Appalachian Food

Eating Rabbit

Appalachia mountains

During Great Depression years, a half dozen “rabbit boxes” could feed a family all winter. J. R. Coker and his brothers had thirty rabbit boxes, scattered all over fields and woods at Track Rock Gap, Georgia. “We’d run those traps every day. We had plenty of rabbit to eat. Mother would fry rabbits like chicken. We’d take our rabbit hides to Carl Jackson’s Store. He’d pay you twenty cents for a rabbit skin, and write you a piece of paper, “I owe you in trade 20 cents.” Yeah, done it many a time. Carl would hang his hides up all around that little ole store building. About once a week, he’d carry’em to Atlanter and sell ’em.”

—Smokehouse Ham, Spoon Bread & Scuppernong Wine


It’s been a long time since I ate rabbit, but I like it. A quick look at the current world of homesteaders will show a resurgence in the popularity of raising rabbits for meat.


Tipper

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36 Comments

  • Reply
    SusieQ
    January 13, 2022 at 10:12 pm

    My Granddaddy hunted squirrel and rabbit… and though I’ve eaten both I preferred squirrel …it’s taste was more like chicken to me and rabbit had a bit of a wild taste…nevertheless, I’d usually eat it if she set it on the table. Have never seen a rabbit box though.

  • Reply
    Patty
    January 12, 2022 at 10:10 pm

    Both sets of my grandparents lived in Georgia just a few miles from the Alabama line. My (moms dad) grandpa use to set rabbit boxes. I can remember going with him to check them. Many a time growing up my Grandmother would fry rabbit (and chickens she butchered herself). They have both been gone many years now but reading your post brought back sweet memories.

  • Reply
    William Boone
    January 5, 2022 at 3:25 pm

    As an adolescent, my uncle shot a wild rabbit and Mom-mom cooked it. I took one small bite and spit it out. I have never enjoyed the taste of any wild meat. I guess I’d starve in times when wild meat was all people had.

  • Reply
    Gigi
    January 4, 2022 at 3:32 pm

    O I remember going rabbit hunting with my dad. My husband raised rabbit’s. Some he sold and some we ate.

  • Reply
    Ron Bass
    January 4, 2022 at 12:05 am

    We trapped a lot of rabbit when I was young, but they’re getting hard to find now in my area.
    We got a little snow mixed in the rain today here in flat NC.

  • Reply
    Don Byers
    January 3, 2022 at 4:59 pm

    I have what is left of one of my Granpa Charlie Mauney’s rabbit boxes. We called them “rabbit gums” when I was a kid.

  • Reply
    Cynthia
    January 3, 2022 at 2:11 pm

    I’ve had both tame and wild rabbit. It is delicious. I have a recipe for Rabbit in Red Wine Sauce and it is so good. Haven’t had rabbit it years.

    • Reply
      Melinda
      January 6, 2022 at 12:02 am

      Yes, we ate rabbits that my dad hunted. Mom fried them like chicken & all of us (5 kids) liked rabbit. We ate squirrel, also. Squirrel pie was a favorite…made like chicken pot pie.

      I think most food preferences come from what we were fed as youngsters & the attitude of our parents about various foods. I was unaware until an adult that my mom did not like raw tomatoes. She knew they were good for us & didn’t want to turn us against them so she hid her distaste.

      Thankful for good parents and being raised on the farm❤️

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    January 3, 2022 at 1:50 pm

    One of President Jimmy Carter’s books, I believe, “An Hour Before Daylight” about his childhood & youth–it’s a good read and one of the funniest parts is the story about how much possum they had to eat–says there is no way to disguise the taste of a possum.

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    January 3, 2022 at 1:47 pm

    Mama said her mother set rabbit boxes during the depression era. I’ve never seen a rabbit box and wonder–I guess you had to kill the rabbit to get it out.

    I have a lot of trouble eating any game meat. I don’t disapprove of hunting & eating any game type animal–just somehow feel unable to eat it. My son always gets a wild turkey and it is beautiful meat. He makes turkey nuggets or wraps it in bacon to put in the oven. I have eaten a piece or two to make him happy and it was good but I still don’t want to.

