Beware of the lunar bunny craze

By Lee Hannon (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-01-31 08:18
Large Medium Small

The rabbit, one of the 12 celestial animals in the Chinese zodiac, will take its celebrity spot on the lunar calendar in three days. Rabbits have already flooded the market; they are found on plates, coins, clothes, stamps, towels, badges, phone covers, mugs, and in paintings, and almost all knickknacks and showpieces.

Sales of all things bunny are multiplying like ... well, like the proverbial rabbits. Only souvenirs being made for the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton in the United Kingdom come anywhere close to the millions of yuan spent on the bunny craze. Even prices of polypropylene fiber and cotton used by China's 6,000-odd stuffed toy makers have rocketed as stores fill their shelves with cuddly rabbits in time for the Golden Week shopping spree.

Bunny mania even burrowed its way into the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, which approved the release of six animation films with rabbit characters, including Legend of a Rabbit, and Moon Castle: The Space Adventure.

But there's one difference between this year's rotating zodiac icon and the soon-to-fade-out tiger: Tigers cannot be bought at pet stores. Across the country, sales of rabbits are surging with people buying them as gifts for their loved ones. High-grade breeds like Holland Lop, Angora and Lionhead are selling for hundreds of yuan.

But be warned, a bunny is for life, not just the new year. And don't forget they can be nasty animals. The fluffy, cute, soft bob of fur that gave birth to the likes of Bugs Bunny, Roger Rabbit and Thumper can actually be aggressive creatures. I should know that because I spent some of my childhood time being attacked by one.

My parents thought they would teach me a great lesson in responsibility by buying me a pet. But, Fluffy, as we named her, thought otherwise; she taught me a lesson in flesh laceration. Every time I tried to feed her, change her water or straw, or clean out her never-ending pile of droppings, she would bite, scratch or kick me. She clawed my hand until it dripped with blood.

The only way to keep up with Fluffy's filthy living habits without being injured was to set her free. She would then defecate all over the house, and chew cables, cushions and clothes.

So beware before you rush off to a pet store, hoping to melt your loved one's heart this Spring Festival with a cute bunny.

A white rabbit may be a symbol of longevity in traditional Chinese culture, but your doe-eyed, floppy-eared friend may be headed to the stew pot quicker than you can say Xin Nian Kuai Le (Happy New Year).

Remember to cut off its foot; the Irish swear it brings good luck.

The author is a copy editor with the China Daily website.