No, Rabbits do not lay eggs. Like most mammals, baby rabbits develop as embryos inside their mother’s uterus until they are developed enough to survive in the outside world when they are birthed in litters of peanut-sized baby rabbits.
Where the story that rabbits lay eggs came from?
To begin, we should take a look at the reason why rabbits laying eggs is such a common misconception, where it comes from, and it’s meaning.
The modern myth of rabbits laying eggs was likely the work of 18th-century German Lutheran immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania. These early immigrants brought with them their unique brand of Easter traditions when they formed the American Pennsylvanian Dutch Community.
These early Easter traditions were very similar to Christmas, Christmas Eve, and its protagonist, Santa Claus.
The night before Easter, children in the Dutch community would leave hats in a secret place as a “nest” for the Easter bunny, known as Easter Hare, hoping to be deemed as good girls and boys.
Boys would leave out caps and girls would leave bonnets, with the hopes that, while they slept, the Oschter Haws (Easter Hare), an egg-laying rabbit, would leave them treats.
If the children were deemed bad or less worthy, they would receive rabbit poop in their hats.
The true origin of the egg-laying rabbit may be lost in time. Still, many historians believe this tradition originated in the Festival of Ēostre or Ostara, which was a feast to honor the Spring Equinox, rebirth, and fertility.
With the main focus being birth and fertility, it makes sense the icons of this celebration were eggs and rabbits. Eggs were thought of as a symbol of a promise of rebirth and fertility, and rabbits are one of the most fertile animals.
But the decorated and colorful eggs are not something recent, they could even be older than the egg-laying rabbit.
Today, this Easter tradition has evolved, and most of the eggs are not actual eggs but eggs made of chocolate, sometimes also containing other treats inside. Additionally, the way kids collect eggs has changed over time resulting in egg hunts and other games allowing children to win the eggs.
How Do Rabbits Actually Have Babies?
Rabbits are placental mammals and they give birth to a litter of 12 or more bunnies. Placental mammals, meaning that their babies develop inside their mother’s body until their body systems can function on their own.
Though rabbit’s young may be born fully formed, that does not mean that they can fend for themselves from the get-go. Bunny rabbits have an extremely short gestation period of only 31 days and as a result, need their mother’s presence almost constantly for the first few weeks.
While it’s a fun story and great family fun, the tradition of the Egg-Laying Easter bunny is nothing more than a myth.
Still, it’s a myth that we can enjoy with our children and grandchildren, and as they get older we can share the history behind the beloved rabbit eggs, and introduce them to Easter Bunny’s egg-laying mammal cousins who really do exist.