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Sometimes you look back in history and certain events are just unbelievable. The rabbit drives of the 1930s are one of them. The drives were a result of the 1930’s dust bowl that ravaged the Great Plains. Over-farming combined with severe drought caused the topsoil to dry out and blow away during heavy winds. The result was a desolate landscape. With nothing to eat large numbers of Jack Rabbit descended on to the reaming farmland and began to wreak havoc.
Here is an excerpt from The History Engine put out by Richmond University: In an effort to control the rapidly increasing numbers of the jack-rabbits, whole communities came together and began to organize large parties in which the jack-rabbits would be systematically eliminated. Initially, they used shotguns, but this became dangerous due to a large number of people that turned out to these “hunts”. Eventually, it was decided that they would use clubs to avoid further injuries.
This switch in weapons was very effective as there were so many jack-rabbits that one could simply wade into a large group and start swinging their club and kill the rabbits. Members of the party would start out in a circle, sometimes as large as a mile in circumference and begin to walk towards the center, driving all the jack-rabbits caught within the circle toward a pen. Once enclosed in the hastily erected pen, the Jackrabbits were easy targets for the club-wielding locals.
These gatherings became a sort of social activity in which friends and neighbors gathered and talked. Although the task was gruesome, the camaraderie was admirable and served to solidify rapidly disintegrating communities. The men in the photo are smiling, laughing and joking, which was something rarely caught in photographs at this time. The jack-rabbit roundups were an escape for those in rural communities, much like films were at this time, and despite the disturbing nature of the activity were a relief from the troubles experienced in the dust bowl.
If this happened today I cannot imagine what PETA and every other animal rights organization would have to say. It was a hard time and I am sure a lot of the rabbit was eaten. This might be the reason that Jack Rabbits are considered not fit to eat because they were considered poor food during the depression.
What is even more amazing is that these events were captured on video. Check out this Silent film form 1931.