For those of you unfamiliar with the mystery of the headless rabbit, the following links should help get you up to speed with the situation:
- The Strange Case of the Headless Rabbit
- German police probe animal beheadings
- Headless rabbits found
- Headless rabbit found in yard
When these reports have surfaced in the past, mini-frenzies of speculation, theories and debunking have ensued. Up until this point, theories about who or what might be perpetrating these crimes have been just that. With virtually no evidence to go by, the case of the headless rabbit has made for an intriguing news story, but any and all serious attempts at getting to the bottom of this mystery have stirred speculation but ultimately fallen flat. Until now.
My own experience with the headless rabbit
I was walking through the woods with my brother a few weeks ago when we noticed a strange sight: a dead rabbit was firmly entrenched beneath a fallen tree branch. A closer look revealed that this rabbit was missing its head.
One of our neighbors (where I live, neighbors can be a half-mile or more away) had mentioned that his dogs would occasionally bring home decapitated rabbits. There had been sightings off strange people in dark robes wandering the road late at night, so we attributed the rabbit beheadings to devil worshipers or some occult ritual.
Several years had passed in between my own encounter with the headless rabbit and the sightings reported by my neighbor. Needless to say, I found the thought of occult sacrifices still being practiced so near my home disturbing to say the least, but I digress.
The Crime Scene Investigation
A few hours after we initially made the startling discovery, I decided to return to the scene of the crime to see if I could find any clues that might help shed some light on this mystery. If there were people sacrificing animals in the woods behind my home, I wanted to know about it.
The first thing I did was examine the corpse. The thing that jumped out at me about the body was the manner in which it was entrenched in the dirt beneath a fallen tree branch (too small to qualify as a limb, but with many branches and twigs above the corpse). The rabbit had clearly breathed its last breath in the exact position it was in when we found it. This is significant for two reasons: 1) Whatever killed the rabbit cut its head off while in the position we found it; 2) The tree branches and twigs would have been too much of an obstruction for a human to have decapitated the rabbit without moving it first.
In light of this, and in conjunction with the fact that no other evidence was found indicating that humans had even been present at or around the time of death, I decided to move on and try to figure out other animal could have committed this crime.
At this point, the suspect list contained a bobcat, coyotes, a hawk, an owl and a local strain of bobcat-housecat hybrids. Of these, the first two would have eaten the entire rabbit, and thus can effectively be removed from the primary suspect list. The last animal on the list is an unlikely suspect because most of them get fed by humans and don't need the food bad enough to risk being maimed by a wild rabbit.
As I contemplated narrowing the focus of the investigation to center around predatory birds, I spotted what would become the first big break in the case. As I surveyed the scene, I observed a massive deposit of liquefied bird droppings on the ground under a large tree limb about 20 feet from the rabbit. I was later able to positively identify this as hawk droppings.
Seeing this, I began to look around more carefully. Not more than 8 feet from the hawk droppings, there was a pile of rabbit droppings. A closer look revealed a trail of rabbit hair and blood on the ground between the rabbit droppings and the headless carcass.
Amid all the evidence, I present the following scenario: Thumper emerges from the forest just before dusk. Minding his own business, he decides he needs to take a crap. A hungry hawk oversees this from the tree limb above. The hawk swoops down and attacks the rabbit, who was still immersed in his bowel movement and quite surprised by the attack. A struggle ensues during which the hawk, with its talons and razor-sharp beak, tears into the rabbit pulling out bunches of hair while opening the wounds that would ultimately prove fatal for poor Thumper, who tries his best to rid himself of the merciless hawk. Unfortunately for Thumper, he was unsuccessful. Ultimately, the rabbit dragged the hawk until it reached its final resting place, where it dug in and firmly entrenched its claws in the ground below. Either because it was unable to carry the entire rabbit in flight, or because the rabbit was too entrenched to be removed, the hawk chose to salvage what it could, severing the head to bring back to its nest.
The only question that remains is that of why the hawk took only the rabbit's the head, leaving the meaty body behind. An interesting fact about this case is that the rabbit's brain is the only part of its body containing substantial quantities of fat. All animals need to ingest some fat from time to time, and it is possible that this particular hawk's nutritional needs (or those of its young) were sufficiently met by the Rabbit's brain, with no need for additional proteins. Another thing to keep in mind is that there is no way a single hawk could eat an entire rabbit before it decomposed beyond the point of edibility.
While admittedly, I do not know the precise answer to the question of why just the head, I think that the evidence against the hawk is overwhelming and sufficient to convict. I am content to declare this case closed. If you disagree, feel free to voice your dissent in the comments below.