Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit!
Harbingers of Easter, scourge of the cabbage patch, notoriously breedy... rabbits are everywhere and nowhere. It's rare to glimpse a wild rabbit in inner London, yet they pop up in sculpture and memorial when you least expect it. Here are 12 rabbits and hares we've discovered on our explorations of the capital. Follow us down the rabbit hole...
1. Actual, live, real rabbits
Before we get onto sculptures and the like, it should be noted that genuine living, breathing rabbits aren't exactly hard to find. Walk any section of the London LOOP around outer London and you're sure to glimpse a bunny in the wild. London's many city farms are also good places to look. The cute pair above are perhaps London's most central rabbits (excluding pets). You'll find them in Coram's Fields in Bloomsbury (but you'll need a kid to get in to this family space).
2. Pan's rabbits
Kensington Gardens' much-loved, if slightly underwhelming, statue of Peter Pan comes with a whole ecosystem of supporters. The conical base is decorated with all manner of fairyfolk and woodland creatures... among them, a family of rabbits.
3. Peter Rabbit
Beatrix Potter's thieving lagomorph might be more at home in the Lake District, but his genesis was in London. The author was born in the capital and wrote her tales of mild bunny peril here, too. Supposedly, she got her inspiration from the names on gravestones in Brompton Cemetery. Kids can enjoy a meet-and-greet with Peter and his friends (and venture into Mr Todd's lair) at the Willows Activity Farm (pictured), just north of the M25.
4. Rabbitwoman and Dogman
This enigmatic duo make regular appearances across London (and, indeed, the world). Rabbitwoman and Dogman are recurring characters portrayed by sculptors Gillie and Marc. The big-eared friends don't yet have a permanent home in London, but recent high-profile installations include this coffee-themed piece in Spitalfields Market, a motorbike and sidecar version which replaced the above, and most famously the animal banquet in Paternoster Square. The hard-working artists were also behind the 2022 chimp cavalcade in More London, and the lion sculptures at Waterloo. Marc and Gillie are not the only sculptors enchanted by lagomorphs. The most famous is undoubtedly Barry Flanagan, whose works include "Leaping Hare and Crescent Bell" in Broadgate. (As chance would have it, one Bud Flanagan was born down the road in Spitalfields, and formed one half of music hall duo Flanagan and Allen, famous for singing... Run Rabbit Run.)
5. The "White Rabbit"
The most famous White Rabbit is undoubtedly the tardy one from Alice in Wonderland. To see a sculptural version of that bunny (and Alice), head to Guildford. Curiously, London's Guildford Street contains two White Rabbits. The first we already met at Coram's Fields (see 'number 1'), but another is mentioned on this English Heritage Blue Plaque. It marks the former home of the SOE secret agent F.F.E. Yeo-Thomas — a man so mysterious that even his name looks like a secret code. Yeo-Thomas operated under cover in Occupied and Vichy France, until he was captured, tortured and imprisoned. His codename of White Rabbit was bestowed by the Gestapo.
6. The mysterious white rabbit of Barnes
Other white rabbits are available... We filmed this traffic-saluting bunny in Barnes, back in 2017. He apparently still makes an appearance on the first day of every month, like an al fresco version of The Masked Singer. The rabbit has since been unmasked as Spike Mclarrity, who recently gained a PhD. What's up, Doc?
7. Bugs Bunny
Speaking of which... Undoubtedly the most photographed rabbit in London, thanks to its prominent location in Leicester Square, must be this likeness of Bugs Bunny. Bugs is one of around a dozen iconic movie characters on long-term display in the square.
8. Street art rabbits
This handsome piece is unmistakably the work of Belgian street artist ROA. His animal-based murals have long been a joy to discover across London. This hare decorated a side wall in Hackney Road from 2010 until 2018, when an infill development erased it from the street. That said, it may still survive behind the new building. As this shot on Streetview shows, the mural was still intact while the new frontage was going up. Perhaps it'll be rediscovered in decades to come. Street art, by its very nature, comes and goes with the caprice of a cottontail. Other pieces we've spotted around town include this wonderful Alice in Wonderland piece by Zabou, and this anonymous paste-up near Aldgate (both now gone).
9. A different kind of Bunny
The Nubian Jak organisation puts up some of the most wonderful plaques in London, commemorating Black or minority ethnic (in Britain) people, whose stories may not always be in the mainstream consciousness. In this case, the dedicatees are household names as, collectively, Bob Marley and the Wailers. The group's name comes from singer/percussionist Bunny Wailer, who's listed on this plaque alongside Marley and fellow Wailer Peter Tosh. The plaque can be found at the former studios of Island Records on Basing Street, Notting Hill. Marley has several other plaques across London, but this is the only one to namecheck Bunny.
10. The hare of Harefield
The village of Harefield in the extreme north-west of Greater London is not named after hares — more likely it comes from an Old English word denoting a military encampment. That said, its commendable village sign contains a rampant hare leaping through the bowels of the Earth. (The inclusion of Australia on the globe refers to the famous Harefield Hospital, which treated Antipodean soldiers in the first world war.)
11. The hare and minotaur
If you thought London's only minotaur sculpture was in the Barbican, think again. Another bovine bloke can be found in the Wood Wharf development, east of Canary Wharf. Our horned friend enjoys an unlikely assignation with a gigantic hare, and the two share a bench. The installation is the work of artist Sophie Ryder (whose massive hare sculpture can be seen at the start of this article), and is a copy of one that's stood in Cheltenham for 20 years.
12. Rabbit runs
And to finish, a couple of London roads are named after our fecund friends. Rabbit Row can be found immediately south-east of Notting Hill Gate station, while Rabbits Road is out in Aldersbrook (Newham/Redbridge borders), near the City of London Cemetery.
All images by the author, except for the Streetview images in number 12.