Napoleon Bonaparte was attacked by a pack of rabbits. No, don’t laugh, it actually happened. Not only was Napoleon attacked by rabbits, but it happened when he was the most powerful man in the world. But if you think the French president and general of the army being attacked by rabbits is funny, wait until you see how this encounter ended.
The bunny rabbit. Cute, adorable, fluffy balls of cuddly fun, oh, and ever so delicious. Their reputation is more akin to a cuddly and harmless child’s teddy bear than a pack of Wild flesh-eating piranha. In fact, they are more likely to scamper away when approached in the wild then to attack. Don’t get me wrong, if you catch one in the wild it’s not going to roll over and capitulate like the French did in World War 2. They will fight. But we have to keep their fight in perspective. I mean, it won’t exactly being Mike Tyson fighting, but if they’re given a chance they might scratch and bite your ear. So given their cuteness and lack of ninja fighting skills, why on earth would they attack Napoleon Bonaparte, at the time the world’s most powerful man?
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Like all good legends there are a few different versions to the story, however, the one we’re about to tell you is the most commonly agreed upon one by historians. The event seems to have taken place around July 1807. This was of course just after Napoleon signed the Treaties of Tilsi ending the war between Russia and France. And what does a nineteenth-century gentleman do to celebrate? They kill some cuteness of course.
Napoleon asked his Chief of Staff Alexandre Berthier to arrange a hunt to celebrate the treaty. But Berthier had grander plans than chasing a few bunnies around the countryside. He had plans for a massacre, and his plans were to come back and bite him, well actually bite Napoleon on the rear.
Now at this point this is where many versions of this event begin to differ. Berthier started collecting rabbits for the big hunt. But he wasn’t content with a few dozen, he wanted it to be a memorable occasion. Most accounts of the event say that he collected between several hundred and 3000 rabbits. It would appear as though he had a greater fondness for rabbits than Mel Blanc. In any event, we can say it was a lot of rabbits and he certainly went overboard.
Berthier placed his bounty of caged bunnies on the edge of an open grassy field. Once the emperor and his contingent of hunters were ready, they were released. But something unexpected happened. Instead of scurrying away, they charged at their aggressors like a pack of fierce lions. The hunters had become the hunted.
At first Napoleon and his men thought it was quite funny, and laughed. But their humor soon gave way to bewilderment and concern as the rabbits continued to storm the little emperor.
Before long, the horde of had completely swamped Napoleon’s legs and even started to climb his jacket. The emperor and his men tried in vain to repel the onslaught. They tried beating them with crops, sticks and even muskets, but the rabbits continued to attack. Napoleon even tried shooting them, but he and his men were severely outnumbered. Knowing it was a battle he could not win, Napoleon hastened his retreat.
Napoleon withdrew to what he thought would be the safety of his carriage. But he was wrong. They continued to attack his with the same fervour as the revolutionaries that storm the Bastille. Napoleon was besiege and surrounded. They even began to breach the safety of his carriage. A full-scale retreat from the field of battle was his only option. Once he began to leave the bunnies ceased their attack.
Forget Waterloo, Napoleon’s greatest defeat was at the hands of a horde of bunny rabbits. But why did the rabbits attack instead of run away? Well, there’s a very good reason for it, and it’s all Berthier’s fault.
Now placing the blame on a horde of marauding ravenous rabbits on one man seems a little far fetched, as well as unfair. But once you dig into it a bit the blame is easy to place.
To put it bluntly, Berthier was lazy. Instead of seeking out and collecting wild rabbits for the chase, he approached local farmers for their farm rabbits. Rabbits that were tame. Unlike wild rabbits that would run away, these farm rabbits had no reason to fear people, and saw Napoleon and his men as a food source, just like the farmers they were bought from.
So in essence Napoleon had no real reason to fear the rabbits. They just wanted a feed. But the sheer numbers would have been bewildering, to say the least.