Medical Curiosities - Page 1: Myths
& Genetics | 2:
The Manx As A Cabbit | 3:
Twisty & Winged Cats |
4: Historic Cabbit Claims | 5: Cabbits In Japanese Anime
For quite some years, the above 'Tiger Bunny' image fascinated people visiting this Web site. It caused debate, e-mails begging me to reveal its origin, and even occasional requests for contact with the breeder. In recent times an enquiry regarding its source also came from the television show "Ripley's Believe It, or Not."
Some people were convinced it was real; that tiger bunnies were a rare form of rabbit for which had been coined a cute name. Most people were more skeptical, deciding tiger bunnies are a computer manipulation. They were right; it was created for an advertising campaign some years ago.
The myth of cabbits:
Interestingly, some people insist on believing in the cabbit myth. Down through history rumours of cabbits, also known as racats, have been a regular occurrence. In hoaxes, or by mistake, these animals have been claimed as cat/rabbit hybrids. Their head and forequarters are supposedly like those of the cat, while the hindquarters and legs are extended like a rabbit. The American-bred animals hop as opposed to walking and are claimed to be difficult to house train. They eat like cats and supposedly pass pellets like rabbits.
Genetic deformities occur in all species, from humans to insects. Before science was advanced enough to explain the reasons behind birth defects, like cleft palate, superstition took over and provided what was deemed to be a reasonable explanation at the time. In this way herbalists became thought of as witches, and cats, usually with pelvic deformities, became cabbits. No one recognised that it was genetically impossible for a cat and a rabbit to successfully breed.
Perpetuating the myth:
Despite our modern knowledge, the cabbit myth persists, with some people attempting to buy one as the perfect pet. It is pieces like the following reproduced paragraph which, even as practical jokes, encourage these false beliefs:
"Cabbits really do exist. In case you did not know a cabbit is a cross between a cat and rabbit. Supposedly the way this happens is that a male rabbit [....] will eagerly mount a female anything in heat, so a female cat, being in that state very receptive, will allow the union. The fact that the same number of chromosomes is involved as well as similar gestation period is supposed to have something to do with the possibility of offspring being produced...."
Cats and rabbits have indeed been seen attempting to copulate, but only where no other potential mate exists, and there is no hope of offspring. There are a couple of very obvious mistakes in the text, as well as several other issues which are conveniently overlooked.
The relatively new science of genetics has shown that successfully producing offspring from a cat and a rabbit is impossible.
Rabbits and cats are two different species. They do not carry the same number of chromosomes. All but two of the cat species have 19 pairs of chromosomes. The rabbit has 22 pairs. That's 38 chromosomes as compared to 44.
You can only hybridise animals which are genetically alike. This means lions can mate with tigers because they are both members of the cat family. Horses can mate with donkeys and produce mules. Again, they are all part of the same family and very alike genetically. Both have the same number of chromosomes. Even with these close hybridisations many, perhaps almost all, offspring will be infertile.
Claims of genetically engineered cabbits are also impossible. Genetic engineering is still many decades away from being able to accomplish such advanced work.
The gestation period of a rabbit is only 30-31 days. The domestic cat averages 63 days. This is not a "similar gestation period" at all. One is double the other.
The cat is a carnivore and they require meat products to maintain health. People have sometimes attempted to feed cats on a vegetarian diet. The animals first suffer from diarrhoea and blindness, then later die.
The rabbit is a herbivore and its gut is specially adapted to cope with the cellulose which is a major component in plants. Cats (and humans) cannot produce the cellulose-digesting enzyme made by herbivores. Even despite this extra bacteria herbivores still have difficulty in digesting plant matter. To help overcome this they also have an extended intestine which allows plenty of time for digestion and rabbits will eat their faeces, so processing the food twice.
Even if an egg was somehow successfully fertilised it would spontaneously abort during the initial cell divisions. This is because the differences between the two species are so great that a viable creature could not possibly develop. In this situation natures answer is a natural abortion.