  • Reply
    Charla
    January 3, 2022 at 12:33 pm

    When I was six my dad taught me to kill and butcher the chickens and rabbits we raised. My first few times killing chickens was somewhat traumatizing as they tend to run in a circle without their head, but it soon became common to me. My dad also ran a snare line in several areas and sold hides. I hunted rabbits and groundhog good bit with Sam and Gizzard, my beagles.

    • Reply
      Robert
      January 3, 2022 at 10:08 pm

      The first money I ever ‘earned’ was for killing chickens for my kindhearted next door neighbor. She raised them in a backyard coop where she fed them on a cornmeal paste diet. She swore it made the birds taste better. I was 6-years old and used her hatchet to cut their heads off. When I got older and stronger I wrung their necks. I earned a dime for every chicken killed.

  • Reply
    Christine
    January 3, 2022 at 11:33 am

    I’ve never had rabbit meat. I always liked seeing them hop around in my back yard. Sadly, it seems our new neighbors like them a lot too, so I haven’t seen as many as I use too. I have ate fried squirrel once as a child and it did taste like chicken. I just prefer seeing wild life than eating it. However, if I had no choice, I’d eat whichever animal I could catch. Hopefully, it won’t come to that in my life.

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    January 3, 2022 at 11:09 am

    We raised rabbits and chickens in our backyard during World War II. Mama always fried a chicken and a rabbit at the same time because I was squeamish about eating the rabbits that I had petted since they were little babies. Clever Mama would assure me that whichever piece of crusty golden brown meat I chose from the platter was chicken! But I’m sure I ate some rabbit, and it did “taste like chicken.”

  • Reply
    AWGRIFF
    January 3, 2022 at 10:33 am

    I ate many a rabbit, squirrel, grouse, or quail while growing up but mostly quail and squirrel. I had the blessing of bird hunting with my dad for 40 some years. During much of that time we didn’t kill rabbits while hunting with bird dogs unless the dog was fully trained on grouse and quail and wouldn’t pay any attention to rabbits. As a matter of fact our last bird dog, a brittany spaniel, only liked grouse. He would point quail but didn’t like to retrieve them.

  • Reply
    Nancy Boswell
    January 3, 2022 at 10:26 am

    My mom and step dad grew up during the depression and ate a lot of rabbit too. I have eaten rabbit too as my mom would fry it up for supper sometimes when we visited them out on the farm. My step dad killed the rabbit and skinned them until his arthritic hands could longer do it. I liked it, the rabbit that is.

  • Reply
    Karen
    January 3, 2022 at 10:24 am

    I remember eating rabbit in the 1950’s when I was a girl. My Dad’s cousin would hunt wild rabbit and even groundhogs. My Dad’s Aunt would fix them for dinner. After I was married, in 1969, my husband would hunt wild rabbit and squirrels. He would cook them for our dinner. I did like the taste of the rabbit. Brings back a lot of memories.

  • Reply
    Jimk
    January 3, 2022 at 10:23 am

    A mainstay meal growing up, usually hunted with beagles. Normally Thanksgiving week marked the start of the season. First outing was always was a good community hunt with friends and neighbors. Another thing you don’t hear anymore. Had one neighbor that could gut them by giving them a sling. I never learned how he did it.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    January 3, 2022 at 9:47 am

    We put out rabbit boxes when I was a kid but didn’t have a lot of luck. Rabbits like open fields with some woodland to escape into. Our place was just the opposite. We caught as many skunks as rabbits.

    Did you get your snow?

    • Reply
      Tipper
      January 4, 2022 at 3:47 am

      Ed- we barely got a skiff but I’ll take it 🙂 and hope it’s priming the pump for a big one!

