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DID YOU KNOW? | Napoleon syndrome, cuniculture and ‘The Great Bunny Attack of 1807’

By Tara Yilmaz

I have great respect for the past. If you don’t know where you’ve come from, you don’t know where you’re going…

— Maya Angelou

The rest of the Maya Angelou quote says “I have respect for the past, but I’m a person of the moment. I’m here, and I do my best to be completely centered at the place I’m at, then I go forward to the next place.” I like to think of myself as that type of person. Living in the moment, not yearning for the past (maybe the 80s), and not harping on the future. Not letting should’ve, could’ve, would’ve dictate my life. But when I learned about Napoleon Bonaparte’s battle with 3,000 bunny rabbits and losing… I had to visit the past.

→ Did you know the self-proclaimed crowned Emperor of France, Napoleon Bonaparte, was at one time considered to be the most powerful man in the world? Historians can say all the negative things they want about Napoleon. That he was a flawed hero, a mad tyrant, a stalker, and superstitious, but they can’t take away the fact that he was indeed a successful military and political leader. To his credit, at the age of 24, he was a military general and Commander of the army of the First French Republic after the French Revolution. At 24, I spent my summers sitting on the couch watching Bad Girls Club with my best friend. Who am I to say he was good or bad? This is not the main focus of the article. The purpose is to learn about The Great Bunny Attack of 1807. Not to be confused with The Great Emu War of 1932 which lasted over a month.

→ Did you know it was not Napoleon’s intention to go to war with bunnies? After signing the Treaties of Tilsit that ended the war between the French Empire and Imperial Russia, according to, the fearless general held a bunny hunt to celebrate the historic event. His not so-educated on cuniculture (the agricultural practice of breeding and raising domestic rabbits) commander’s chief of staff, Alexandre Berthier organized the hunt and ordered local farmers to produce 3,000 hungry rabbits for their disposal. To Napoleon and his guests, it was party time, but to the hungry rabbits, it was feeding time. Unleashed with fury and hunger the rabbits swarmed the men and brought them to their knees. Not only gnawing and nibbling boots and buttons, these bunnies saw them not as a threat but as dinner.

Overwhelmed by the hostile bunnies, Napoleon retreated to his carriage and hurried away with his tail tucked between his legs. After all of his military successes, the Emperor should’ve known you can’t compete if you don’t compare.

→ Did you know there’s a complex named after Napoleon Bonaparte? The term originated because of his military and amorous conquest which is attributed to his mighty desire to possibly compensate for his short stature. describes it as an inferiority complex associated with short people, especially short men. It is also referred to as “Napoleon syndrome.” Individuals with this disposition are claimed to overcompensate for their short stature by being excessively belligerent, hostile, or quarrelsome in their interpersonal relationships. I’m sure Bonaparte’s losing to rabbits didn’t help with his disposition.

Napoleon wasn’t the only historical figure who may have suffered from this inferiority complex. Other dictators could’ve been in his company. Joseph Stalin was 5 foot 5 inches, Mussolini was 5 foot 6, Adolf Hitler was 5 foot 8, Kim Jong Il was 5 foot 3 and Genghis Khan was 5 foot 6. Who really knows if height can dictate temperament or success? Maybe if Napoleon was taller he would’ve won the attack of the bunnies.



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