Skip to content

How lovely this is

So, coney is a word for rabbit. Rabbits originally come from the Atlantic Coast of Portugal, the Costa Vincentina (ie, Cape St Vincent and moving north from there). The Roman name for the tribe here when the Romans arrived was the Conii.

Isn’t that fun?

The term “cony” or “coney” antedates “rabbit”, and first occurred during the 13th century to refer to the animal’s pelt. Later, “cony” referred to the adult animal, while “rabbit” referred to the young. The root of “cony” is the old French connil or counil, of which the Norman plural was coniz, and later conis. Its forerunner is the Greek κύνικλος, from which the Latin cuniculus is derived. The origin of κύνικλος itself is unclear: Ælian, who lived during the third century, linked the word to Celtiberian and later authors relate it to its Basque name unchi; Varo and Pliny connected it to cuneus, which refers to a wedge, thus making reference to the animal’s digging ability.[6]

Also, I think we might have a better explanation than Wikipedia does.

13 thoughts on “How lovely this is”

  1. It’s “Kanin” in Danish. And I come straight from the dinner table, where we had it with mustard sauce

  2. It used to be said that the Normans introduced rabbits from the Balearics. I wonder if mankind took them there from the Iberian mainland.

  3. Rabbits originally come from the Atlantic Coast of Portugal . . .

    Hmmm, that seems a rather specific origin point for a massively fecund species that has supposedly been around for 6.5 million years. Wiki says the (European) rabbit is native to all of Iberia, western France and parts of North Africa, and that too seems odd. Given the incredible success of this animal nearly everywhere it is introduced, what stopped it spreading naturally?

    Something about this story doesn’t add up.

  4. “what stopped it spreading naturally” When the Normans introduced them to England, the account normally goes, the poor wee beasties found the weather inclement. Thus warrens were built for them to take shelter in. Then, the story continues, they eventually evolved to cope with the weather.

    Which makes me wonder why they hadn’t already evolved to cope with the weather in harsher parts of the Continent. So I agree: it doesn’t add up.

  5. “what stopped it spreading naturally?”

    Climate/geology did.
    The Romans did introduce them into England and tried to basically everywhere up to the Rhine.
    The problem for them was that rabbits don’t do well in wet areas, which most of northwest Europe was at the time. So they could only be kept in pens and didn’t do well outside.

    And yes, in Roman Times quite a lot of Europe was still drying up from the remnants of the last Ice Age, not helped by the Roman Warm, which speeded up the modern-times much-dreaded Melting of the Glaciers. All the lowlying bits and the areas where water couldn’t get away easily were decidedly soggy, if not outright wet.
    Not enough places where rabbits could thrive in Roman occupied areas, and vast stretches of moors and wetlands that cut them off from places where they technically could. And snakes… lots of snakes, and foxes, and various mustelids having no problem at all digging themselves some rabbit lunch.

    By the time the Normans brought them with them, England ( and the rest) had dried up a fair bit, so that only the really lowlying bits were still soggy. The rest had filled up with peat over some 5 centuries.
    The fact that the Normans didn’t just bring them to London and environs, but took them literally everywhere at once helped in spreading them as well. Much more access to places where they could breed like..well.. rabbits. Especially since land cultivation and hunting pretty much also decimated quite a few of their natural predators.

    Our climate/geology mostly still isn’t ideal for them, but they cope with that by sheer numbers. They breed so fast that losing 60% of their young to Cold and Damp isn’t an issue to them.
    They can easily do 3-4 batches a year because there is enough food for them. And a ram gets a harem when he gets the chance.. And only a couple of rabbits need to survive to start the whole circus again next year… Especially with hardly any predators around.. Especially snakes…

  6. OT-ish, but it amuses me to no end that you often hear archeologists ramble on about late Bronze Age and Iron Age fortresses, raised walkways, and pole villages, as if they are completely divorced from Roman history.
    They aren’t. They. are. the. same. Era.

  7. I’ ve just checked a German dictionary, because I thought that it might be some IndoEuropean phrase.

    In fact they agree to an extent. Rabbits originally came from Iberia and Northern Italy and were indeed spread by the Romans. Coney ( Kanin in Germanic languages ) comes from the Old French which in turn comes from the Latin. They believe that the term originated amongst the tribes in the Pyrenees or Liguria.

  8. The problem for them was that rabbits don’t do well in wet areas . . .
    . . . quite a lot of Europe was still drying up from the remnants of the last Ice Age . . .

    But the European rabbit supposedly predates the last ice age – indeed the whole last glacial period. They should have been hopping alongside the lions and hippos of the Chibanian, spreading like wildfire and surviving in the many areas that remained hospitable when the cold came.

    I found another bit on the wiki page that implied it was heavy snow the bunnies couldn’t cope with. Rabbits don’t have much fat and can’t live much beyond a week without food. That could explain north west Europe, but recently spreading naturally across southern France and into the whole of Italy shouldn’t have been a problem.

    If rabbits can thrive in Australia it doesn’t seem that snakes can be too much of a hindrance. And once rabbits are introduced to places they supposedly didn’t spread to, they thrive. The snows and bogs and predators of north western Europe suddenly aren’t a barrier. There are even colonies in Finland.

    If the north African European rabbits are native then they must have got there when the Straights of Gibraltar were joined 5 million years ago. But when that was the case the Mediterranean was nearly completely dried out, so the randy little hoppers should have spread right around the whole basin.

    The official history of the European Rabbit doesn’t make sense.

  9. . . . north west Europe . . .

    – should be north east Europe.

    Amazing, the conservation status of the European rabbit is – endangered.

  10. Given that rabbit derives from a Germanic language and the discussion has been about how rabbits find it tougher oop North

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *