Napoleon and the Bunnies


Napoleon was considered a great general if not perhaps a little temperamental and emotional. He was able to conquer Egypt, Belgium, Holland, much of Italy, Austria, much of Germany, Poland and Spain. At his leadership France conquered or controlled most of Western Europe by 1812. Yet during his prime, there was a battle he could not win and was forced to retreat with undue hast. He was defeated by bunnies, cute, furry, hoppy bunny rabbits, an attacked that was both relentless and adorable.


Alexandre Berthier

It was July in 1807, Napoleon had recently ended the war between the French Empire and Imperial Russia with the Treaties of Tilsit. The treaty between the two super powers rendered most of Continental Europe defenseless. To celebrate Napoleon called his Chief of Staff, Alexandre Berthier, and proposed a rabbit hunt. Berthier was to arrange it, inviting all the military elite, important people and gathering the rabbits for the hunt.


Napoleon wanted to make sure all present was impressed, so he had Berthier collect hundreds, if not thousands (history is unclear the number but most likely hundreds), of rabbits for the hunt. The were caged and under cover. At the start of the hunt, the cover was thrown back to reveal the rabbits. They were released and instead of running away as most rabbits would, these ones ran straight at Napoleon.


At first everyone laughed. Napoleon was the most powerful man in the world and these bunnies were hopping straight at him. Hilarious. It wasn’t so funny, however, when the fluffy critters started to climb up the Emperors legs and jacket. Napoleon tried to using his crop to get them off, coachmen used their whips to disperse the hoppy horde, others were doing their best to help, but to no avail. The floofy rabbits just kept coming. The man who was the leader of western Europe, the general who created brilliant campaigns, the Great Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of France was force to flee in his carriage. The bunnies continued to give chase until the carriage was out of sight.


Although we would like to think that Mother Nature had it out for Napoleon, it was not so. The explanation was much simpler. In order to gather the massive number of rabbits necessary to impress all gathered at the hunt, Berthier did not trap wild rabbits as was the custom. He scoured the countryside and bought all the domestic rabbits he could find. When the cages were opened, unlike wild rabbits, the rabbits did not scatter towards the brush to hide. Nope, these fluffy bunnies went straight for the man they thought could provide some munchies. The rabbits effectively drove the Emperor Napoleon who dominated Europe, to retreat.