been a subject that has been lurking at the back of my cryptozoological consciousness for some years. According to accepted wisdom, although rabbits were once native to Britain in the middle Pleistocene - as written by Sir Christopher Lever in his latest edition of The Naturalized Animals of Britain and Ireland (2009) - and although they were kept in Roman times when they were well known as a (somewhat revolting) delicacy called laurices, they were not mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 and appear not to have been released into the wild in this country until some time after the Norman Conquest.

Some years ago a friend of mine - the late Jane Bradley, the original CFZ art director who was tragically killed in 1995 - showed me a book on Cornish legends that had belonged to an elderly relative. In it was a claim that the rabbit had been a sacred animal to the Cornish tin miners and that like so much else of their lore it had been directly inherited from the Phoenician tin traders who plied their trade between their homeland in the Middle East and the south-western peninsular of these islands. Jane told me that her father had made somewhat of a study of such things and believed that the Phoenicians had brought wild rabbits from their homeland and introduced them to the UK at least 1,000 years before they were introduced by the Normans. He went on to say that the rabbits in the wilds of Cornwall were smaller and darker than those elsewhere in the country.

Mr Bradley is also long dead, I cannot remember the name of the folklore book and although over the years I have thought vaguely about this conundrum, I would be lying to say that I had given it any serious thought whatsoever.

Some years ago when Corinna and I went to Jersey on a sacred pilgrimage to Les Augres Manor we found a Channel Islands guidebook that claimed that the rabbits of one of the islands (I think Alderney, but as I can't find the guidebook now it is only a supposition) tend to be smaller and darker than those on the mainland, but whether there are any significant links between the Channel Islands and the Phoenician tin traders of the first millenium I know not.

Is this all just a tissue of nonsense that I got at third-hand from a long dead alcoholic, or could there actually be some small grain of truth? I give this story to you of the bloggo readership as it stands; one of those mildly intriguing little stories that has been floating around the intersteces of my mental filing cabinet for the last 20-odd years. Make of it what you will, and if anyone out there has anything to add to this story please do not hesitate to get in touch.


Davey-C said...

You scuwwy wabbit!

C-E C said...

With regard to your comment about rabbits beign released sometime after their introduction by Normans, rabbits are thought to have been only introduced (officially, anyway) into the wild in as late as the nineteenth century, believe it or not. At least that's what Stephen Fry said on QI once.

Syd said...

Doing a quick Google, I came across this article regarding rabbits in Cornwall.

The author comments that "Rabbits were probably in Cornwall before the last Ice Age but were then killed out by the
cold." He goes on to remark that "The presence of rabbit bones in Romano-British remains suggests that they were brought into Britain before 450 AD."

It would seem that as is normal, the producers of the TV show seen by C-E C, did not bother doing their home work and fed Mr.Fry and the TV viewers a load of old bull excrement, but what is new there.