Napoleon’s ‘Battle’ with Bunnies, 1807

Of all of Bonaparte’s illustrious battles perhaps the one he wanted to forget was not his worst ever defeat, but his most embarrassing one, when Napoleon fled from a horde of rabbits.

History tells us that Napoleon Bonaparte’s worst ever defeat occurred at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Yet, his most humiliating one was eight years prior. It was the summer of 1807 and Napoleon Bonaparte was in high spirits as he sauntered across a meadow accompanied by beaters and gun-bearers.

He was at the zenith of his powers having subdued, and made peace with, France’s two arch enemies, Prussia and Russia by signing the Treaties of Tilsit. Now was the time to relax and bask in his glory and so a rabbit shoot and outdoor luncheon were arranged with France’s top brass invited. Around the meadow a ring of rabbit cages had been laid out and hundreds, perhaps up to 3000 rabbits, were released. The hunt was on.

But something strange happened; instead of bounding away, the horde of fluffy ears charged at Napoleon. He and his men laughed it up at first but the onslaught continued and they swarmed over the man and began to climb up his leg.

France’s all-conquering general was no match for an army of bunnies. (

Napoleon tried shooing them with his riding crop; his men grabbed sticks and tried chasing them away; This was quickly degenerating into a demeaning farce for a great emperor such as himself, and so Napoleon retreated to his coach. But the rabbit horde divided into two wings and poured around the flanks of the party to surround the imperial coach, some even leaping into the carriage.

The attack ceased only as the coach rolled away. The man who was dominating Europe was no match for an army of bunnies.


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