Napoleon Bonaparte and the Attack of the Bunnies

by, Jo Carol Hebert

Napoleon Bonaparte. Born in 1769. Was a General and military genius at the age of 24. Commander of the army of the First French Republic after the French Revolution. Led daring army expeditions that almost succeeded in conquering Europe. Crowned himself the first Emperor of France. Was, for his time, the most powerful man in the world. One of history’s most audacious and successful military and political leaders.

The Gathering of the Bunnies download (7)

In 1807, Napoleon had just signed a peace treaty with the country of Russia. To celebrate the momentous occasion, he ordered his Chief of Staff, Baron Louis-Alexandre Berthier, to arrange a fashionable outdoor luncheon and rabbit hunt. Napoleon rounded up his men. Berthier promptly set about gathering about 1,000 rabbits for this ‘manly’ pursuit.

Release the Bunnies!

Everything was ready. The numerous cages of rabbits were situated on the edge of a grassy field of the luxurious estate. Trumpets sounded the signal to release the bunnies. (It was presumed that they would panic and head for the freedom of the open spaces of the field). Napoleon and his companions were armed and poised for the hunt.

But, contrary to man’s best-laid plans, the confused creatures charged straight towards Napoleon. Hundreds and hundreds of frenzied fluffy bunny rabbits bombarded him and his mighty men. 

download (8)The Great Bunny Attack of 1807

They swarmed under his legs and climbed up onto his gold-embroidered jacket. They nibbled at his gold buttons and gnawed at his boots. Napoleon could not position his weapon to shoot them. His military men tried to drive them off with riding crops, whips, and sticks. They succeeded in this maneuver enough to allow a humiliated Napoleon to retreat to his carriage.

imagesBunnies – 1. Napoleon – 0.

Just as they thought they had won the battle, the army of rabbits attacked again from the rear, dividing into two groups on either side of Napoleon. By now, Napoleon was running for the safety of his velvet-seated carriage. The rabbits were in hot pursuit, overtook him and even continued attacking him inside the carriage.

Finally, the horse-drawn carriage pulled slowly away and the perplexed rabbits disbursed, presumably to attend their own celebration of victory. 

Why the Bunny Attack?tumblr_mzrujn8TLg1rwjpnyo1_500

Now, here’s the thing. His Chief of Staff, Baron Berthier, being lazy, and ignorant of all things rabbit, had collected tame bunnies from farmers instead of from the rabbit warrens of the wild. 

Farm rabbits see humans as a food source and they hadn’t been fed yet for the day. Wild rabbits would indeed have scampered away in the opposite direction. So, to these hungry rabbits, it was suppertime and Napoleon looked like a head of cabbage. History doesn’t mention the fate of Berthier.

What Happened to Napoleon?

Unfortunately, eight years later, in 1815, Napoleon would suffer his ultimate disgrace. He was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo and exiled to a lonely and deserted island, hopefully with no wildlife.

Do you want to learn more about bunnies? Check out “If You Were a Rabbit.” Educators. We also have a FREE pdf on rabbits in Curriculum Corner.

Categories: History

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