Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Napoleon's Defeat by Rabbits

Napoleon Bonaparte provides a tale of canned hunts as well as the power of operant conditioning.

It seems than in 1807, after signing the Treaty of Tilsit, Napoleon's trusted chief-of-staff, Alexandre Berthier, decided to organize a rabbit hunt for his Corsican boss. To ensure that there were plenty of rabbits to shoot, he bought thousands of rabbits from a local vendor. Unfortunately, they were not wild rabbits, but pen-raised rabbits.

As the Archie Archive web site notes:
Rather than fleeing for their life, the rabbits spotted a tiny little man in a big hat and mistook him for their keeper bringing them food. e hungry rabbits stormed towards Napoleon at their top speed of 35 mph (56 kph).

The shooting party – now in shambolic disarray – could do nothing to stop them. Napoleon was left with no other option but to run, beating the starving animals off with his bare hands. But the rabbits did not relent and drove the Emperor back to his carriage while his underlings thrashed vainly at them with horsewhips.

According to contemporary accounts of the fiasco, the Emperor of France sped off in his coach, comprehensively beaten and covered in shame.

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