Rabbit-foot keychains: why did that seem like a good idea?

Tiny bunny at the fair

This adorable baby bunny was there for the stroking and picking up at the Madoc Fair‘s petting zoo. (Which was aimed at kids, but I loved it too.) It is so lovely to feel a bunny’s soft fur. But why would you ever want to separate its soft foot from its soft body?

If you read my post last night, about some of the simple but charming things that I enjoyed seeing at last weekend’s Madoc Fair, you might remember that one such thing was the soft and cuddly baby bunnies who were among the pettees at the fair’s petting zoo. (I didn’t share my photo of the little white one because I was saving it for tonight’s post. And now you have it. Isn’t he/she adorable?)

A day or two after our visit to the fair I was reminiscing aloud about petting and holding the bunnies. “They were so soft!” I told Raymond.

Whereupon he took it upon himself to remind me of a phenomenon from both of our childhoods that I had utterly, utterly forgotten:

“Well of course they’re soft,” Raymond replied. “Why do you think people used to always carry around rabbits’ feet?”

Remember these? Yikes!

Remember these? Yikes!

Wow – it all came back to me with a bang. Rabbits’ feet! On keychains! Everybody seemed to have them, didn’t they? Or was it just the kids? But wait a minute; my memory must be faulty on that front. Those 1960s days of my childhood in Queensborough were days when kids had absolutely no need for keys, or keychains. No house was ever locked, and besides, mum was always home. So why did all the kids have rabbits’ feet? Were they just a loose thing they kept in their pockets and purses?

And more to the point: were they real? Did a bunny really give up a foot for each of those soft little pocket and purse treasures?

And even more to the point: what the heck was that all about? I mean, I vaguely know that there’s an old tradition of a rabbit’s foot bringing good luck, but was that why people had them? Or was it just a midcentury fad of some sort? (Clearly it wasn’t just a Queensborough fad, if Raymond, who grew up in Lowell, Mass., also remembers it.)

Much as I treasure Raymond, I really wish he hadn’t reminded me of the rabbit-foot phenomenon. I have a ghastly feeling that, if those furry little feet were real, an awful lot of rabbits were raised just so they could be killed and their feet chopped off and marketed. And that’s just awful.

Which makes me very happy to say that I personally never had a rabbit’s foot. And neither did anyone in my family. Poor little bunnies! Far better they should be kept intact, four feet and all, to be picked up and petted at the Madoc Fair.

8 thoughts on “Rabbit-foot keychains: why did that seem like a good idea?

  1. You know, Katherine, this post is about one of those things that was just around in my childhood and which I never questioned, apart from wondering why I couldn’t have something that ‘everyone’ else had. And so I turned to a site I look at occasionally for enlightenment – Today I Found Out – http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2013/12/rabbits-foot-considered-lucky/. The supposed luck of rabbits and their feet was certainly not confined to Queensborough, Lowell or Ridgeway.

  2. Hi Katherine. We were told that rabbits feet were lucky, sort of like breaking the turkey wishbone to make a wish and then having good luck follow. It was just one of those things that people did at the time, and I remember many of the rabbits feet keychains had the fur dyed. I’ve seen pink, green, turquoise , blue ornaments, and that seemed to add to the appeal. Yes, it is sad to think that beautiful little bunnies might had their feet chopped only for the sake of a silly fad. I had a pet white rabbit, much like the cutie in the photo, when I was young, but I never gave it a second thought about how some of them face such fate just for the sake of becoming a gadget. I’ve never eaten roasted rabbit and now I don’t know how I could possibly consider it.

    • I’m with you on the eating-rabbit front, Sash, though I’ve been in a couple of dinner-party situations where I had to eat it or appear impossibly rude. You can be sure I will never be serving it to my guests!

  3. I never owned a rabbits foot but do remember them vividly as a young teenager. I am sad to say that I did have a pair of rabbit mittens. They were very warm and so soft against my cheek. But thinking of it now I like many of your readers didn’t think beyond owning the item rather than where it came from. I remember befriending a cow my dad had in the pasture. I liked her so much because she was black and white. And so tame I could pet her and brush her and she would nuzzle me with her nose. Since my dad always had red and white cows I found her so special. My dad use to act funny and tell me to leave her be. But I said she is my cow. One day I came to the pasture and she was gone. And I asked my dad where is my cow. With tears in my eye he said she got sick and had to go to the doctor. And it was left at that. And not thinking that winter to keep my belly full and my appetite at ease I realized many years later where my cow went. We all never think of consequences of our actions or why we might like that fad in fashion. But when we do realize we sometimes wish we were not so educated. And if you happen to be traveling out of Queensbourgh or entering it on the east side of the village, slow down because often there is a bunny or two sitting on the road very early in the morning just happily enjoying the clover. 🙂

    • My friend, Rob, had a similar experience as yours. He had an uncle who owned a ranch in Montanna. When Rob was a boy, he was visiting his uncle and they were out in the barn tending to the cows. Rob said he when he was close to one the cows, she looked up at him and licked his face. Rob said he looked into her eyes and from the look she was giving him, he decided that from then on, he would never be responsible for eating any part of an animal, particularly if it involved beef. That happened 50 years ago, but Rob said he can still see those big eyes looking at him, and when the cow licked his face, he felt as though he had a duty to be a friend and guardian. Another friend (Marg) was the daughter of a butcher. She said after seeing slaughtering, there was no other choice but to avoid meat. As for the bunnies on the roads, yes, a great suggestion. I can remember as a child seeing them run out across the old gravel roads at night.

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