16 of Our Favorite Rabbits

The Lunar New Year begins on February 3rd. According to the Chinese zodiac, we will welcome the Year of the Rabbit. Rabbits are an attractive animal: they are adorably cute, relatively unthreatening, full of energy, and have those ridiculous long ears we can laugh at. Plus they seem to live for sex. Let's take a look at some of our most beloved pop culture lagomorphs.

1. Thumper

Thumper is the adorable baby rabbit who befriends Bambi in the 1942 Disney movie Bambi. Thumper has little ability to self-censor, but is cute enough to get away with saying whatever is on his mind. He famously repeated his father's advice, "If you can't say somethin' nice, don't say nothin' at all."

2. That Silly Trix Rabbit

The Trix rabbit is an advertising icon for Trix cereal in TV ads that date back to 1959, usually ending with a kid voicing the slogan, "Silly rabbit -Trix are for kids!" But the rabbit actually got to eat Trix twice -in 1976 and 1980. Both times the decision was made by a box top voting promotion.

3. Jackalope

Image by Flickr user Paul-W

The jackalope (Lagomorpha fantasticus) is a rarely-sighted creature determined to be a cross between a wild rabbit and a deer. It resembles a rabbit with the exception of its long, sharp antlers. The best way to capture a jackalope is to lure it closer with whiskey. Most people who have survived an encounter with a jackalope had plenty of whiskey with them. The jackalope presents a particular threat to tourists, and is most commonly seen displayed taxidermy-style. The legend of the jackalope most likely arose from sightings of ordinary wild rabbits suffering from the effects of the Shope papilloma virus, which causes hard tumors to grow on the animal's head.

4. Bunnicula

Bunnicula, the vampire rabbit of children's literature, made an appearance in the list 8 Rabbits to Avoid, but many commenters told of how they loved Bunnicula. How can anyone be scared of a vegetarian vampire rabbit, anyway?

5. The White Rabbit

The White Rabbit led Alice down the rabbit hole in the Lewis Carroll story Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. He reappears as a herald for the King and Queen of Hearts, which may give us a clue as to what he was late for when he hurried so in the first scene. Pictured is a White Rabbit from the 1951 Disney movie.

6. Roger Rabbit

Roger Rabbit was the protagonist of the 1988 film Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The movie was notable for being the first blockbuster hit to mix animation and live action footage. Disney produced the movie and released it as a Touchstone film because of the sexual innuendo, particularly in the character of Roger's wife Jessica Rabbit -who would be on this list herself if she were really a rabbit instead of a human 'toon who married a rabbit.

7. The Velveteen Rabbit

The Velveteen Rabbit is a toy from the 1922 children's book by Margery Williams. The story tells us how a toy rabbit can become real if it is loved enough, and the heartbreak that love can bring. I tear up every time I even think of the story, although my children are not so affected.

8. The Playboy Bunny

Playboy's iconic rabbit head logo was designed by Art Paul in 1953 for the first Playboy magazine, and has appeared on the cover of every issue since, although sometimes it is pretty hard to find. The rabbit symbol is used throughout the Playboy Enterprises empire, most famously as the trademarked costume for waitresses at Playboy Clubs, known as Playboy Bunnies.

9. Hazel

Hazel is the leader of several rabbits we love from the 1972 book Watership Down by Richard Adams and the 1978 film of the story. The group of rabbits go on a quest for a new and safer place to settle and build a rabbit colony, leaving readers in tears periodically along the way.

10. The Energizer Bunny

The little pink rabbit toy that just kept going and going and going sold a lot of batteries for Energizer. The Energizer Bunny debuted in 1988 and caught on quickly. Many folks don't realize that the first Energizer Bunny ad was a response to a long-lived Duracell battery ad campaign.

11. The Tortoise and the Hare

One of Aesop's most famous fables, The Tortoise and the Hare explains how being in a hurry won't help at all if you can't stay focused on the goal. Although the hare in the story is strictly a loser, we can identify with him in his imperfections.