  • Reply
    Jackie
    January 3, 2022 at 9:28 am

    I had traps scattered through the woods and fields when I was young. We ate many meals of fried rabbit. It was illegal to sell wild meat but my teachers that lived in town would pay me 25 cents each for “cleaning” them. I ran my trap line on the way to and from school and put my cartridges in the teacher’s desk with my gun propped up in the corner behind her. I also have a Remington single shot 22 that brought down many rabbits and squirrels as well as several quails and doves.

  • Reply
    Denise R
    January 3, 2022 at 9:18 am

    My sister and I had pet rabbits named Snowball and Whitie and loved them dearly, but we also ate rabbit when my dad would go rabbit hunting occasionally. I do remember the taste being like chicken, but I don’t know if I could eat one now.

  • Reply
    Shirl
    January 3, 2022 at 9:17 am

    I don’t recall ever eating rabbit, but I’m sure I did as much as Daddy hunted them. He boiled them a few minutes before placing the pieces on a pan and baking them until they were golden brown. Two of my neighbors still hunt rabbits here on the farm every winter. I tell them to get ’em all so I don’t have to share my garden with the bouncing eyes that activate my security cameras a hundred times every night.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    January 3, 2022 at 8:58 am

    My brother and I made rabbit boxes but, as Elvis sung, “never caught a rabbit”. I suspect we made them too small and they wouldn’t go in. We did, however, catch rabbits in steel traps. We did not know about using the trap numbers to size for what was being trapped though so we used traps that were too powerful, which thing ought not be done.

    My Dad would go about twice a year after frosts had begun and spotlight a rabbit or two. This was always only on the homeplace. It was strictly hunting for the table and was not about sport. I do not know the legalities of it, either now or then, but suspect it was illegal. There may have been, however, a latitude given for crop-damaging critters which rabbits can certainly be.

  • Reply
    Greg Church
    January 3, 2022 at 8:57 am

    I always felt sorry for poor old Elmer Fudd not being able to get one skinny ole rabbit……

  • Reply
    GoodGriefLouise ( Bill )
    January 3, 2022 at 8:06 am

    I ate a lot of rabbit in my youth. One day when I was very young my grandmother took me and her Remington single shot 22 on a jack rabbit hunt in south Texas. I rode my stick horse and she killed 2 rabbits. I wanted to carry the rabbits’, so she rode my stick horse back as I dragged the two rabbits’ home. The interesting part was I told the story to my children when they were young, and my grandmother was shocked listening to me and exclaimed how I remembered that since I was only 3 years old at the time. Funny how you remember things before you had a memory. I got my first rabbit with her old 22 when I was only 6 years old. I still have and treasure that old Remington 22. Hey, I could have a nickname The Rabbit Hunter. 🙂

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    January 3, 2022 at 7:59 am

    Tipper–We ate a great deal of rabbit in my boyhood. Rabbit hunting was serious business in our family, and from the time I was old enough to hunt on we always had beagles. That continued to be the case well after I was grown and younger brother Don was coming along. On an average day we might kill six or eight rabbits, and when they seemed most plentiful (my early teens, which was the mid-1950s) double figures were commonplace.

    We hunted in many places in Swain, Jackson, Macon, and even occasionally in Clay county. Interestingly, although Daddy or his best hunting buddy, Claude Gossett, always asked permission to hunt, it was almost never denied. Landowners might say “don’t shoot my birds,” and there were actually quail in goodly numbers then, but with rabbits it was pretty much Liberty Hall. That’s a far cry from today, when posted signs are as common as pig tracks.

    You’ve evoked some mighty fine memories of grand days and great canine companions with names like Lead, Lady, Chip, Dale, Drum, Tiny, and more, and on the eating side, to quote Jerry Clower, “you’ve flung a craving on me.”

    • Reply
      Randy
      January 3, 2022 at 10:28 am

      Jim, my father-in-law was a big time rabbit hunter and was a member of a field trial club at one time. By the time I came along he no longer field trialed. I enjoyed hunting with him and listening to him talk about some of his dogs. One story I liked was about a jump dog named Rachel, he said she carried a tool box with her, if she couldn’t jump a rabbit she would sit down and make one. How I miss those days of hunting with him especially Thanksgiving mornings. Most of today’s youth will never know the joy of hunting with beagles or bird hunting WILD quail.

