Note: This disparate cross requires confirmation, but the numerous videos collected on a separate page of this website, which show animals that appear to be composed of the front end of a cat attached to the rear end of a rabbit, do suggest further investigation would be worthwhile.
The alleged offspring of a buck rabbit and a cat is known as a cabbit, a creature with a long and contentious history.
Not surprisingly, many have rejected, or even ridiculed, claims that cabbits exist. Thus, the nineteenth-century naturalist Francis Trevelyan (“Frank”) Buckland, who believed all purported hybrids of this type to be “Manx cats with birth defects,” had the following to say (Buckland 1882, p. 33):
On the other hand, there are many, often vehement claims that cabbits are real. For example, Sarah Hartwell, who wrote an article arguing that cabbits are impossible, quoted the following from an email she received from a cabbit proponent: “I just read your article on your web page and have to tell you that you are full of crap. Cabbits are real, I
Thus, it seems that participants on both sides of this unending debate view their opponents as ignorant, and perhaps even intentionally dishonest.
It is certainly true, however, that buck rabbits have many times been observed to mount and mate with female cats. This fact is amply documented on YouTube, for example, in this video:
And numerous videos showing ostensible cabbits have been collected on a separate page of this website. All show “cats” which appear to be similar to a rabbit in the posterior regions of their bodies, and which hop like rabbits. Manx cats with birth defects? Cat-rabbit hybrids? Such evidence suggests, at the very least, that this issue should be investigated further. If these animals are hybrids, it would be easy to verify the fact via analysis of their DNA, given that they would, presumably, be F₁ hybrids. Only later-generation backcross hybrids raise difficulties in connection with DNA evaluation.
It’s significant that cats have been known to suckle and raise rabbits. Animals adopted by a female not of their own kind tend, upon reaching sexual maturity, to choose to mate with animals of that kind instead of their own. The result is often hybridization. The following video documents a case of a cat nursing rabbits:
In the case of Manx cats, if they are of hybrid origin (see green section below), the rabbit parent in question would be Oryctolagus cuniculus, the European rabbit, which is the only rabbit occurring on the Isle of Man. As to the various ostensible cabbits shown on the cabbit videos page, it is uncertain whether the European rabbit or some other type of rabbit might have been involved. Oryctolagus cuniculus, however, which is highly invasive, has been introduced into many different parts of the world, and numerous rabbit breeds, closely allied to the European rabbit, are widely popular as pets.
Why many think cabbits are impossible.
From the Lubbock Evening Journal - Lubbock, Texas - May 27 1953:
CABBIT—Mrs. Norm Weiler of St. Petersburg, Fla., has a new pet, but she’s not sure what it is. The animal has the head and shoulders of a cat, and the body of a rabbit, while its voice is half growl, half meow. Mrs. Weiler, who adopted the creature when it wandered into her yard recently, calls her new pet “Cabbit.” She says it hates fish, loves cabbage and roast veal.
(This brief article was accompanied by the usual photo of a cabbit.)
Arguments asserting that cabbits are impossible are of several sorts. One assertion is that, since rabbits and cats have different chromosome numbers (2n=44 and 2n=38, respectively), they cannot produce hybrids. This claim, however, is not consistent with the fact that well-documented hybrids are known from many other types of mammalian crosses where the parents differ even more with respect to chromosome number than do a cat and a rabbit. Numerous cases of this sort are documented on this website. A few examples, among many, are:
The chromosome counts of sheep and goats differ by exactly six, just as do cats and rabbits, but it is well known that they occasionally produce hybrids.
My response: “Most enjoy a nice mouse and tuna casserole with plenty of lettuce and carrots, and perhaps a light, re-ingestible pellet topping.”
(More seriously, look at the end of the video at the top of the cabbit videos page, where one is seen eating a carrot and an avocado.)
A second argument is that the gestational period of a cat is a month longer than that of a rabbit (64 and 31 days, respectively), which is somehow supposed to make hybrids impossible. During the course of my research into hybrids, I have often met with this assertion. It is, in fact, an age-old claim, dating back at least as far as Pliny the Elder (1st century A.D.). But various counterexamples invalidate this line of argument. Two well established examples are the cama, the hybrid of a dromedary camel (gestation period = 13 months) and a llama (g.p. = 11 months), and the wolphin, the hybrid of a false killer whale (g.p. = 15.5 months) and a bottle-nosed dolphin (g.p. = 11.5 months). Both of these cases are documented on this website (here and here, respectively). In the latter case, the gestation periods of the two animals in question differ, by four months, and not merely two. The domestic pig has a gestation period of 115 days, whereas that of the babirusa averages 153 (150-157 days), a difference of 33 percent, about the same then as that between dolphins and false killer whales (34%). And yet, they produce hybrids. So it seems this claim about differences in gestation period lengths preventing hybridization is just an old wive's tale, repeated by scientists and non-scientists alike.
— by Chris MillarBuck rabbit cat
Rabbit bucks cat
Buck rogers cat
A third is that they are too “different genetically” to produce hybrids. But every hybrid cross involves parents that are genetically different and the exact amount of genetic difference that precludes a hybrid cross is unknown, as is the nature of such differences. (I say this as a Ph.D. in genetics who has spent years researching hybrids.)