12. The Easter Bunny

Image by Flickr user Andreas Marx

Many pre-Christian symbols were appropriated for use in Christian holidays, no matter how pagan. The Easter Bunny is a symbol of springtime and fertility, first mentioned in literature in Germany around the year 1500. He appears to have taken a page from Santa Claus in that he magically delivers eggs (another fertility symbol) and candy while children sleep on Easter eve. You don't see the Easter Bunny deliver his goods, but he is often honored in the shape of your chocolates.

13. Harvey

Imaginary rabbits come in two varieties: we prefer pleasant, as in Harvey, the rabbit-shaped pooka that befriends Elwood P. Dowd in the play Harvey and the 1950 film of the same name. Harvey is never seen by the audience except in a portrait commissioned by Dowd, but he is gentle, loyal, and wise, according to what Dowd tells of him. In contrast, the 2001 movie Donnie Darko features a terrifying imaginary man-in-a-bunny suit named Frank.

14. The Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog

The Killer Rabbit that guards the entrance to the cave of Caerbannog in the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail also made the list of Rabbits to Avoid, but those of us who haven't been attacked can't get enough of the bunny. He also appears in the Broadway musical Spamalot.

15. Oolong the Pancake Bunny

Oolong is the name of the rabbit in the picture captioned “I have no idea what you’re talking about… so here’s a bunny with a pancake on its head.” Beginning in 1999, photographer Hironori Akutagawa trained Oolong to balance objects on his head and took pictures, which he posted on his website. He became an internet sensation in 2001 and built a fan base until his death in 2003. He was eight years old. Urban Dictionary defines “pancake bunny” as the patron saint of silence.

16. Bugs Bunny

Bugs Bunny gives real-life heroes a run for their money in popularity contests. He is second only to Mickey Mouse as the best-known cartoon character ever. Bugs has one Oscar, three Oscar nominations, and has appeared in over 175 films. Bugs is the smart alec, carrot-chewing, wise-cracking trickster rabbit we would all like to be -at least for a while.

Honorable mentions: Peter Rabbit, Peter Cottontail, the Cadbury Bunny, Rabbit, Buster Bunny, Ricochet Rabbit, It's Happy Bunny, and Brer Rabbit.

See also: The Horror of Bunnies: 8 Rabbits to Avoid

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8 Surprising Uses for Peeps
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You can eat marshmallow Peeps, and you can put them in someone's Easter basket. But that's just the beginning of what you can do with those small blobs of sugary goodness. Branch out and use your Peeps in new ways this year.

1. S'MORES

Peeps are marshmallows, and can be toasted over a campfire just like their plain, non-sugar-coated brothers—which means you can make classic S'mores out of them. Best of all: You don't even need a campfire to do it. Serious Eats has a recipe for them that they call S'meeps, which only requires that you pop them in the oven for a short time. If you're a Peeps purist, forget the graham crackers and chocolate and enjoy the unique taste of campfire-toasted Peeps all by themselves.

2. WREATHS

Vanessa Brady at Tried & True has made several Peeps wreaths that are sure to inspire you to do the same. (She even has a tutorial to get you started.)

3. PEEPS-KABOBS

If you want to trick a kid into eating a fruit salad, just serve it up on a stick—with a marshmallow Peep in the middle. Blogger Melodramatic Mom made these for an irresistible after-school snack for her kids.

4. ART SUPPLIES

With their consistent shape and size, and variety of bright colors, Peeps can be used as pixels for larger artworks. Ang Taylor made this Mario jumping a Piranha Plant out of marshmallow chicks and bunnies. To be honest, there are many ways Peeps can be used as an art medium, as we've seen many times before (like in this collection of Peeps dioramas).

