My General Disavowal of all Threads "Rabbit"

I have been fooled.

And so I have unintentionally helped fool others.

Until I have time to write a more coherent analysis of the whole unfortunate situation, here’s a copy of what I just released in one of my more oft-used “reference posts”:

This is Post 159 in the thread currently titled: “My Theory About the Flood”

I, George Brooks, have been compelled to conclude that all this analysis about Alaska or “Northern” Rabbits vs. Florida Rabbits (in reference to them being 1 “Kind” or 2 “Kinds” is all spurious. I am publishing a separate thread today (June 3, 2017) discussing the matter, but as far as I can tell, with the crucial help and observations of another BioLogos “poster”, Evangelical , Kent Hovind … (continued after the Wiki link inserted below)

[Hovind’s photo above is his booking photograph. He has been a lively source of controversy within such Creationist groups as AiG.]
. . . . .was told something that either wasn’t true or that he misunderstood, regarding the breeding of rabbits in North America. It triggered the further analysis of anti-Creationist blogger “PotHoler” which is presented in detail in the video below. It’s only real value is that it treats a fictional case study with some good Evolutionary principles, and would be, on the whole, helpful - - if in fact Hovind’s original exposition of the facts had been based in reality.

[This video first appears in post 11 of this thread:
What is the Evidence for Evolution? - #11 by Socratic.Fanatic ]

The irony is, even if his Rabbit study had been based on factual material, it still would not have supported Hovind’s analysis of the Biblical view of “kinds”.

Post # 84, from the thread: “The mathematical probability of Evolution?”

. . . watch the video below, about Alaska and Florida Rabbits you will learn about one of the examples of common descent that even many Evangelicals accept.

NOTE: "Youtube’s Potholer54 . . . [‘Potholer54’ is the name of the YouTube user/channel who has a strong interest in debating with YEC’s] . . . has a great video were he explains how even Kent Hovind had come to agree with the idea of evolution—as long the word is avoided . . . . ]


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I’ve spent rather more time googling rabbits lately than a person ought, and my conclusion is—it’s hard to prove a negative. Presumably Hovind’s rabbit spiel was originally based on something, but I still have no idea what. Here is what it’s not based on:

Alaska has no rabbits native to it. It has the Alaska hare, the snowshoe hare, and a few small pockets of the European domestic rabbit running around feral. There is also a breed of domestic rabbit called the “Alaska rabbit,” with black fur, developed in Germany in hopes of imitating the then-valuable Alaskan fox pelts.

Florida has two species in the cottontail genus, the marsh rabbit and the eastern cottontail. Also (I assume) European domestic rabbits run around feral, and there is a breed of (white) domestic called the “Florida rabbit.”

So far, we have three genuses of the Leporidae (rabbit) family represented: the hare, the cottontail, and the European. These genuses have different chromosome numbers and I have found no documented cases of hybridization.

Minnesota is home to the snowshoe hare, the eastern cottontail, and the white-tailed jackrabbit (actually a species of hare), plus again, presumably, feral Europeans. Thus it may even be technically true to say that rabbits from Florida and Minnesota can interbreed and hares from Minnesota and Alaska can interbreed, while Alaska and Florida remain totally incompatible. But this really misses the whole point of making it a valuable example to an evolutionary debate. Rabbits and hares aren’t interbreeding.

To my knowledge, there is no reason why the Florida and Alaska breeds of European domestic shouldn’t be able to crossbreed. But this would require more specialized knowledge of rabbit breeding to confirm than I am really interested in acquiring. It is possible there is some genetic quirk that prevents them from doing so, in which case this could be the origin of Hovind’s example. Or possibly it was a generalized northern/southern gradient of, say, the eastern cottontail, and he just said Alaska because it sounded better.

Or possibly it was a made-up example to begin with, or referred to some other species than rabbit. We may never know.

The point of this, if I may assign one, is that the merits of checking one’s sources cannot possibly be overstated. But I do appreciate @gbrooks9 for launching his own investigation and promptly publicly disavowing his previous statements; it’s never easy admitting when we’ve been wrong.

I’ll be curious to see if anyone else can shed some light on this case study going forward!

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It was such a delicious story … and now all I have is a bad after-taste.

However, the video that PotHoler put together highlighted exactly the issues that one should when discussing one of the many Ring Species cases that are still valid and important.

There are many situations where the “West terminal” end of a population cannot breed with the “East terminal” end of a population – (or North vs. South, or High vs. Low)…

And this becomes the very same style of comparison engaged in with the Rabbit story. The big difference being of course, we had a True Blue Evangelical talking about the rabbits … and I can only assume we won’t have many other examples of Creationists happily wanting to discuss the nature of Ring Species …

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Right. It was plausible and went unquestioned for as long as it did because, I think, it tracks so well with what we expect biologically: gradients in species as they move across different biomes, eventually resulting in differences in reproductive compatibility.

