Neil: Hello. This is 6 Minute English,
I’m Neil. And joining me is Rob.
Neil: Rob, when we think of Easter,
what do you think of?
Neil: Well, yes chocolate Easter eggs are
an obvious symbol of Easter. But there is
an animal people often associate with Easter…
Rob: Rabbits! Cute, adorable and fluffy –
what’s not to like about a rabbit?
Neil: Well, not everyone is a fan of them
– by ‘not a fan of’ I mean they don’t like
them. Some people think they are a pest.
But we’ll be telling you
more about rabbits shortly.
Rob: That’s good to know.
Well, I’ll tell you what I am a fan of
and that is your quiz questions –
so what are you going to ask me today?
Neil: It’s all about wild rabbits. In the
last rabbit survey in 1995, how many were
estimated to exist in the UK? Is it…
a) 370,500, b) 3,750,000,
or c) 37,500,000?
Rob: I know rabbits are everywhere
in the UK but not 37 million of them – so
I’ll go for b) 3,750,000.
Neil: Well, you’ll have to wait until the
end of the programme to find out.
But you’re right when you say
rabbits are everywhere in the UK.
It’s probably true in other countries
too. You could say they are endemic –
meaning very common or strongly
established in a place or situation.
Rob: But are they a typically
British wild animal?
Neil: They are now but it’s believed
they were brought to the country
by invaders – some say The Romans,
others The Normans. But they
eventually spread across the UK. Victoria
Dickinson is author of a book called
Rabbit and she’s been telling
the BBC Radio 4 programme
Costing The Earth about what
helped them spread…
Victoria Dickinson: It was really
by the middle of the 17th Century when
people really started
to think about rabbit as being particularly
there were more rabbits
in Britain than in the rest of Europe. There
was a calculation done that there are over
400 villages and towns in Britain with the
word ‘warren’ in their name. So the rabbits
were raised in Britain but they really kept
to their warrens until there was the rise
of fox hunting – when their predators
disappeared rabbits do what
rabbits do best, and they
started to multiply and become wild,
feral rabbits throughout the land.
Neil: So Victoria knows a thing or
two about rabbits – and said
the word ‘warren’ used
in town and village names, is evidence
that they’ve been in the UK
since the mid-17th Century. A warren is
the area underground where rabbits
live with lots of holes and
Rob: But today we use the word warren
to mean a building or a part of
a town where there are lots of
confusing passageways or streets.
It’s a kind of place where you get lost.
Neil: But it was rabbit warrens where
rabbits would live until hunting,
particularly fox hunting, was
introduced and that killed many of the
rabbit’s predators. A predator is an
animal that hunts and
kills another animal.
Rob: Now, Victoria was talking about feral
rabbits – so wild rabbits – not the sort
people keep at pets in a rabbit hutch.
Moving on… I’m interested to know
why not everyone loves these cute
little creatures, I mean, think of the rabbit
characters in the Beatrix Potter stories.
Neil: Well they weren’t always
well behaved. And Victoria Dickinson
spoke to the Costing the Earth
programme about this. What word
did she use to describe rabbits having the
two opposite sides to their character?
Victoria Dickinson: The rabbit is a
paradoxical animal; it has a lot
of faces if you will.
It’s both wild and tame, it’s timid but also
has its reputation as trickster rabbit – if
you think of Peter Cottontail, or you think
of Br’er Rabbits – and
I think our relationship with rabbit is the
rabbit of the nursery rhyme, the rabbit of
childhood or you think of Peter Rabbit.
Rob: She said that rabbits are paradoxical
animals – that’s the word that describes
them having two
Neil: Yes – we think of them as wild,
maybe a trickster – someone
who deceives people to get what they
want. Like Peter – what a cheeky rabbit!
Rob: But we also think of rabbits as tame
– we have nursery rhymes about them,
kids have soft cuddly rabbit toys.
I say they’re the perfect symbol for Easter.
Neil: OK Rob, if you say so. But now
let me answer the question
I set you earlier. In the last survey of
rabbits in 1995, how many were
estimated to exist in the UK? Was it…
a) 370,500, b) 3,750,000,
or c) 37,500,000?
Rob, what did you say?
Rob: I said b) 3,750,000.
Neil: Well, you’re wrong Rob!
A government survey put the population
in the UK at 37.5 million – so a lot more.
But despite its reputation, a recent survey
suggests rabbit numbers in the UK
have declined by around
60 per cent over the last 20 years.
Rob: That is sad news. But let’s cheer
ourselves up with a recap of the
vocabulary we’ve discussed
today, starting with a fan of.
Neil: When someone is a fan of
something, they are keen on it,
they like it a lot. If you’re not a fan
of something – you don’t like it.
Rob: We mentioned endemic – meaning
very common or strongly established
in a place or situation.
Neil: And we talked about a warren – an
underground area where rabbits live, but
also a building or a part of a town
where there are lots of confusing
passageways or streets
where it is easy to get lost.
Rob: A predator is an animal that hunts
and kills another animal.
Neil: Paradoxical describes things that
have two opposing characteristics
making it hard to understand.
Rob: And a trickster is someone who
deceives people to get what they want.
Neil: Well, I’m no trickster, it really
has been six minutes so it’s time to call
it a day. Please join us next time.
Rob: Bye for now.