Wild Rabbits Caught Hitchhiking on Sheep to Escape Flood

Image: Ferg Horne/Associated Press
Image: Ferg Horne/Associated Press

Well here’s something you don’t see everyday—wild rabbits riding on the backs of sheep to flee rising floodwaters. The remarkable scene was captured by a New Zealand farmer who said he’s never witnessed anything quite like it.


As reported in the Associated Press, the event was captured by Ferg Horne, 64, on July 22 on a farm near Dunedin, New Zealand. He was trudging through pouring rain on his way to help his neighbor rescue a flock of sheep from the floodwaters when he spotted some strange, dark shapes. On closer inspection he realized—to his shock—that the splotches were actually three wild rabbits, clinging to the tops of sheep for dear life.

“I couldn’t believe it for a start,” he told AP. He quickly pulled out his smartphone to take a photo, but inadvertently began filming video. “It’s a Samsung or a smartphone or whatever you call it. I swear at it every day,” he said. “I’m absolutely useless with technology.”


Anyhoo, he managed to capture the moment, chronicling the rabbits perched atop the sheep, who were standing in about three inches of water. The rabbits were wet, but relatively unphased by the whole ordeal.

Normally, Horne would shoot wild rabbits on sight as they’re considered pests in New Zealand. “But they’d showed so much initiative, I thought they deserved to live, those rabbits,” he told AP.

Horne and his neighbor eventually managed to direct the sheep to dry land. The rabbits did remarkably well at holding on, even when the sheep were agitated. Eventually, the rabbits fell off but managed to scurry away to safety.


This hitchhiking behavior, while weird, is not unprecedented. Back in 2014, camera traps in South Africa’s Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park captured images of a genet riding on the backs of at least two different species. And in 2015, a weasel was caught riding on the back of a woodpecker in a failed attempt to wrangle the bird. There are many other examples too, but rabbits riding on the backs of sheep may be new one. Perhaps these rodents aren’t so helpless, after all.


[Associated Press]

George is a senior staff reporter at Gizmodo.

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Rabbits aren’t rodents. They’re lagomorphs.