Beach Rabbit, Seal Rabbit, Rabbit Fish
Coney Island area of Brooklyn, New York, USA
33x7x8 inch (84x18x20 cm)
of the specimen:
This excellently well-preserved specimen of the Sea Rabbit was
obtained from the Coney Island Taxidermy Shoppe. This renowned
shop, which also hosted a taxidermy museum was one of the
establishments lost during the Dreamland Fire of Coney Island in
In the early
17th century’s European fur craze drove the fleet of Dutch ships
to the eastern coastal area of America. At that time, Holland
was the center of the world just like the Italy was in the
previous century. New York City was once called New Amsterdam
when Dutch merchants landed and established colonies. Among
them, Henry Hudson, an Englishman employed by the Dutch, is
probably the most recognized individual in the history of New
York City today. Needless to say, the Hudson River is named
island is inhabited by two major creatures which we do not have
in our homeland. One creature is a large arthropod made of three
body segments: the frontal segment resembles a horseshoe, the
middle segment resembles a spiny crab and its tail resembles a
sharp sword. Although they gather on beaches here in great
numbers, they are not edible due to their extremely offensive
odor; only natives eat them. Another creature which is abundant
here has the head of wild rabbit. This animal of great swimming
ability has frontal legs resemble the webbed feet of a duck. The
bottom half of the body resembles that of a seal. This docile
rabbit of the sea is easy to catch as it does not fear people.
The larger male sea rabbits control harems of 20 to 25 females.
The meat of the sea rabbit is very tender and tasty.” This is
what Hudson wrote in his personal journal in 1609 about the
horseshoe crab and the sea rabbit in today’s Coney Island area
of Brooklyn, New York. Sadly, just like the Dodo bird and the
Thylacine, the sea rabbit was driven to extinction by the
European settlers’ greed. When Dutch merchants and traders
arrived here, sea rabbits were one of the first animals they
hunted down to bring their furs to homeland to satisfy the fur
craze of the time. To increase shipment of the number of furs of
the sea rabbit and beavers from New Amsterdam, Dutch merchants
also started using wampum (beads made of special clam shells) as
the first official currency of this country.
The sea rabbit is one of the families of
the Pinniped order. Pinnipeds (from Latin penna = flat and pes/pedis
= foot) are sea-mammals: they are homeothermic (i.e having high
and regulated inner temperature), lung-breathing (i.e dependant
on atmospheric oxygen) animals having come back to semi aquatic
life. The sea rabbit (Monafluffchus americanus) is a social
animal that once lived at northeastern shore of North America.
These hares often congregate in groups of up to 200 individuals.
They do not hop but run at great speeds in a seal-like fashion.
The female is called a doe, the male is called a buck, and the
baby hare is called a leveret. The young are born open-eyed and
furry. Most of them live for about three years in the wild. They
are hunted by
They have a fast reproductive rate. Sea rabbits are roughly 33
inches (84 cm) long; the tail is 2 inches (5 cm) long. These
hares weigh about 18 pounds (5.5 kg). They have relatively short
ears (which minimizes their heat loss during long months at
shores of New York). In the extreme north, sea rabbits stay
white almost all year. When the snow melts, their furs change to
a gray-brown color. Sea rabbits are herbivores (plant-eaters).
They swim very well and could stay under the water up to an
hour. They eat variety of sea weeds (especially during the
winter), willow leaves, bark, shoots, tree leaves, grasses, and
The name of Coney Island is commonly thought to be derived from
the Dutch Konijn Eylandt or Rabbit Island as
apparently the 17th century European settlers noted many rabbits
running amuck on the island.
Yamada, Museum of World Wonders, revised in 2006
Special thanks to Diane M.