5. CAKE TOPPERS

Peeps chicks and bunnies are ready-made decorations that will easily stick to cake frosting and make for desserts that are both seasonal and colorful. If you need a recipe, check out this one for a Marbled Cake with Peeps and M&Ms. See some more cake decorating tips here.

6. PEEPS POPS

There's no danger of misshapen cake pops or drippy lollipops when you start with a Peep on a stick. Michelle from Sugar Swings made these candy pops out of marshmallow Peeps, and using Peeps left her plenty of time to decorate them as Star Wars characters. Michelle has plenty of other Peeps pops ideas you can try out, too.

7. PEEPS KRISPIES TREATS

We've seen that Peeps can be substituted for marshmallows in recipes, but remember that Peeps come in a variety of colors and can be bought in small batches. That makes them really useful for coloring separate portions of your Rice Krispies treat recipe. Kristen at Yellowblissroad has a recipe for Layered Peeps Crispy Treats, and a video of the process at Facebook.

8. DIORAMAS

Using Peeps as characters in a diorama, where you can let your imagination run wild, has become somewhat of an Easter tradition. Kate Ramsayer, Helen Fields, and Joanna Church put their heads together to recreate the Broadway musical Hamilton in marshmallow with a diorama that featured the lyrics to the show's opening number.

While The Washington Post has suspended its annual Peeps Diorama Contest after 10 years, other newspapers—including the Twin Cities Pioneer Press and the Washington City Paper—plus local libraries across the country are carrying on the tradition and holding Peeps diorama contests. But you don't have to enter a contest to have fun making a scene with your family.

This piece originally ran in 2017.

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The Bloody Benders, America's First Serial Killer Family
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In 1870, a group of new families moved to the wind-ravaged plains near what would become Cherryvale, Kansas. They were Spiritualists, a religion that was foreign to the homesteaders already in the new state, but locals tended to accept newcomers without asking too many questions. Two of the families moved away within a year, discouraged by the difficult conditions, and the others kept to themselves. But the Benders were different.

At first, they appeared be a normal family. John Bender, Sr., and his troupe settled near the Great Osage Trail (later known as the Santa Fe Trail) over which innumerable travelers passed on their way to the West. The older Bender, called "Pa," made a claim for 160 acres in what is now Labette County. His son John (sometimes called Thomas) claimed a smaller parcel that adjoined Pa's land, but never lived on or worked it. The Benders also included "Ma" and a daughter named Kate, who advertised herself as Spiritualist medium and healer. Ma and Pa reportedly mostly spoke German, although the younger Benders spoke fluent English.

The group soon built a one-room home equipped with a canvas curtain that divided the space into two areas. The front was a public inn and store, and the family quarters were in the back. Travelers on the trail were welcome to refresh themselves with a meal and resupply their wagons with liquor, tobacco, horse feed, gunpowder, and food. Kate, who was reportedly attractive and outgoing, also drew customers to the inn with her supposed psychic and healing abilities. These men, who usually traveled alone, often spent the night.

The trail was a dangerous place, and there were many reasons for travelers to go missing on their way out West—bandits, accidents, conflicts with Native Americans, disease. But over the course of several years, more and more people went missing around the time they passed through Labette County. It usually took time for such disappearances to draw attention—mail and news traveled slowly—but that all changed in March 1873 after a well-known physician from Independence, Kansas, named Dr. William York seemingly disappeared after getting off the train at Cherryvale. Dr. York had two powerful brothers who were determined to find out what happened to him: Colonel Edward York and Kansas Senator Alexander York.

Colonel York led an investigation in Labette County. When questioned, the Benders denied all knowledge of York's disappearance, although Ma Bender "flew into a violent passion," in the words of The Weekly Kansas Chief, when asked about a report of a woman who had been threatened with pistols and knives at their inn. Ma defended herself by claiming that the visitor had been a witch, a "bad and wicked woman, whom she would kill if ever she came near them again.”

