German: Kaninchen; Hase
Iberian peninsula and North Africa
14th century, from Old French or Flemish. Order of lagomorphs. Vegetarian mammal.
Rabbit is the most common small game animal, with both wild and domesticated varieties. Rabbits generally weigh between 3 and 5 pounds, and are sold whole or in pieces. They are best when young. Their relative the hare is a larger animal that can weigh up to 12 pounds. With its fur coat, pink eyes and long ears, rabbit sold in the market is the domestic variety. A symbol of fecundity, the female can give birth to a hundred young in the space of 18 months. In the kitchen, rabbit brings to mind stews simmering slowly on the corner of the fire, with pearl onions, mushrooms, cream and just a touch of lemon.
Rabbit has been an important food in Europe for centuries, figuring prominently in traditional recipes from numerous countries. Because it reproduces so prolifically, it came to be regarded as a fertility symbol and so became a symbol of Easter and the spring season of rebirth.
In medieval Britain, hunting laws restricted the hunting of deer and large game animals to royalty and the aristocracy. The peasant classes were allowed to hunt only small game animals such as rabbits and hares. Thus these animals became a staple source of meat for the common folk.
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