A giant rabbit in Berkeley Square. A temporary sculpture by Sophie Ryder, 2020
Bunny, Bunny, Bunny!
Easter messengers, scourge of the cabbage field, notoriously brooding… Bunnies are everywhere and nowhere. It’s rare to see a wild rabbit in central London, but they show up in sculptures and memorials when you least expect them. Here are 12 bunnies and bunnies we spotted while exploring the capital. Follow us down the rabbit hole…
See also: Around London with 12 elephants – Around London with 12 dragons – Around London with 13 tigers – Around London with 11 swans – Around London with 11 horses
1. Real live real rabbits
Before we delve into sculptures and the like, it should be noted that real living, breathing rabbits aren’t exactly hard to find. Stroll through outer London on any section of the London LOOP and you’re sure to catch a glimpse of a hare in the wild. London’s many city farms are also good places to look around. The cute couple above is perhaps London’s most central rabbit (pets excluded). You can find them in Coram’s Fields in Bloomsbury (but you need a child to get into this family area).
2. Pan’s Rabbit
Kensington Gardens’ popular, if somewhat disappointing, statue of Peter Pan is accompanied by a whole ecosystem of supporters. The conical base is adorned with all sorts of fairy and forest creatures…including a family of rabbits.
3. Peter Rabbit
Beatrix Potter’s thieving rabbit bear may be more at home in the Lake District, but it was London in origin. The author was born in the capital and wrote her stories of mild rabbit dangers here as well. She is said to have been inspired by the names on tombstones in Brompton Cemetery. Kids can meet up with Peter and friends (and venture into Mr Todd’s hideout) at Willows Activity Farm (pictured) just north of the M25.
4. Rabbit Woman and Dog Man
This enigmatic duo perform regularly across London (and indeed the world). Rabbitwoman and Dogman are recurring characters portrayed by sculptors Gillie and Marc. The big-eared friends don’t have a permanent home in London yet, but recent high-profile installations include this coffee-themed piece at Spitalfields Market, a motorcycle and sidecar version replacing the above, and most famously the animal banquet in Paternoster Square. The hardworking artists were also behind the 2022 Chimpanzee Cavalcade in More London and the lion sculptures in Waterloo. Marc and Gillie aren’t the only sculptors enchanted by bunnies. The most famous is undoubtedly Barry Flanagan, whose works include Leaping Hare and Crescent Bell in Broadgate. (As luck would have it, a certain Bud Flanagan was born in Spitalfields and formed one half of the music hall duo Flanagan and Allen, known for their singing … Run Rabbit Run.)
5. The “White Rabbit”
The most famous white rabbit is undoubtedly the late one from Alice in Wonderland. To see a sculpted version of this rabbit (and Alice), head to Guildford. Strangely London’s Guildford Road contains two white rabbits. We met the first at Coram’s Fields (see ‘Number 1’) but another is mentioned on this Blue Plaque of English Heritage. It marks the former home of SOE secret agent FFE Yeo-Thomas – a man so mysterious even his name looks like a secret code. Yeo-Thomas operated covertly in occupied and Vichy France until he was captured, tortured and imprisoned. His codename White Rabbit was given to him by the Gestapo.
6. The Mysterious White Rabbit by Barnes
Other white rabbits are available… We filmed this traffic greeting rabbit in Barnes in 2017. He still appears to show up on the first day of every month, like an outdoor version of The Masked Singer. The bunny has since been revealed to be Spike Mclarrity, who recently received his PhD. What’s up Doc?
7. Bugs Bunny
Speaking of which… Undoubtedly the spitting image of Bugs Bunny is undoubtedly the most photographed rabbit in London thanks to its prominent location in Leicester Square. Bugs is one of around a dozen iconic movie characters on permanent display at the plaza.
8. Street Art Rabbit
This beautiful piece is unmistakably the work of Belgian street artist ROA. His animal-based murals have long been a delight to discover across London. This bunny graced a sidewall at Hackney Road from 2010 to 2018 when it was erased from the road through infill development. That means it can still survive behind the new building. As this Streetview shot shows, the mural was still intact when the new facade was erected. Perhaps it will be rediscovered in the coming decades. Street art naturally comes and goes with the whim of a cottontail. Other pieces we spotted around town are this wonderful Alice in Wonderland play by Zabou and this anonymous paste-up near Aldgate (both gone now).
9. A different kind of bunny
The Nubian Jak Organization puts up some of the most wonderful plaques in London commemorating black or minority ethnic people (in the UK) whose stories may not always be in the mainstream consciousness. In this case, the dedicatees are household names like Bob Marley and the Wailers. The group’s name comes from singer/percussionist Bunny Wailer, who is listed on this plaque alongside Marley and colleague Peter Tosh. The plaque is housed in the former Island Records studios on Basing Street, Notting Hill. Marley has several other plaques across London, but this is the only one that Bunny checks by name.
10. Harefield Hare
The village of Harefield in the far north-west of Greater London isn’t named after rabbits – rather it comes from an Old English word meaning a military camp. The commendable place name sign, however, includes a wild rabbit leaping through the bowels of the earth. (Australia’s inclusion on the globe refers to the famous Harefield Hospital, which treated Antipodean soldiers in World War I.)
11. The Hare and the Minotaur
If you thought London’s only Minotaur sculpture was in the Barbican, think again. Another bovine dude can be found in the Wood Wharf development east of Canary Wharf. Our cuckold friend enjoys an unusual assignment with a giant bunny and the two share a bench. The installation is the work of artist Sophie Ryder (whose massive rabbit sculpture is featured at the beginning of this article) and is a replica of one that has stood in Cheltenham for 20 years.
12. Rabbit runs
And finally, a few London streets are named after our prolific friends. Rabbit Row is immediately south-east of Notting Hill Gate railway station, while Rabbits Road is in Aldersbrook (Newham/Redbridge borders) near the City of London Cemetery.
All images by the author except for the street view images in number 12.