The Unauthorized Biography of the Easter Bunny
The Easter Bunny is a beloved springtime character, but look deeper and you’ll realize nobody gives away that much chocolate unless they’re hiding something.
KEVIN LAMARQUE/Reuters /Landov
He Can’t Even Cover the Whole World!
Say what you will about Santa Claus, but at least he’s delivering presents the world over. The shiftless Easter Bunny outsources egg and candy distribution in various parts of the globe. Swiss children have to make do with a cuckoo, rendering Easter no more special than a common clock. In various other cultures, kids have to be content with an Easter stork, fox, or rooster.
He’s a German Sleeper Agent!
The sneakiest spies lie low and work themselves into the fabric of a community before striking. By that standard, the Easter Bunny may well be the most successful German spy of all time. The suspicious bunny traces his roots back to a 16th-century German character named Osterhase. When German immigrants came to North America en masse in the 18th century, they brought their buddy Osterhase with them. Sure, he’s been here for hundreds of years now, but can we really trust him?
He Might Not Be a Rabbit!
He calls himself “the Easter Bunny,” but that name is at least half wrong. Osterhase translates into English as “the Easter Hare.” Despite what the puns in Bugs Bunny cartoons would have you believe, hares and rabbits aren’t the same thing. Hares are larger, haven’t been domesticated, and live in nests rather than underground. So this “Easter Bunny” changed his name upon arriving in this country? Sounds suspicious if you ask us.
He’s Not Laying Any Eggs!
Hare, rabbit ... it doesn’t matter. Neither of these furry creatures lays eggs. How did this floppy-eared huckster experience such a Machiavellian rise to the top of the egg-delivery business? By relying on a combination of charm and virility. Rabbits and hares have been symbols of rebirth for centuries. Same with eggs. So when Germans started hiding Easter eggs for children in the 16th century, where better to stash them than in hares’ nests?
He Has Enemies in Australia!
Think bunnies are cute? Australians don’t. Rabbits aren’t native to the continent, but hunting enthusiasts introduced 24 imported specimens as quarry in the 1850s. Unfortunately, the rabbits procreated like, well, rabbits. By the turn of the 20th century, the adorable bunnies had become crop-destroying thorns in farmers' sides. The situation became so dire that the province of Western Australia tried to enclose itself in a giant fence to stall illegal rabbit immigration. So, in the 1990s, Australians found a viable replacement: the bilby.
Bilbies are endangered marsupials that share the Easter Bunny’s long ears and have the added bonus of respecting the nation’s valuable crops. Today, Australian kids celebrate Easter by munching on chocolate bilbies.
This article originally appeared in the March-April issue of mental_floss magazine. Get a free issue!