6 Minute English
Rabbits: cuddly friends or cunning tricksters?
Episode 190418 / 18 Apr 2019
The animal people often associate with Easter is not free from controversy. Rabbits are cute and fluffy and a most adorable creature for some, but others find it a pest that can multiply rapidly and cause problems. Even in literature rabbits have been represented in very different ways: from the sweet characters of Beatrix Potter, to tricksters like Peter Rabbit. Neil and Rob talk about these furry animals and teach you related vocabulary.
This week's question
In the last rabbit survey in 1995, how many were estimated to exist in the UK? Is it...
b) 3,750,000, or
Listen to the programme to find out the answer.
a fan of something
somebody who is keen on something
very common or strongly established in a place or situation
an underground area where rabbits live, but also a building or a part of a town where there are lots of confusing passageways or streets where it is easy to get lost
an animal that hunts and kills another animal
something that has two opposing characteristics making it hard to understand
someone who deceives people to get what they want
Note: This is not a word for word transcript
Hello. This is 6 Minute English, I'm Neil. And joining me is Rob.
Rob, when we think of Easter, what do you think of?
Well, yes chocolate Easter eggs are an obvious symbol of Easter. But there is an animal people often associate with Easter...
Rabbits! Cute, adorable and fluffy – what's not to like about a rabbit?
Well, not everyone is a fan of them – by not a fan of I mean they don't like them. Some people think they are a pest. But we'll be telling you more about rabbits shortly.
That's good to know. Well, I'll tell you what I am a fan of and that is your quiz questions – so what are you going to ask me today?
It's all about wild rabbits. In the last rabbit survey in 1995, how many were estimated to exist in the UK? Is it...
b) 3,750,000, or
I know rabbits are everywhere in the UK but not 37 million of them – so I'll go for b) 3,750,000.
Well, you’ll have to wait until the end of the programme to find out. But you're right when you say rabbits are everywhere in the UK. It's probably true in other countries too. You could say they are endemic – meaning very common or strongly established in a place or situation.
But are they a typically British wild animal?
They are now but it's believed they were brought to the country by invaders – some say The Romans, others The Normans. But they eventually spread across the UK. Victoria Dickinson is author of a book called Rabbit and she's been telling the BBC Radio 4 programme Costing The Earth about what helped them spread...
Victoria Dickinson, author
It was really by the middle of the 17th Century when people really started to think about rabbit as being particularly British...and certainly there were more rabbits in Britain than in the rest of Europe. There was a calculation done that there are over 400 villages and towns in Britain with the word 'warren' in their name. So the rabbits were raised in Britain but they really kept to their warrens until there was the rise of fox hunting - when their predators disappeared rabbits do what rabbits do best, and they started to multiply and become wild, feral rabbits throughout the land.
So Victoria knows a thing or two about rabbits – and said the word 'warren' used in town and village names, is evidence that they've been in the UK since the mid-17th Century. A warren is the area underground where rabbits live with lots of holes and connected passages.
But today we use the word warren to mean a building or part of a town where there are lots of confusing passageways or streets. It's a kind of place where you get lost.
But it was rabbit warrens where rabbits would live until hunting, particularly fox hunting, was introduced and that killed many of the rabbit's predators. A predator is an animal that hunts and kills another animal.
Now, Victoria was talking about feral rabbits – so wild rabbits – not the sort people keep at pets in a rabbit hutch. Moving on – I'm interested to know why not everyone loves these cute little creatures, I mean, think of the rabbit characters in the Beatrix Potter stories.
Well they weren't always well behaved. And Victoria Dickinson spoke to the Costing the Earth programme about this. What word did she use to describe rabbits having the two opposite sides to their character?
Victoria Dickinson, author
The rabbit is a paradoxical animal; it has a lot of faces if you will. It's both wild and tame, it's timid but also has its reputation as trickster rabbit - if you think of Peter Cottontail, or you think of Br'er Rabbits - and I think our relationship with rabbit is the rabbit of the nursery rhyme, the rabbit of childhood or you think of Peter Rabbit.
She said that rabbits are paradoxical animals – that's the word that describes them having two opposing characteristics.
Yes – we think of them as wild, maybe a trickster – someone who deceives people to get what they want. Like Peter – what a cheeky rabbit!
But we also think of rabbits as tame – we have nursery rhymes about them, kids have soft cuddly rabbit toys. I say that they're the perfect symbol for Easter.
OK Rob, if you say so. But now let me answer the question I set you earlier. In the last survey of rabbits in 1995, how many were estimated to exist in the UK? Was it...
b) 3,750,000, or
Rob, what did you say?
