Hare today...

Steve Jack, 13 February, 2018
While driving through the French countryside, Steve Jack was wondering about the relative absence of roadkill. But things eventually became clear...


“Poor little bunny!” lamented my anguished travel companion.

In truth, it wasn’t so much a little bunny as a large hare. At least as big as a cat. And well over a metre in length when held up vertically by the ears – as I was later to find out.

And it wasn’t so much a hare as an ex-hare. In the vernacular of Monty Python’s famous sketch, he (or she) was most definitely ‘bereft of life’ and had ‘ceased to be’. “'E's shuffled off 'is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisible!” Yes, this hare was unquestionably dead.

But what to do? After getting over my initial shock and mortification (I love animals as much as the next Rosbif  on tour in France), I checked in my rear-view mirror. Nothing. No bloody entrails scattered across the road; no bunny involuntarily bouncing along between white lines in a deceased state. So where the hell was he? (Being so large, I felt this beast had  to be a male.)

Had he miraculously catapulted off the front of the car, back into the field from whence he had come, picked himself up, dusted himself down, then lolloped off to continue whatever blissful bunny-related activity he had until very recently been pursuing in this beautiful corner of rural Alsace? Much as I wished this to be the case, I knew it not to be. Unlike Monty Python’s pet shop owner and parrot keeper, I was not about to insist that he was either ‘resting’ or ‘stunned’. I had to face facts: not only had the hare somehow disappeared, he was also incontrovertibly dead.

“Il est disparu!” I muttered to myself incredulously, while continuing to drive, now at a slightly lower speed, along this quiet country lane through the idyllic French countryside. (I had been enjoying practising my French on this trip, and my Inspector-Clouseau-like intonation seemed to add a comforting air of mystery to this tragic turn of events.)

“Was I to blame?”, was the next inevitable question. My companion, motionless and in a state of mute astonishment next to me, offered no opinion on the matter as far as I could tell. I decided that I could not possibly  be to blame, as that would ruin the whole trip. In any case, I had been driving at within a hare’s breadth (sorry) of the speed limit, and Big Ears had appeared, as if by ill-fated magic, right in front of us. What was I to do: swerve dramatically at a nano-second’s notice and risk mutilating all three of us? No, I quickly absolved myself of all responsibility, but that failed to resolve the question of what to do next, or where this erstwhile bunny had ended up.

The answers to both these questions were to coalesce rather neatly as we rolled gently into the next village. (Kintzheim, I believe; or was it Bergheim or Wittisheim? One of the ‘-heims’, at any rate.) Pausing at the central crossroads, the parking sensors on the front of our hire car went slightly berserk, even without another car in sight. Puzzled, I dared to look at my passenger. “I fear we have a rabbit on the front of the car,” was his logical conjecture.

“Merde!”, I said – swiftly making the deux-plus-deux calculation in my mind, my horror not quite outweighing the impulse to keep practising schoolboy French. Pulling slowly over to the kerb, I got out of the car, and bent down to examine the grille with no small degree of trepidation.

Sure enough, there he was: floppy ears wedged right behind the radiator surround, with the rest of him plastered across the front of the car in a kind of uncomfortable repose – as though he’d hitched a lift in the diciest of circumstances. The only way to hold my nerve as I made to extract him from his entanglement was to imagine him an all-too-real cuddly toy. (Not as much of a stretch as you might imagine, given that my constant companion as a child had been a similarly floppy-eared, stuffed rabbit going by the name of... ‘Floppy Ears’.)

I laid him out, on the edge of the pavement: there was not a scratch or fleck of blood to be seen, and he looked for all the world as though he was merely enjoying a glassy-eyed sleep. Then – quelle horreur! – a rather attractive French lady approached on foot, hand-in-hand with her daughter. The child must have been about six or seven years old – a perfect bunny-loving age, I thought to myself ruefully.

The ensuing conversation, though (even allowing for my amateur language skills and limited comprehension), allayed my fears somewhat. My chic interlocutor proved to be rather more sanguine about the whole affair than I had imagined, and the little girl was – if anything – even more laissez-faire than her mother. And although I can’t be sure, I fancy there was a slight smile forming at the edges of her little mouth, as she no doubt twigged what might be about to happen next.

“I would take it home for dinner,” said the woman. “But I’m very sorry: you see, I don’t have a bag.” And so it transpired that, as if in a dream, I reached inside the back of the car, un-crumpled an old Sainsbury’s plastic carrier bag, and held it open by the handles. Monsieur Lièvre (for by that stage I knew the word for ‘hare’) was unceremoniously picked up by his ears, dangled into the bag – a metre or more in length, as I say – and carried home for tea.

Once back in the car, I turned to my bemused companion, who had watched the whole encounter without uttering – or hearing – a word (like the silent black comedies of old, I imagined), and shrugged. “I was wondering earlier on why there seems to be no roadkill in France,” I offered. “But now I know.”

Further information

Country life in Alsace
You can explore the ravishing Alsace countryside at a very gentle pace on two wheels. The only dead rabbits you are likely to find will be on your plate.
More about our cycling holidays in Alsace >

What to do with the hare?
Steve wasn’t sure what his French interlocutor had in mind when it came to cooking up the ex-hare for her family’s weekend meal, but one possibility is the Alsacien dish, Civet de Lièvre.
Read our recipe for Civet de Lièvre aux Spätzle >
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