Meet Benjamin Bouncer, the rockin' rabbit who inspired Beatrix Potter's beloved children's character Peter Rabbit. This lovely lagomorph and his bro-fur, Peter Piper, had more than his fair share of misadventures with his owner, showing that pet rabbits have ruled the roost.
A lifelong animal lover, Bea had a veritable zoo in her house growing up. Her collection of critters, which included everything from a bat to mice she smuggled into the house in paper bags, was an endless source of delight for the Potter children. Undoubtedly this contributed to Beatrix's later career as a naturalist and obsession with drawing small, fuzzy creatures.
But it was in her own journal that Beatrix's rabbitual misadventures came to light. In 1890, Beatrix used Benjamin as the model for some Christmas cards, the first drawings she ever sold commercially. To reward her model, twenty-four-year-old Beatrix fed him some hemp seeds, but when she went to get him the following day, Benjamin was out of commission. Beatrix wrote that "the consequence [of giving the rabbit hemp] being that when I wanted to draw him next morning he was intoxicated and wholly unmanageable."
Peter Rabbit hops for his life. Image via Southbank Centre.
Benjamin Bouncer, who lived from 1885 to 1892, was among Beatrix's favorite pets. She bought Benjamin in 1889, taking him out of a store specializing in birds in - what else? - a paper bag. She even took the Belgian Hare, his leash securely fastened, on long walks, which started her lifelong fascination with all things rabbit-y.
She spoiled her buns. Benjamin loved eating paint and sweets; he once got a swollen face and toothache as a result of too many treats. His aptly named pal, Peter Piper, had his own flannel blanket. Both boys loved to cuddle up close - but not too close! - to the fire on a cold winter's night.
When Peter died at age nine in 1901, Beatrix mourned his loss in a letter, writing, "Whatever the limitations of his intellect or outward shortcomings of his fur, and his ears and toes, his disposition was uniformly amiable and his temper unfailingly sweet. An affectionate companion and a quiet friend."
Feature image via Telegraph.