How To Starve To Death While Stuffing Yourself With Rabbit Meat

“Be vewy vewy quiet, I’m hunting wabbits!, He-e-e-e-e!” —Elmer Fudd

In A Nutshell

While some people can’t fathom eating a cute, fuzzy little rabbit, the reality is that they are a good source of food. With their renown for breeding and their widespread habitat range, they are an effective source of nutrition. However, one must be careful when eating rabbit, as eating nothing but rabbit can actually kill you. It’s called rabbit starvation, and it’s one of the more paradoxical things out there.

The Whole Bushel

Rabbits are among the most populous food sources in the world. And while they aren’t terribly common today as mass production of beef, pork, and chicken has become easier, their meat was once an important food source. However, if one was to stay on a diet of entirely rabbit meat, they would begin to suffer from various, rather unpleasant symptoms, ranging from diarrhea, discomfort, headache, and (most paradoxically of all) hunger. This strange “rabbit starvation” was noted by many explorers and travelers, who relied on hunting the local game for nutrients.

Explorers who traveled to the Northern Arctic, where snow rabbits were plentiful and carrying supplies from civilization was a hassle, were confronted with it while also dealing with the harsh climate. Additionally, it was noted by Charles Darwin in his account of his famous sea voyage on the HMS Beagle. He observed that people who fed mainly on dried or lean meat gained an insatiable craving for fatty and oily foods, even actual fats and oils themselves, even though they would be quite unappetizing when consumed raw.

The lack of fat in the rabbit meat was actually causing the confusing hunger and malnutrition. While meats, even those with little fat, have nutritional value, fats are a very important part of the diet. Modern-day diets and health trends tend to demonize fats as something that people consume in excess (which is certainly true to an extent). But fats are a vital part of the body’s ability to generate energy and support its most fundamental systems.

This becomes especially important when the subject is in a particularly hostile environment, like the Arctic explorers. Without any fat in their diets to break down into energy, which can be converted into heat, their bodies burned away their own fat stores quickly in an attempt to keep their bodies warm. This is normally something that is done to help the individual seek out more food and is not a long-term survival solution. They likely weren’t even aware of their lack of fats (outside of feelings of hunger and cravings) until it was too late.

Another explanation for rabbit starvation lies in the bio-transformation of proteins in the body. Being a chemical process, the metabolization of proteins produces by-products. This includes urea (and by extension amino acids) and ammonia, which must be processed by the body’s waste filtration systems before the bloodstream is saturated with them. If they are not filtered out, the result is eventually death.

Show Me The Proof

Rabbit Starvation: High protein and high fat diets
Dietary Reference Intakes
National Institutes of Health: A review of issues of dietary protein intake in humans

  • DanielSanCarter

    Now, who wants to try and prove this correct…. 😛

  • Hillyard

    Rabbit, rabbit everywhere and not a bite to eat.

  • Quinby

    Surprised to see this here. Yes, many pioneers staved to death eating wascally wabbits. In wild areas in winter, game is hard to hunt, but rabbits are everywhere; you can literally kill them with a rock. Rabbits store fat under their skin; typically the first thing a hunter throws away. Without fat a person will slowly waste away. Of course they lose weight and muscle mass, but what kills them is damaged nerve tissue. Nerves are insulated with myelin, a kind of fat tissue; starve long enough, say 2-3 months, and your body loses that, and organs collapse. Then the were-rabbits take their revenge. Just kidding, but yes, rabbits will eat meat if nothing else is available.

    • Bonnie L

      The main reason hunters toss the fat is because to many people – me included – it tastes horrible. I don’t like to waste it so I feed it to the chickens. I love rabbit, but I wouldn’t want to live on it without fat & vegetables. My favorite way to serve leftover rabbit is to sauté it with onions & whatever vegetables I have in butter. Lovely!

  • P5ychoRaz

    I was always partial to duck season, anyway.

  • Johnny Bravo

    I’ve seen an episodes of Survivorman where Mr. Survivorman mentions this fact. I’m just happy that I knew something already. By the way, this is my first post on KnowledgeNuts. I never knew about it. I’m going to celebrate and trim my ball hairs.

  • BlueMoney

    That rabbit’s a killer. It has lean, lean meat!

  • Amy Dote

    Wild American rabbits have less fat than the domesticated European rabbits. the domesticated ones in America came from Europe. I processed a couple rabbits yesterday and they had a good amount of fat over their shoulders. I am adjusting their feed because they are too fat for showing! I show and raise for meat and fur!