Around the same time, the township held a meeting at the Harmony Grove schoolhouse; both male Benders were in attendance. The townsfolk decided to search every homestead for evidence of the missing—but the weather turned bad, and it was several days before a search could begin.

Eventually, a neighbor noticed starving farm animals wandering the Bender property. When he investigated the inn, he found it empty: The Benders had fled. The volunteers who later arrived for the search noted that the Benders' wagon was gone; little else had been taken from the home besides food and clothing.

Though the house was empty, all else seemed normal—until someone opened a trap door in the floor. What they found beneath it was chilling.

The trap door, located behind the curtain in the Benders' private quarters, led to a foul-smelling cellar, which was drenched with blood. Horrified, the group lifted up the cabin from its foundations and dug into the ground, yet found nothing. The investigation then turned to the garden, which was freshly plowed; neighbors recalled that the garden always seemed freshly plowed.

Working through the night, the volunteers first unearthed York's body. The back of his head had been smashed, and his throat slit. Soon, they found more bodies with similar injuries. Accounts differ about the number of bodies excavated from the site, but totals hover around a dozen. In all, the Benders may have committed as many as 21 murders. Their terrible work garnered the family only a few thousand dollars and some livestock.

Investigators later pieced together the group's modus operandi. It's believed that guests at the inn were urged to sit against the separating curtain, and while dining, would be hit on the head with a hammer from behind the curtain. Their body was then dropped into the trap door to the cellar, where one of the Benders slit their unfortunate victim's throat before stripping the body of its valuables.

One man, a Mr. Wetzell, heard this theory and remembered a time when he had been at the inn and declined to sit in the designated spot near the curtain. His decision had caused Ma Bender to become angry and abusive toward him, and when he saw the male Benders emerge from behind the cloth, he and his companion decided to leave. A traveler named William Pickering told an almost identical story.

The crimes created a sensation in the newspapers, drawing journalists and curiosity-seekers from all over the country. "Altogether the murders are without a parallel," read an account reprinted in The Chicago Tribune. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported over 3000 people at the crime scene, with more trains arriving. A book published in Philadelphia soon after the murders were discovered, The Five Fiends, or, The Bender Hotel Horror in Kansas, described how "large numbers of people arrived upon the scene, who had heard of the ... diabolical acts of bloody murder and rapacious robbery. Hardened men were moved to tears." The house in which the murders took place was disassembled and carried away piece by piece by souvenir seekers.

1873 stereographic photo of the excavated grave of a victim of the Bender murders
An 1873 photo of the excavated grave of a victim of the Bender murders

Senator York offered a $1000 reward for the Benders, and the governor chipped in another $2000, but the reward was never claimed. In the years following the sensational crimes, several women were arrested as Ma or Kate, but none were positively identified. A number of vigilante groups claimed to have found the Benders and murdered them, but none brought back proof. The older Benders were allegedly seen on their way to St. Louis by way of Kansas City, and the younger Benders were supposedly seen heading to an outlaw colony on the border of Texas and New Mexico, but no one knows what ultimately became of them.

Investigators were likely hampered by the group’s deceit: None of the Benders were actually named Bender, and the only members who were likely related were Ma and her daughter Kate. "Pa" was reportedly born John Flickinger in the early 1800s in either Germany or the Netherlands. "Ma" is said to have been born Almira Meik, and her first husband named Griffith, with whom she had 12 children. Ma was married several times before marrying Pa, but each husband before him reportedly died of head wounds. Her daughter Kate was born Eliza Griffith. John Bender, Jr.'s real name was John Gebhardt, and many who knew them in Kansas said he was Kate's husband, not her brother.

Today, nothing remains to indicate the exact location where the Bender house stood, although there is a historical marker at a nearby rest area. Though rumors still surround the case—some say Ma murdered Pa over stolen property soon after they fled, others that Pa committed suicide in Lake Michigan in 1884—after 140 years, we will probably never know what really happened to the Bloody Benders.

A version of this story originally ran in 2013.

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