Napoleon and the Rabbits

Before we begin, we need to watch a very unusual scene. You may be wondering why a bunch of history students need to watch a clip from a comedy about myths from the Middle Ages.  I will make connections later.


Confused? I bet. There is, however, a connection between this clip and Napoleon. Around 1807, Napoleon decided to celebrate a victory with a little hunting. He ordered his subordinate, Alexandre Berthier, to arrange for a rabbit hunt. To facilitate the hunt, Berthier had domestic rabbits–not wild rabbits–released at the hunting grounds.

Easy enough, right?

Wrong. You see, domestic animals and wild animals behave differently. Very differently. Wild animals, for example, usually run away from humans. Domestic animals, however, don’t. In fact, these rabbits seemed to be delighted to see Napoleon and his men because they had not been fed. Historians believe that the rabbits mistook Napoleon for their caretaker. Why? The rabbits swarmed Napoleon. A few even tried to climb up his legs.

The result? Napoleon had to retreat to his carriage and flee the scene. Apparently, a few rabbits followed him into the carriage, and were thrown out the window as the carriage drove away.

Don’t believe me? Search for the story online. Better yet, look for The Campaigns of Napoleon by David G. Chandler. Page 594, to be exact.

Today, you will examine one of three key failures in Napoleon’s career that did not involve rabbits.  You can search online for sources, but make sure your sources are good: university/professor websites, journal articles, and similar sources will work. Be prepared to share the sources you consulted. Your goal is to be able to answer the following (one half page of notes in total should do):

  • the basic circumstances
  • why Napoleon was unsuccessful
  • the consequences of the event

The options are:

  • Napoleon in Russia (1812)
  • The Battle of Paris (1814)
  • The Battle of Waterloo (1815)

Happy hunting!






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