Jimmy Carter and the Marsh Rabbit: ‘Experts’ Don’t Always Have the Answer

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Years ago, when Jimmy Carter was President, an Associated Press features writer, the late Louise Cook, kept me in her file as a “rabbit expert.” Louise had noted my magazine and newspaper writings, talks and books about raising rabbits and occasionally called me up when some rabbit story was in the news.

One such instance involved President Carter.

If you are old enough, you may recall the time Mr. Carter was fishing from a boat in a river somewhere in the South, when a wild rabbit, swimming in the river, hopped into his boat and tried to bite him. Not even the Secret Service could stop it. The story made headlines all over the country. The enterprising Louise Cook decided to round out the story the next day by consulting a “rabbit expert.” Why in the world, she asked when she phoned me, would a rabbit want to bite Mr. Carter?

In truth, I had no idea. I didn’t even know that rabbits were interested in swimming, so my wise guy reply was simply that the rabbit behaved that way because “It must have been a Republican rabbit.”

And no kidding, that’s the way her story ran in newspapers throughout the United States.

It was only years later that your so-called expert learned there is a wild rabbit variety called the marsh rabbit that sometimes swims in southern waters. It is not the kind, however, found in a certain southern recipe of some renown. You may have heard of “marsh rabbit dinners,” which some people in the region relish. Those are prepared from muskrats, trapped in great numbers for their pelts, and often served at community gatherings.

I have no idea if Jimmy Carter likes marsh rabbits, real or muskrat. It’s my expert opinion, however, that at least one of the real ones didn’t care for him.

Bob Bennet is the author ofStorey’s Guide to Raising Rabbits, available here.