Domestic Hopper Olaf (2015–2024)

Patrick McCorkle
3 min readApr 28, 2024


A week ago, a member of my family stopped hopping.

Olaf the rabbit passed away in my dad’s lap after his final bath. He was almost nine and had a pretty full life. My mom named him for the Frozen character due to his pure white coat.

I struggled with how to react to Olaf’s death. I wasn’t as close to him as I was with Scrappy, Bowser, Panda and the other family pets that have passed. The lack of photos of him attests to that. Still, I enjoyed petting and checking on Olaf every day. I would feel weird if I didn’t. I will remember the way he sniffed, how nimbly he moved and how he enjoyed chomping on his hay. He was an important part of my day and I’ll miss him.

My reaction to Olaf’s death reminds me of a negative aspect of owning pets: it creates a hierarchy of life. My fantasy realm of Anformaria, pets are not allowed due to how the inequalities that occur between species. Since the realm emphasizes the harmony between humans, plants and animals, I felt that it would not feel that keeping an animal around solely because of how you feel about it, rather than the tasks it can perform, would be inconsistent with its culture.

Sometimes I wonder if we didn’t have pets, how we would feel about the vast number of species that cannot be domesticated. Every one that currently exists plays a valuable ecological role. While pets are emotionally satisfying to us, they provide no or little ecological benefit. If we were not emotionally attached to a certain select group of animals, could we view all of them equally? It’s food for thought.

Anyway, Forbes provides a few facts about pet ownership in the USA:

  • 86.9 million (66%) households own a pet.
  • 65.1 million have a dog/dogs.
  • 46.5 million have a cat/cats.
  • 11.1 million have freshwater fish.

This simple list shows that 20 million more Americans have dogs than cats. Dogs outnumber fish as pets as 6 to 1 and cats outnumber fish 4 to 1. It begs the question: why are some animals so much more popular than others? Is it correct to value one type of pet more or less than another?

According to, 1.2 million American households have a rabbit/rabbits. That’s so much less than dogs, cats and fish. I didn’t expect the difference to be that much.

To honor Olaf and his brethren, I researched the history of domesticated rabbits. One of my favorite facts is that the name Hispania comes from a Phoenician word meaning ‘land of the rock hyrax.’ When the Romans arrived, they applied the name to rabbits. I like to imagine the Spanish and Portuguese countryside filled with rabbits hopping around as Roman centurions watch in a mixture of amusement and annoyance.

A popular story held that Franciscan monks around 600 AD/CE domesticated them as a meat substitute for Lent. In medieval times, rabbit meat was a high class delicacy. Yet ‘there is no single date when rabbits became domesticated’ according to Evan Irving-Pease, a researcher at the Oxford Department of Archaeology. As with many things, domestication of rabbits developed over time.

Perhaps the recency of pet rabbits is why we don’t value them as much as cats or dogs. Or the fact that they don’t live as long or aren’t as useful in pastimes like hunting. I’m not sure. However, I hope that the hierarchy of pets equalizes over time.

At any rate, I hope Olaf is enjoying hopping around with Scrappy, Bowser, Panda, Fargo and the rest of the McCorkle family pets.

I wish I could hop with him.



Patrick McCorkle

I am a young professional with keen interests in politics, history, foreign languages and the arts.