That One Time Napoleon Was Attacked By Rabbits

The savage bunnies that embarrassed the Emperor of France.

Vintage & Historical
That One Time Napoleon Was Attacked By Rabbits
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Vintage & Historical

After the French Revolution, Napoleon Bonaparte became the commander of the First French Republic army, the first Emperor of France, and was one of the world’s most powerful leaders. While he was known for defeating many enemies, he was unable to defend himself against a pack of bunnies during a rabbit hunt!

Bunny Backstory

Napoleon was at the peak of his power in 1807 after signing the Treaties of Tilsit, ending the war between the French Empire and Imperial Russia, according to Medium . He decided to hold a rabbit hunt to celebrate the historic event. The commander’s chief of staff, Alexandre Berthier, oversaw the hunt. He acquired over 3,000 rabbits from local farmers, enabling Napoleon and others in his party to have plenty of bunnies at their disposal for the festivities. Little did Napoleon know that the tables would turn on him and his guests.

Berthier was not particularly knowledgeable about rabbits, and when the cages, set on the edges of a huge field, opened, the animals bombarded Napoleon and the others in the vicinity. These domesticated, floofy-eared mammals were not scared of humans and believed it was feeding time, so the throng of rabbits ran towards Napoleon and his men, searching for tasty morsels. According to Historian David Chandler, thousands of bunnies strategically divided into two parts, flanking the French leader and his guests, demonstrating “a finer understanding of Napoleonic strategy than most of his generals.”

Revenge of the Rabbits

At first, the men thought the onslaught was quite comical , and they laughed at the bunnies’ behavior. The joke did not last long. Like a swarm of bees, the bunnies crowded around the men, nibbling and gnawing their buttons and boots, according to Smarty Pants Kids . Overwhelmed by the attack, the hungry bunnies forced the screaming men to their knees, who tried to repel them with riding crops, whips, and sticks. Napoleon could not position his weapon to shoot them properly, so he retreated and ran to his imperial coach for safety.

Napoleon crossing the Alps
Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

The rabbits did not relent. They chased the commander and continued attacking even as Napoleon clamored into his velvet seat. Some even made their way into his horse-drawn carriage. Humiliated and stunned by the events, Napoleon did not retain his composure until he was driven far out of range of the chaos (and after throwing the bunnies that made it into his carriage out of the window).

The rabbits eventually scattered. They had not been fed for the day, and they saw the humans as a source of food. Had Berthier chosen wild bunnies, they would have hopped  away from the men rather than towards them. Instead, the hangry bunnies attacked.

What happened to Berthier after the incident? He survived, but in 1815 on the day before the Battle of Waterloo, he died after either falling, jumping, or being pushed out of a window, according to Owlcation . Napoleon lost the battle, went into exile, and passed away in 1821.

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