    • Reply
      Pastor Lon
      January 3, 2022 at 10:38 am

      Oh yes, we ate a many a wild rabbit growing up around here, caught em in our homemade rabbit boxes all my young adult life. I’ve always loved to hunt them. We would either walk em up out of the bed and shoot em or run em with our beagles, either way it was so much fun. I shot most of the rabbits with my Harrison & Richardson 410 single shot gun. Now we are raising (just started) our own meat rabbits here on the homestead and are looking forward to enjoying the meat they gonna provide for our family. Thanks for sharing this Ms. Tipper!

      Pastor Lon

  • Reply
    Randy
    January 3, 2022 at 7:58 am

    We would often eat wild rabbits caught in rabbit gums we had made when growing up in the 50’s and 60’s. We would also eat squirrel dumplings. My daddy would tell a story about being in the hospital in 1981 and having rabbit brought to him for a meal. He told the nurse the meat was a piece of rabbit and she wanted to know how he could tell what it was without tasting it. He told her when you had ate as much rabbit as he had you knew rabbit meat when you saw it. He wouldn’t ear it, he said all he could see in his mind was a big white tame rabbit hopping around. Even though I live in one of the most rural areas of Greenville Couunty, SC, I very seldom see a rabbit anymore and know of no one that has beagles for hunting anymore.

  • Reply
    Margie G
    January 3, 2022 at 7:46 am

    I got a rabbit many years ago for the girls. In all my life, I never smelled such a foul odor as what came from that bunny’s digestive and reproductive systems!!! He or she chewed every cord it could find and it was disastrous for me as the mama! I’m a clean person, but bunny wore me ragged! Eventually it went to live in an old school bus on a feller’s property with many rabbit pals. I’m sure of that bus, nothing was left but metal springs! The idea of rabbit hides and as food is fine by me but if any ASPCA or “good neighbors” ask, I will deny I said it, but EAT ON AND DO YOU HAVE ANY GRAVY? How about a hide to put under the baby? Lol (The girls had lamb skins to sleep on when they were babies.) Mommy always talked about Bobby (my granddaddy) buying rabbit thinking it was chicken once or twice. She said she made no never mind about it and fried it telling everybody it was indeed chicken!

  • Reply
    Leon Pantenburg
    January 3, 2022 at 7:09 am

    Rabbit is a great protein source – and tasty, too.

  • Reply
    Martha D Justice
    January 3, 2022 at 6:57 am

    Back in the early 70’s my husband and my dad decided to go rabbit hunting in a very unconventional way. One would lay across the hood of the truck with a fish dip net while the other drove slowly down the old dirt roads in Epps ,AL. Well they didn’t catch any rabbits but at least they didn’t get caught by the game warden. Those were the days! Love to eat rabbit meat. Happy New Year ❤

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    January 3, 2022 at 6:54 am

    When I was a little girl, my dad took a notion to build a rabbit hutch and raise some rabbits for us to eat. He built it, raised the rabbits but my mother and sister refused to eat the sweet little things…and there ended my dad’s idea!

  • Reply
    Sandra henderson
    January 3, 2022 at 6:28 am

    Vivian Howard, a chefs life, in n.c. Has someone raising them for her to buy for her restaurant.
    I’d like to see a rabbit trap and how it works. I’ve never seen one. My aunt n uncle use to raise them and always has plenty for their family. I love rabbit fried like Chen or browned n stewed in gravy.

    • Reply
      Robert
      January 3, 2022 at 9:56 pm

      I built rabbit boxes in the ’50s and checked them every morning after delivering newspapers. They were basically tunnel-like, about 8″ square and maybe 24-30″ long. One end had a trap door that would fall in a channel. It was attached to a figure-4 trigger mechanism deep into the box that would be connected to the trap door. I put carrot past the trigger near the rear end. A rabbit would enter for the bait, hit the trip trigger that would cause the trap door to fall.

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