I think a general rule of thumb is that as we look at smaller animals with quicker lifecycles, reproductive incompatibility (speciation) may correspond to subtler morphological differences. A great variety of rabbit species and subspecies may all look pretty much like rabbits to us, as opposed to lions and tigers and leopards which look dramatically different from each other despite the genetic difference not being as great.

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@gbrooks9 and @Lynn_Munter, I’m not a rabbit expert by any means but I may be able to at least partially resolve this rabbit mystery. I certainly can’t speak for Potholer54 but I have a hunch as to how the confusion developed.

To summarize my hypothesis, I think that the BBC journalist known as Potholer54 was referring to the Eastern Cottontail rabbit and referred to its “Alaskan rabbit population” when “British Columbia rabbit population” or “Pacific Northwest rabbit population” would have been a far more accurate description. If I recall correctly, the Eastern Cottontail rabbit was quite intentionally introduced into the State of Washington in the 1960’s as a game animal. (I once heard that some entrepreneurs had tried it previously during the Great Depression of the 1930’s thinking that the species could become a supplementary protein source for hungry people. Again, this is just an old man’s memories so take everything I’m saying with a grain of salt.) The invasive species multiplied its way from Washington into British Columbia and has become a serious problem there. I don’t know if it has migrated north into the southern-most area of Alaska. (Keep in mind that southern Alaska has a not-so-frigid environment and would actually be milder in climate than some of the other areas of the Eastern Cottontail’s natural range.)

I think Potholer54 made a simple geographical mistake and wrote “Alaskan rabbit population” (instead of "British Columbia population) because he was thinking of southern Alaska around Juneau in his “mental map” of this topic. Keep in mind, Potholer54 is not a native of North America and it would be easy to make such a geographical error. To my knowledge the Eastern Cottontail’s range is still well south of Juneau. (Of course, it is possible that the Eastern Cottontail has expanded its range on up the Pacific Coast and has crossed the border into Alaska but I don’t know that.)

Because the Eastern Cottontail breeding population in the Pacific Northwest was “sourced” from the Midwestern population, it is certainly possible that its isolation over the past 50 to 80+ years has led to significant divergence. It can probably still breed with the Midwestern population from which it came but can no longer interbreed with the Eastern Cottontails which live in a more southerly range, such as in Florida.

Thus, I wouldn’t be surprised to find that once one substitutes “Pacific Northwest population of the Eastern Cottontail” for “Alaska rabbit population”, everything Potholer54 stated in his video would be reasonably and generally correct.

That’s my hypothesis and I’d be delighted to learn what further research would discover.


  1. I’ve never known Potholer54 not to be extremely careful about his sources. I’ve never seen a Potholer54 video which didn’t give exhaustive citations somewhere. Yet, in this case I found a message saying that he was leaving on a work trip and would post the sources upon his return. Perhaps they appear on the mirror to the channel.

  2. I found a range map for the Eastern Cottontail (see below) which appears to show it living throughout the British Columbia coast and on into Alaska. Yet, I can’t find the black color in the color legend. I’m partially color-blind so perhaps someone else can help me out with this. I found older range maps which only showed the southern BC populations.

  1. Potholer54 is British journalist Peter Hadfield. Again, I’ve never known him not to be extremely careful about using peer-reviewed sources. Perhaps his citations appear within the video itself. I haven’t watched it for quite a while.

@Socratic Fanatic,

I’ve put another inquiry out to the Potholer message system. Maybe I’ll eventually hear from him …

Above is a great treatment on the Conspiracies behind Conspiracies !!!

Marvelous work!

Excellent! I have an odd feeling I should have asked you from the start, ha!

I grew up in Alaska and while I was fairly confident most of the state was devoid of rabbits, there’s always that niggling question, “But what about the Panhandle? Who knows what strange southern flora and fauna it’s got?” Juneau for sure is host to a colony of feral European domestics.

Probably a big reason it took me as long as it did to start googling in the first place. But I just ran a search now with your info in mind, and still didn’t turn up any references to cottontails in the state.

I’m extremely appreciative of the effort you took to find and post the map, but sadly I think the black is just an artifact of extensive coastline with lots of tiny islands. Notice it’s the same along the northeastern coast of Canada, where I doubt cottontails would be at all happy. It does show a pocket of introduced cottontails in Oregon/Washington, however.

I’m afraid any more on this topic from me will have to wait for tomorrow! :new_moon_with_face:

Yes, I had the same impression of “artifact black” on the BC coastline—yet it also appears in areas where that explanation doesn’t work. Moreover, the webpage where I found that map specifically lists British Columbia as part of the Eastern Cottontail’s range by states/provinces. I also found Canadian government website where it talks about dealing with the invasive species on Vancouver Island and elsewhere.

