Sunday, Jan. 22 starts the Lunar New Year, and it’s the Year of the Rabbit! This adorable animal is one of 12 species that make up the Chinese zodiac. But what does the bunny symbolize in the Lunar New Year, an event celebrated by so many people around the world?
The Year of the Rabbit comes every 12 years. Let’s take a look at how the zodiac animals came to be. There are different theories that explain it, including one that tells the story of The Great Race. The legendary Jade Emperor held a race where the first 12 animals to finish will join him at his palace. But there was another challenge: The animals had to cross a rough river right before the finish line!
During the race, the Bunny was on a roll, right behind the Tiger, when all of a sudden he slipped and fell into the river! But he was determined to finish and land a spot in the palace. So, he jumped onto rocks and grabbed on to a nearby log to float right into fourth place. A very hoppy occasion indeed!
According to Chinese astrology, the Rabbit represents peaceful and patient energy. Rabbits are, of course, gentle animals, and they often think things through before acting. They build solid relationships with other bunnies, but they’re also very cautious.
Rabbits in the Wild
As the Year of the Rabbit approaches, many Lunar New Year celebrations are planned throughout Staten Island and the rest of the city. The Staten Island Museum is also offering an interactive guide to celebrate Seollal—the Korean Lunar New Year—with at-home activities including games, recipes and more.
Kids and families will get to see real rabbits at the Staten Island Zoo’s Lunar New Year event on Sunday, Jan. 22. The event will offer lots of fun activities for zoo-goers, but also focus on rabbit behavior and the plight of rabbits and other animals in the wild. While bunnies make great pets, they face serious challenges in nature.
Almost half of the world’s species of rabbits are in danger of extinction.
Jessica Hartmann, education director at the Staten Island Zoo, explained “While domestic species of rabbits are not threatened, many wild species like the Amami rabbit found in Japan and the European rabbit are considered endangered.”
We spoke further with zoo staff who were nice enough to share some fun bun facts to discover during this time of the year:
Rabbits are social butterflies!
Rabbits live in a social group. In the wild a group of rabbits live in a colony of up to 50 rabbits called a fluffle!
Rabbits live all over the world!
Rabbits can be found all over the world on every continent except Antarctica. There are more than 29 species of rabbits.
Rabbits give the best side eye!
Rabbits have eyes on the side of their head. It allows them to see almost all the way around their body; this helps protect them from predators.
Rabbits like carrots but…
In the wild, rabbits don’t eat root vegetables—they’d much rather munch on greens like weeds, grasses and clovers. The zoo’s animal ambassador rabbits LOVE dandelion greens!
Rabbits have built-in air conditioners!
Rabbits’ ears help keep them safe from predators. Their ears also have a large surface area which draws heat away from the rabbit’s core and keeps them cool on hot days!
Come visit Susan the Flemish Rabbit at the zoo’s Lunar New Year event!
Flemish rabbits can weigh 15 pounds and grow to 2.5 feet long! Sunday, January 22nd from 11 am – 2pm celebrate the rabbit during Staten Island Zoo’s Lunar New Year celebration. Learn about rabbits and other animals of the zodiac calendar from our zookeepers, make crafts, and explore our fun rabbit activities!
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