How Rabbits Once Nearly Assassinated Napoleon

Rabbits almost bested the French military leader Napoleon Bonaparte, who commanded most of Europe during the early 19th century. Wait ... what? Yes, that's correct; cute, cuddly bunnies nearly overcame the first French emperor — considered among the most brilliant military leaders, according to Britannica

Until then, Napoleon lived a fierce life. As a scion from a wealthy family, he attended a French military school. After successfully helping oust the British out of Toulon, the 24-year-old received a promotion to brigadier general. He furthered his acclaim by driving the Austrians from Italy as a commander in the French army, becoming a legend in the process. After other adventures, he journeyed to Paris in 1799 and formed the Consulate, a new French government. Napoleon became First Consul of the country, a role more dictator than legislator. As head of France, he created the Napoleonic Code, which asserted, among other edicts, that government positions must consider a person's qualifications rather than other factors such as birth. He also built new roads, brought back the Catholic Church as the country's official religion while embracing other religious practitioners, and started nondenominational schools to support universal education. By 1804, he crowned himself emperor of France, and sought to rule other areas, going to war with Britain, Austria, and Russia to expand his empire (via Ducksters). 

The "Battle of the Bunnies" allegedly happened in 1807, right after Napoleon ended his battles with Russia by signing the Treaties of Tilsit, according to Mental Floss.

The battle of the bunnies

Napoleon wanted to celebrate after spending so much time at war, and he asked his chief of staff, Alexandre Berthier, to arrange a rabbit hunt. He designed what should have been a perfect outing, according to Mental Floss, which included an outdoor lunch and some important military attendees. Clusters of caged rabbits sat along the edges of the field. How many exactly is disputed — while some say a few hundred, others go as high as 3,000. When the hunt began, the bunnies spilled from their open cages. Rather than appearing afraid, the rabbits rammed into Napoleon and his guests. At first jokes were made, but the situation seemed to turn dire with Napoleon hiding in his carriage.

But the animals kept aggressively pursuing the military leader. Historian David Chandler, quoted in Mental Floss, said that "with a finer understanding of Napoleonic strategy than most of his generals, the rabbit horde divided into two wings and poured around the flanks of the party and headed for the imperial coach." The coach shot down the road with allegedly throwing a few stowaways from his window, according to The Vintage News.  Ultimately, Berthier was blamed for the fiasco. He had caged tame rabbits rather than wild ones. When the cages were opened, they all pounced because they expected that the group of military leaders would feed them.