My hunch is that Potholer54 eventually posted the citation to the original scientific paper on his channel but it didn’t get copied over to the mirror channel. (I recall him having problems with Youtube several years ago where bogus copyright violation claims filed by his YEC opponents got his main channel shut down for a while. There were multiple channels were people were maintaining his videos so that the public wouldn’t lose access. I think everything eventually got resolved but I think some of his citations/footnotes lists which used to appear under the videos didn’t get carried over.)

I do recall reading somewhere that Eastern Cottontails are relatively “fast migrators” in terms of the speed at which they are able to extend their ranges. On the other hand, I also read that various raptor species extended their ranges appropriately in response to the new food supply.

Considering how the Eastern Cottontail’s range extends south into Central American and, reportedly, some areas of northern South America, I wonder what would happen if a British Columbia population were exposed to a Panama population. Would they be prone to breed?

I had relatives living in an area of the American Midwest where they observed an encroachment of one squirrel species range into another. I can’t remember if it was red squirrels replacing grey squirrels or vice versa. But people in that area were talking about observing “a war in the trees” that appeared to be like a battle front advancing and “conquering” new trees at a rate of a mile or so per year. I guess this sort of thing is quite common in nature but I’d never been much aware of it. I read somewhere that even the earthworms we find when digging in sod are all European imports which quickly replaced the aboriginal worms soon after ships began visiting the coasts of America. So it prompts me to wonder what the Eastern Cottontail range would have looked like one, two, and three centuries ago.

Fun topic.

Below is a “snapshot” of the PotHoler video where he compares the difference between Speciation as understood by Evolutionists, vs. his view of Speciation… which is to call it Development.

Apparently the exhibits at Ham’s museum in fact teach “speciation” amongst the animals freed from the ark … and the only difference being that Evolutionists thinks it requires millions of years, and Creationists say it can happen within hundreds or thousands.

I suppose the additional difference is: at the end of millions of years, we can have dramatically different appearances or behaviors… and with the Creationist version, you just have different species, still relatively similar to each other - - if you think an animal the size of a dog can be right considered “similar” to a full sized modern horse.

The raptors mention remindedme of how Brazilian apple snails were invading the Everglades in Florida, but now are fueling a resurgent of the snail kite, a raptor that loves escargot, controlling this invasive species. We took a swamp tour when in Florida recently, and it is really fascinating seeing all wildlife.


When someone showed me a picture of the Snail Kite, I was struck by the irony of all this Raptor-style lethality and efficiency … the terrible efficiency of its extra hooked beak …

But all I could do was chuckle at the thought of how few times a snail can out-maneuver a bird of prey!

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A terror of snail everywhere …

Snails run … but can they hide? Wait … can they run?

Ring species are much more complex in general than we previously thought, so I don’t think you can blame yourself for the rabbit example. I was reading on even the great Jerry Coyne’s blog that there are no ring species as he cites this 2014 paper along with a deeper explanation. Unfortunately such studies and comments are prone to quote mining, but as Potholer noted, regardless of ring species being valid, Kent Hovind can still agree.

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As far as I’m concerned, the only requirement for having a species range characterized as a Ring Species is the emergence of a “Gradient of Reproductive Compatibility” between at least 3 pockets or sub-populations of the full range. Once a gradient emerges, then - - assuming the trend continues unchanged - - there will eventually be full incompatibility between the terminal ends of the species range.

I’m not sure I can agree with your thoughts on Hovind - - unless you were simply observing one of his more persistent character traits: the inability to admit error.

I think my post was a little confusing in general. I am not really qualified or well read up on ring species, so I was appealing to someone I considered an authority on Evolution, namely Dr. Jerry Coyne who is clearly not a Christian and thus has nothing to gain by questioning ring species (unlike the ID proponent who quote mined Dr. Coyne that I cited). I am ignorant otherwise as this post was actually the first I ever heard about ring species so I figured finding someone who wrote a book called Why Evolution is True (I haven’t read it but its on my shelf) who doesn’t really buy the ring species evidence makes the rabbit misunderstanding more forgivable.

The Kent Hovind comment was generally directed at me being convinced more and more that YEC believe everything about the theory of evolution except the word ‘evolution.’ I think the YEC movement also is slowly moving towards Big Bang Cosmology in their various models as the evidence is quite impressive (though arguably not as impressive as evolution’s evidence).

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This does seem to be a trend in YEC thinking, but everything I’ve seen from that camp is still limited to “kinds”.

I suppose you’re right- speaking of kinds and ring species I wanted to repost this video by Potholer on how to confuse a creationist: How to confuse a creationist - Do dogs breed cats?? - YouTube

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Very nice explanation of your earlier post. I understand much better how you meant your various points.

It looks like I’ll have to read this skeptical view … by a non-YEC no less… because I don’t really see what there is “not to buy” … they are the closest thing to “Evolution in Real Time” that we have … even if the terminal ends of the ringed range are not “perfectly incompatible” with each other.

Thanks for the heads up on that …

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