Wild rabbit meat, which is leaner and tastier than the farmed variety, has a fabulous subtle, gamey flavour (very different from richly flavoured hare). It is available throughout the year but you're more likely to find the best sized rabbits from July to December.

Regional dishes reflect the fact that rabbit is very versatile and works well with those flavours often used in chicken dishes, such as mustard and cream (France), tomato and herbs (Italy), and chilli (South America). Get hold of some rabbit and try one of the great recipes below such as Ligurian Braised Rabbit and Rosemary with Olives and Tomatoes.


The rabbit is native to North Africa and Spain. The Romans began importing rabbits to Italy in around the third century BC. During medieval times new-born rabbits and foetuses, known as laurices, were widely eaten in Spain and Italy as they were not considered meat and could be eaten on fish days.

From the fifteenth century on it was common practice for sailors and explorers to release breeding rabbits on islands to provide a supply of fresh meat. The rabbit is now found throughout Europe, South America and Australasia.

In the first half of the twentieth century the rabbit population exploded. Myxomatosis, introduced as a form of pest control in Australia in 1951, and later in Europe, killed more than 95% of rabbit populations.

Today rabbit meat is not very popular in Britain, perhaps in part because of its association with food shortages during WWII. It is appreciated much more elsewhere in Europe and appears regularly on the dinner table in Italy, France, Belgium, Spain, and Cyprus. Malta and Crete compete for highest rabbit consumption per head of population.


The rabbit is a member of the family Leporidae, which includes the hare. Rabbits are gregarious and nocturnal animals that feed on grasses and herbaceous plants but will also eat bark when grass is not available. Rabbits are highly efficient at converting plant proteins into animal proteins (their conversion rate is double that of cattle, for example).


Unlike much of Europe, rabbit is rarely seen in UK supermarkets, but is available from many butchers and food markets. It is also available by mail order from a number of suppliers, such as Graig Farm Organics or Alternative Meats.

Select rabbits by size; they should be large enough to yield a decent amount of meat, but not too large. Wild rabbits much larger than 1kg are prone to be tough. Younger, smaller animals will be more tender and better suited to quick cook methods such as roasting or barbecuing. Larger, older rabbits will have more flavour but may be less tender and so better suited to slower cooking.

Fresh rabbit will keep in the fridge for several days (or longer if vacuum packed). Freezing is not recommended as this can make the meat too dry.

To joint a rabbit: cut the hind quarters away from the body and separate the legs. Halve the leg joints. Cut the body (saddle) horizontally through the backbone into two or three portions, stopping at the rib cage. Cut lengthways through the breastbone and divide the ribcage section in half.

As rabbit meat is very lean, care should be taken to prevent it from drying out during cooking. Marinading or barding (covering in a fat or wrapping in bacon) can help moisten the flesh during roasting or barbecuing.


If you don't fancy rabbit, why not make Welsh Rabbit?