Posted by: Brad Nixon | June 20, 2016

Rabbits on the Grass, Alas

The Web is awash with dog pictures and cat photos. I’m not certain what animal weighs in after those two category-killers for volume of cute photos, but rabbits must be high on the list.

rabbit Brad Nixon 1567 (640x535)

I like rabbits, and always scan the brush for them when we hike. I’ve seen the common cottontail just about everywhere, and photographed more than a few.

rabbit Brad Nixon 5709 (622x640)

Given enough opportunity, as we have hiking in the brushy, dry land atop the bluffs above the Pacific here, you eventually see rabbits in unusual poses.

rabbit Brad Nixon 7105 20110820 (640x626)

You might even catch one silhouetted against the ocean.

rabbit Brad Nixon 5719 (640x515)

I’ve seen my share of jackrabbits in the deserts of the American West, but I haven’t been so lucky at photographing them. They’re skittish, and one barely gets a glimpse before they’re gone, especially since I see them most often when I’m out for an early morning or late evening run, the light is poor, and I’m not carrying a camera.

I may have caught sight of one snowshoe hare in Denali National Park, but it was from a moving vehicle. We were looking for bears, caribou, moose and wolves, and I’d probably have been the laughingstock of the company if I’d called out, “Stop the bus! I see a rabbit!”

Rabbits and hares are Lagomorphs, not rodents, just to get that straight. Also in the order Lagomorpha are pikas, which live at high altitudes. Here’s one Dad and I spotted in North Cascades National Park in Washington. I wrote more about pikas HERE.


Rabbits have a prominent place in legends, tales, fables and stories throughout the ages. An artist of the Mimbres culture in southwestern New Mexico painted this jackrabbit on a piece of pottery about a thousand years ago.

Mogollon rabbit Brad Nixon 3693

One day of rabbit photography stands out. I was in Scottsdale, Arizona, producing one of my corporation’s large events at a resort. There aren’t many free minutes in my schedule at those events, and I take advantage of whatever slices of time I can grab to leave the darkened, over-air conditioned ballroom and step outside. Adjacent to the ballroom at that particular venue was a wide expanse of green grass: a croquet lawn.

The temperature was well over 100 degrees. The cool, green grass attracted some local residents, panting in the dry heat.

Scottsdale rabbit Brad Nixon 3179 (640x479)

Isn’t that a pitiful sight? Little rabbit, prostrated in the heat, legs splayed out to get as cool as possible. There were more than half a dozen of them.

I checked on them every day, and every day they were there. Later in the afternoon, as the temperature sank below 100, they recovered, and resumed  lolloping around, eating the grass instead of merely sacking out on it.

Scottsdale rabbit Brad Nixon 3220 (552x640)

I’ve worked at a lot of resorts where I’ve spotted a fair amount of local wildlife, including lizards, deer, even a bear, not to mention any number of rabbits. Here, at the same Scottsdale resort, is a Chuckwalla.

chuckwalla Brad Nixon 3192 (640x479)

Those Scottsdale rabs definitely had the thing figured out. It was a resort, after all; they were chilling out. Another round of carrot juice, please. More ice this time.

The title plays on the opening line of a poem by Gertrude Stein, from Four Saints in Three Acts, “Pigeons on the grass, alas.”

© Brad Nixon 2016, 2017. Pika photograph © Willard Nixon 2017, used by kind permission.


  1. Fun post! I love the story and pics of the Scottsdale rabbits.


  2. As for titles, the mind races at the possibilities. Perhaps The Counselor could paint a contemporary version of Manet’s and Monet’s 19th century Luncheon on the Grass, featuring rabbits instead of humans. The name of your house could be Lapin Agile, after that famous 18th century Montmartre artists’ bar. We could go on and on . . .


  3. Alas, my rabbit experiences are slightly less appealing. i come upon them in the early morning while cycling. I’ll turn around a corner, and they’ll be there in notable numbers, nibbling nonchalantly, but on seeing me, they’ll scuttle away not entirely unlike cockroaches on a kitchen floor when the light’s put on in the middle of the night.

    Oh, and I also wanted to say that your pika had me in mind of a ‘dassie’, what others would call a rock hyrax. But I see that it’s not a lagomorph, so perhaps I should shut up about that before I get behind…


    • Hmm … well, I’m certain those little lagomorphs have a similarly dismissive view of your interruption of their gatherings. I had to look up the hyrax, which you apparently know from Africa. It’s an interesting animal without many extant relatives, closest of which is the elephant. Keep pedaling … carefully!


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