The Wine Rabbit
The wine rabbit, Oryctolagus cuniculus vino, is a sub-species of the common rabbit, and did not originally exist in the wild. It was first created through selective breeding in France, during the late fifteen-hundreds.
At the time, rabbit stewed in wine had become an absolute delicacy, and cooks were experimenting with a number of variations on cooking methods for this much-prized dish. Jean de la Rouille was one of them, and he started breeding his rabbits himself, and giving them only wine to drink until they reached adulthood, so that the taste would permeate the rabbit's flesh.
At first, most of the rabbits did not survive until adulthood, or when they did, where not able to assume their reproductive functions, due to the effects of the wine. But after a few generations, natural selection had come to the rescue, allowing only those rabbits with excellent livers as well as an overall tolerance to alcohol to survive and reproduce.
The rabbits made a sensation in Paris, and soon the whole of France was breeding them, and exporting them all over Europe. Of course, this massive wine rabbit population would lead to a few animals escaping here and there, but at the time no one took particular note of this. A few years later, however, the implications of wild wine rabbits became clear.
At the time they started reproducing in the wild, the wine rabbits had acquired a taste for wine that would drive them to steal bottle from cellars, and gnaw at wooden casks until they could drink the content. Bordeaux and Bourgogne were soon overran by the creatures, and they were declared a pest by King Louis XII after one of them had managed to infiltrate the royal cellars and drink the finest cask of the King.
Today, wine rabbits still exist in certain regions in France, and continue to be considered a delicacy, although they can no longer be bred in captivity (in the late twentieth century, they had been declared a protected species). Only the wealthy can afford to buy the few rabbits that can be shot each year. The rest of us will have to make due with its less tender cousin.
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