I said b) 3,750,000.
Well, you're wrong Rob! A government survey put the population in the UK at 37.5 million – so a lot more. But despite its reputation, a recent survey suggests rabbit numbers in the UK have declined by around 60 per cent over the last 20 years.
That is sad news. But let's cheer ourselves up with a recap of the vocabulary we've discussed today, starting with a fan of.
When someone is a fan of something, they are keen on it, they like it a lot. If you're not a fan of something – you don't like it.
We mentioned endemic - meaning very common or strongly established in a place or situation.
And we talked about a warren – an underground area where rabbits live, but also a building or a part of a town where there are lots of confusing passageways or streets where it is easy to get lost.
A predator is an animal that hunts and kills another animal.
Paradoxical describes things that have two opposing characteristics making it hard to understand.
And a trickster is someone who deceives people to get what they want.
Well, I’m no trickster, it really has been six minutes so it's time to call it a day. Please join us next time.
Bye for now.
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Do you dress formally or casually? Do you choose trendy items or old comfortable ones? Rob and Will talk about the meaning of clothes.
Episode 150910 / 10 Sep 2015
It's been described as the world's largest and most democratic classical music festival. Neil and Finn guide you through the BBC Proms
Episode 150903 / 03 Sep 2015
What an awful sound - cracking your knuckles! Listen in to Rob and Neil to find out if it's a useful skill or just an annoying habit
Episode 150827 / 27 Aug 2015
Was Charles Darwin the only man with ideas about evolution? Rob and Neil talk about someone else who discovered it first.
Episode 150820 / 20 Aug 2015
What are the modern day dilemmas in using a lift? Rob and Neil discuss the awkwardness and irritation of being in one
Episode 150813 / 13 Aug 2015
Should young people be made to vote in elections or should we choose? We discuss the ideas behind compulsory voting
Episode 150806 / 08 Aug 2015
What do we need our chins for? Rob and Neil discuss how we got them and what our chins say about us
Episode 150730 / 30 Jul 2015
Why do gibbons sing duets and what has this got to do with the evolution of the human language?
Episode 150723 / 23 Jul 2015
Skinny models: What does the law say about walking the catwalk?
Episode 150716 / 16 Jul 2015
The dangers of computer games. How good are they for our health?
Episode 150709 / 09 Jul 2015
It's amazing! What part of our body have scientists discovered can heal and help us?
Episode 150702 / 02 Jul 2015
Do you chew gum and what do you do with it when you've finished? Listen to Rob and Finn discussing the history and chemical properties of gum and why it's messing up our streets whilst explaining some related vocabulary
Episode 150625 / 25 Jun 2015
Food banks provide food to people in the UK who can't afford to buy their own. Rob and Finn discuss this how they work and how they help many of the country's poorest
Episode 150618 / 18 Jun 2015
Listen to Neil and Rob discussing mood swings, risk taking, and why people make fun of teenagers, while they also explore some related vocabulary.
Episode 150611 / 11 Jun 2015
How can remote parts of the world get access to the internet? Neil and Catherine discuss a new idea for spreading knowledge
Episode 150604 / 04 Jun 2015
What makes us angry and why is aggression useful? Neil and Catherine discuss human behaviour.
Episode 150528 / 28 May 2015
Big bushy beards have become so fashionable that there's now an art exhibition dedicated to them
Episode 150521 / 21 May 2015
A London apartment block has front and back entrances for private and social housing - or so-called rich and poor doors. Does it make sense to you? Listen to a discussion whilst learning some housing-related vocabulary
Episode 150514 / 14 May 2015
Fifty years ago, on 18 March 1965, Soviet astronaut Alexei Leonov took the first space walk. Listen to Rob and Neil describing the struggles of that ground-breaking space mission whilst explaining some related vocabulary.
Episode 150507 / 07 May 2015
Furniture with built-in wireless charging technology - like a coffee table is now being sold. 'Built-in' means the technology is included as part of the table. So you just pop your phone on the table, and technology does the rest!
Episode 150430 / 30 Apr 2015
Many animals face extinction. But people are realising that they must act now to stop further losses. A scheme to save the Asian elephant in China could provide an answer.
Episode 150423 / 23 Apr 2015
How does music make you feel? Research shows that it actually influences us more than we realise - whether we're at the movies, the supermarket, or down the pub
Episode 150416 / 16 Apr 2015
Coffee is now the most popular drink in the world. But what about the economics and politics of coffee production? It's as complicated as getting the right flavour in your cup
Episode 150409 / 09 Apr 2015
Rob and Neil put on their sunglasses to find out more about this special star and teach some related vocabulary. We promise you won’t be blinded with science!
