The gallis and the skettel
The gallis and the skettel
To reach Dorette Abrahams at her Albion Heights, St Thomas location, I had to walk over two steep inclines up a hill.
The first one was manageable, but the second one gave my calves a massive workout. Frankly, I didn't mind, I need the exercise. And then the view of the sea was compensation for my hard work.
I had gone to chat with Abrahams about her rabbit-rearing business, but I was not prepared to hear about the social and sexual habits of rabbits which, at one time, were popular pets here in Jamaica. I remember people going around searching for the Spanish Needle plants to feed rabbits.
I also remember people saying rabbit meat was excellent for weak-blooded people, and there was this joke about how a Chiney man described a rabbit. "Labbay, long hay, short tay, fava poo, but no poo," it was claimed he said. Translation: Rabbit, long ears, short tail, looks like a puss, but not a puss. And, off course, rabbits have the reputation for breeding as if there were no tomorrow.
And so, when describing how fertile these cute and cuddly creatures are, Abrahams went into a sarcastic depth by saying even when they are already pregnant, they can be impregnated again. Thus, because of their penchant for multiple pregnancy, the male and the females are kept in separate compartments.
When Abrahams sees it is time for mating, the does are brought to commingle with the bucks, and then returned to their 'yard'. There is no shacking-up, no overpopulation, no famine. The pregnant ones are kept on the 'maternity ward'. When it is time for delivery, the expectant mothers pull out their fur to make beds for their naked babies.
And although males and females are separated, that doesn't stop 'Bully Buck', from finding ways and means of finding the females. He is the 'gallis' in Abrahams' rabbit community, and has to be heavily monitored. When Hospitality Jamaica visited, he was alone in a cage with a female. The satiated ones were crouched beside each other, moving only their noses.
There was a little nip on Bully Buck's nose, seemingly obtained in the throes of passion. They do have their violent moments, especially when a little miss is not in the mood or playing hard to get. Yes, just as with humans, these Leporidae have their moments of pretentiousness. And then the next moment, especially when they are in heat, everything is all noisy and bedlam.
They also have their 'gastronomic' moments, if you will. For in their mating rituals, the bucks have a habit of sniffing and tasting a certain delicacy that the does possess. It's as natural as natural can be, and the does are not complaining, nor are Eryka Badu and Millie Jackson. If you are old enough to know what I am talking about.
And where there is a gallis, there is a 'skettel', that unchaste, loose and generous female. In Dorette's rabbit kingdom there is one. She, who wants to go all over the place sharing the love. Like Bully, she will find a way out of her confinement to be with the boys. So, she is kept in a separate hutch, fortified, to prevent her from escaping when nature calls.
But of all the stories and myths about rabbits I have heard, this particular one is the most interesting, laughable, perhaps. So, here goes. The male kittens (young rabbits) are kept by themselves. When they reach puberty and their hormones are raging, some attempt to get 'intimate' with the others, and that is when violence rages on four legs.
They who are not into being 'jumped' by their brothers, turn around and bite off their brothers' testicles, castrating them. Sometimes, the mangled testicles are left dangling. "What I do when I notice it, I don't cut it off, and nature itself heals it, and they go on living contentedly," Abrahams told Hospitality Jamaica.
The stories and the candour with which Abrahams narrated them gave me much laughter, and I came away thinking, we humans are so different from these long-eared creatures, but we are so alike. It's a life of comfort and pleasure these rabbits lead, but I rather be me.