Welcome once again to The Science Of Superheroes: Science Goes Wild! This week you join me and Ryan as we traipse back and forth up Cheetham Hill Road, Manchester, in search of a pet shop because in this exciting chapter we’re looking at rabbits! For those of you concerned that Ryan might be unwell following his trip to the doctor’s last week, don’t worry it’s nothing a special ointment and a rest from the ‘ladies of the night’ won’t sort out. Anyway, in this chapter the hero in question is Usagi Yojimbo, so prepare yourselves as we ‘rabbit’ on… (sorry) about little bunny rabbits!
Right, here we go again!
WHO IS USAGI YOJIMBO?
Usagi Yojimbo is the rabbit ronin who first appeared in the Dark Horse series of comics of the same name in 1987. The sword wielding bunny was created by Stan Sakai and has regularly appeared in comics ever since he made his debut.
WHAT THE HELL IS A YOJIMBO?
A yojimbo is a Japanese word which means bodyguard, although it’s also the name of a (rather good) 1961 Akira Kurosawa film. In this case Usagi Yojimbo basically means rabbit bodyguard.
SO IS HE AN ACTUAL RABBIT?
You bet ya sweet ass he is! Although by all accounts Ryan, your ass is not in any stretch of the imagination sweet! Usagi looks like a rabbit, smells like a rabbit and if shoved in a pie and served up next to a dollop of mash then smothered in gravy... he sure as heck would taste like a rabbit!
OH, SO TELL ME, WHAT MAKES RABBITS SO SPECIAL?
Well there are many different species of rabbit (including hares) but as a general rule rabbits are small mammals that are part of the Lagomorphia order. They live in groups, mostly in North America, have an average life expectancy of between 9 and 12 years and just like you Ryan, they’re known for being serial shaggers.
Yes; although I don’t believe they ever pay for it. Their breeding season lasts approximately 9 months, meaning they have plenty of time to get down and dirty which results in many, many baby bunnies. You see once a doe (a female rabbit) becomes pregnant the gestation period only takes 30 days, by which time she can produce anywhere between 4 & 12 offspring; allowing them to multiply rapidly! As for the deed itself, well once again Ryan this is where you two share similarities as it only lasts about 30 seconds. Hardly Earth moving stuff.
Male rabbits (like Usagi) are called bucks, whilst (as mentioned previously) females are does; they usually live in burrows, have two sets of incisor teeth and very powerful hind legs!
I'M GOING TO IGNORE YOUR '30 SECONDS' COMMENT. HOW POWERFUL ARE THEIR LEGS?
Very. Firstly rabbits move around on their toes (this is known as digitigrade) and they hop about in a zig-zag movement which helps them evade foxes, badgers and anything else that threatens them!
Secondly, they use their legs to kick predators and if they do feel threatened they thump their feet on the ground to warn the rest of their group that there is danger in the vicinity.
Finally their feet are considered by us humans as being very lucky and some people carry a rabbit’s foot around for good fortune. It’s not entirely clear how this is lucky for the rabbit though, as having one’s foot removed and attached to a keychain doesn’t sound all that lucky to me.
SO HOW ALIKE ARE RABBITS AND USAGI YOJIMBO?
Well they’re both rabbits, so they have that in common! As for everything else, well Usagi Yojimbo is skilled in the use of a sword, fights mythical creatures and dresses in traditional Japanese attire, all of which sets him apart from your average rabbit.
SO WHAT IS THE LIKELIHOOD OF A RABBIT BECOMING A SUPERHERO?
Probably not very likely. The whole thing about removing their feet to use as a lucky charm doesn’t help, but throw in the fact that we like to eat them and keep them locked up as pets is surely enough to make them hate us for the rest of time. Anyway if rabbits were on equal par with humans you’d probably want to keep your distance as they can carry diseases, with the most famous being myxomatosis and another being bubonic plague…
…which can kill a human within 4 days. Oh, shit. Either way rabbits as heroes just isn’t happening!
Right that’s all for this week, see you next time as we look at the speediest hedgehog known to man.