How To Give Birth To Rabbits
It was September 27, 1726, and Mary Toft was going into labour. The 24-year-old peasant, who worked in hop fields of rural England, called out for her neighbour, Mary Gill. Gill rushed inside Mary’s house and found her squirming in pain. Then something unusual happened. Mary hovered over a bucket and gave birth to a monster.
It was a ghastly but miraculous birth. Gill ran to find Mary’s sister-in-law—a midwife by trade—and told her the baffling news. The “baby” looked like a rotten jumble of animal parts. The family quickly sent the remains to a local surgeon, John Howard, a man with over 30 years of experience delivering babies. Howard inspected the remains, writing that they resembled “three legs of a cat of tabby colour, and one leg of a rabbet . . . in them were three pieces of the Back bone of an Eel.”
Yes, an eel.
Howard was skeptical, but he begrudgingly visited Mary. He complained that she was difficult to work with. “[Mary is] of a very stupid and sullen Temper,” he later wrote. But then it happened before his eyes: Mary gave birth to a baby bunny. It was like magic. Except the rabbit wasn’t coming out of a hat.