Episode 150402 / 02 Apr 2015
The UK has become the first country to approve legislation allowing the creation of babies with genetic material from three people. Listen to Neil and Harry’s conversation and learn some related vocabulary.
Episode 150326 / 26 Mar 2015
What are some art galleries banning to protect their paintings? Find out with Neil and Harry
Episode 150319 / 19 Mar 2015
An electronic device under your skin?! Workers in Sweden take part in experiment which allows them to get in and out of their office without a key, ID or password. Listen to Neil and Harry’s chat and learn some related vocabulary.
Episode 150312 / 12 Mar 2015
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Winston Churchill’s death. He is known throughout the world for his role in defeating Nazi Germany but he also made mistakes. Listen to Neil and Mike’s discussion, and learn new vocabulary.
Episode 150305 / 05 Mar 2015
We live in a richer world. But the gap between rich and poor is still very wide in individual countries. How to change this? Listen to Rob and Harry’s discussion, and learn some related vocabulary.
Episode 150226 / 26 Feb 2015
The price of vaccines has escalated and some poor countries are struggling to prevent children from catching certain life-threatening diseases, says Medecins Sans Frontieres. Listen to Rob and Neil’s discussion, and learn some related vocabulary.
Episode 150219 / 19 Feb 2015
Will thinking computers be the end of humans? Listen to Rob and Neil’s chat and learn some related vocabulary.
Episode 150212 / 12 Feb 2015
About 37,000 tourists are expected to visit Antarctica this season. But should they be going to a region with such a sensitive environment? Listen to Rob and Neil’s conversation and learn some new vocabulary.
Episode 150205 / 05 Feb 2015
At a time when more people compete for fewer jobs, are you sure you present your skills and abilities well to a potential employer? Listen to Rob and Neil's conversation and learn some related vocabulary.
Episode 150129 / 29 Jan 2015
Going to a party where you don't know anyone? Listen to Rob and Neil's advice and learn some related vocabulary
Episode 150122 / 22 Jan 2015
We use computers for everything nowadays. Are we forgetting our own abilities - and losing our talent? Listen to Rob and Neil's discussion, and learn some related vocabulary
Episode 150115 / 15 Jan 2015
Smoking in cars with children might be banned in England. Listen to Neil and Rob's chat and learn some related vocabulary
Episode 150108 / 08 Jan 2015
Is bullying just an attempt to give a bad name to what is part of human nature? Listen to Rob and Neil’s chat and learn some related vocabulary.
Episode 150101 / 01 Jan 2015
What would you put in your time capsule? Listen to Rob and Neil’s chat and learn new vocabulary
Episode 141225 / 25 Dec 2014
When enemy soldiers sang together in WW1. Listen to Rob and Finn’s chat and learn some related vocabulary.
Episode 141218 / 18 Dec 2014
The London school where students speak 42 different languages
Episode 141211 / 11 Dec 2014
Laughter isn't always the best medicine, says research
Episode 141204 / 04 Dec 2014
Are your pictures, documents and videos safe online? Listen to Rob and Finn's chat and learn new vocabulary
Episode 141127 / 27 Nov 2014
Nowhere to park? How the sharing economy is changing the way we use our space
Episode 141120 / 20 Nov 2014
How can science fiction help the world? Rob and Finn discuss a project which aims to inspire through stories of a bright future
Episode 141113 / 13 Nov 2014
Why is eating meat bad news?
Episode 141106 / 06 Nov 2014
Do real-life superheroes exist or are they just cartoon characters?
Episode 141030 / 30 Oct 2014
Rob and Finn discuss the World Health Organisation's recommendations on e-cigarettes
Episode 141023 / 23 Oct 2014
Should we eat less sugar? Listen to Rob and Neil and learn new vocabulary
Episode 141016 / 16 Oct 2014
Is learning English getting easier? Find out what's new
Episode 141009 / 09 Oct 2014
Why do we buy so much food and not eat it all? Learn more about food waste
Episode 141002 / 02 Oct 2014
Is it right to sleep at work? Rob and Finn discuss the benefits of sleeping on the job.
Episode 140929 / 29 Sep 2014
Is the way we see famous people a new thing? Learn about the first 'modern celebrity'.
Episode 140821 / 21 Aug 2014
Bored? You're not alone. Rob and Finn discuss how to deal with boredom and teach some related vocabulary. We promise you won't be bored!