A fourth is that they are too different in terms of their anatomy or in terms of evolutionary relationship to produce a hybrid. But the parents in a hybrid cross typically differ in anatomy, and it is not known just how different two animals can be in terms of their anatomy and still produce a hybrid. As to evolutionary relationship, in that case too, it is unknown how distantly related two hybridizing animals can be. (But perhaps the present case, that of cat × rabbit, gives us a clue?)
Finally, in the case of this specific cross some people point to the fact that Manx cats not only produce offspring, but are a recognized breed. Since hybrids are sterile, they say, the Manx cannot be a hybrid. Quod erat demonstrandum! However, this argument draws conclusions from false premises. Many, many hybrid crosses documented elsewhere on this website produce fertile, or at least partially fertile, offspring. And many, many domestic breeds are known to be the products of hybridization. So there really is no reason to conclude on such a basis that Manx cats cannot be hybrids.
Indeed, Manxes are not as fertile as ordinary cats. It is well-known that they produce a high percentage of inviable offspring, which is characteristic of hybrids. This high rate of inviability is attributed to the "Manx gene," I have not as yet found (and I challenge anyone else to find) any formal study characterizing this gene, or even mapping it to a particular chromosome.
It has, of course, been noted that mating a tailless Manx with another tailless Manx results in a higher rate of inviable offspring than does mating a tailless Manx with a tailed one. But another explanation of this fact might be that tailless Manxes represent F₁ hybrids and long-tailed Manxes represent backcrosses to pure cat. In many hybrid crosses mating F₁ hybrids with backcross hybrids increases the number of viable offspring (in comparison with F₁-F₁ matings).
Manx cats are said to come originally from the Isle of Man, which lies between Britain and Ireland in the Irish Sea. In his history of that island, An Historical and Statistical Account of the Isle of Mann (1845, vol. 1, pp. 21-22), Joseph Train (1779-1852) said he thought Manx cats, which on the island are called “rumpies” because of their rabbit-like rumps, were cat-rabbit hybrids:
To these comments may be added the following quotation from The Book of the Cat (Frances Simpson, 1903, p. 245): “A lady friend of mine who was brought up in the Isle of Man has told me that she always understood that Manx cats came from a cross with a rabbit…”
We are indebted this week to a charming lady secretary for the story of a natural phenomenon which, we venture to assert, may yet make the name of Three Rivers [Trois-Rivières, QC, Canada] and Cape Madeline resound throughout the world.
It seems that a lady resident of the cape has a cat which, not long ago, added to the feline population in a big way. Amongst the number of her progeny was one animal whose front section is reported to be catlike in every respect though its rear portion is pure rabbit.
Moreover, this strange animal does not miaouw like a real cat (though it purrs) and it has seven toes on each foot. It shows a fondness for hay as an article of diet and has a fuzzy rabbit-like tail which indicates that in this or preceding generations one of its ancestors contracted a mésalliance with an enterprising jackrabbit.
This column intends to pursue its investigations further. In the meanwhile we suggest that the animal should be called a “cabbit” with “buncat” as an alternative. It all sounds very intriguing and if we can get pictures and data we may yet be able to produce a local rival to the quints.
In his History of the Royal Society of London, Thomas Birch (1754, p. 393), Secretary to the Society, states that in 1664, “Sir Robert Moray related that he had heard from Dr. Hinton of a copulation of a male rabbit and a female cat, which produced monsters whose foreparts were like a cat and the hinder parts like a rabbit, and that those monsters had reproduced more complicated monsters."
The half-and-half body plan indicated by Hinton for this hybrid is exactly the same as that seen in the various videos on the cabbit videos page. Sir Robert Moray (1609-1673) was one of the twelve founders, and the first president, of the Royal Society. Sir John Hinton (1603-1682) was physician to both Charles I and Charles II.
At about the same time, the celebrated architect Sir Christopher Wren and his friend William Aubrey, also members of the Royal Society, reported seeing such a hybrid (see the minutes of the June 3, 1680 meeting of the Royal Society).
Animal is Cat or Rabbit; All Depends on the Line of Vision
West Palm Beach, Fla., Aug. 16 (AP)—Stewart Morgan has a cat—at least it’s a cat when viewed from the front, but take a look at from the rear, and it’s a rabbit.
Morgan says the animal, promptly named “Cabbit,” is jet black, has the head, shoulders and forelegs of a cat, but just below the shoulder joint the spinal column does a squads left and—presto—the cat becomes a rabbit. The hind legs are like those of a rabbit and operate kangeroo-fashion.
Even the fur, said Morgan, is only cat fur about halfway, and the rest of the body covered with fur like that of a rabbit.
The tail is nothing but a boneless tuft of black fur.
Neighbors suggested that the creature was nothing but a manx cat, but encyclopedias while acknowledging the similarity don't say a word about the hindquarters hopping around like a rabbit.
The “cabbit” has a normal feline appetite. He eats meat and drinks milk, but ignores such rabbit delicacies as lettuce and carrots.
The fact, he might pass off as a cat, if he'd stop the kangaroo-jumping with his back feet.
As for its ancestral origin—Morgan said he didn't know. It was just a stray, he explained.