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The statement you refer to is contained in the 11th chapter of Leviticus, and in particular, in verse 6, where God is discriminating animals to be eaten from those not to be eaten. He declares "...the hare, because it chews its cud but does not have cloven hooves is unclean to you." Rabbits are lagomorphs, not ruminants (animals with split hooves and multiple stomachs that chew their cuds). This sounds like it is just wrong, but it is spoken by God Himself. What gives?

A few years ago, I attended a meeting of scientists where this issue had been raised as a vehicle for discrediting the truthfulness of the Bible. The speaker had suggested that perhaps Moses had observed a rabbit "mumbling" over his food and mistook it for chewing of cud. He seemed quite pleased with his conclusions.

I thought something must be wrong somewhere, but didn't know what until I returned home from the meetings and found in my mailbox the latest issue of the French equivalent of Science magazine put out by the French National Academy of Science (the CRNS). The feature article of this issue was entitled "Do rabbits Chew their Cud?"! In the article the authors pointed out that rabbits do indeed chew their cud, but they do so by a rather unusual route.

The lagomorphs ingest vegetative material (grass, etc.) that would yield no more nourishment to them than it would to us. The rabbits then sequester the material in a special intestinal pouch, the caecum where it is mixed with chyme (digestive enzymes and juices) and protozoa that digest cellulose, that apparently live there. At a specific time each day, the rabbits produce a special fecal pellet from the material digested in the caecum, and void the pellets by the usual route. These pellets are then ingested, thoroughly masticated (chewed - thus chewing their cud), and swallowed. On this second trip, they bypass the caecum, and go through the usual digestive process. This time the sugars locked in the cellulose are released and digestion is completed in the normal manner. Apparently science has finally caught up with what has been known for centuries, not only in the Bible, but by rabbit owners who know that if these pellets are lost to the rabbit (as by a wire cage floor), the rabbits will not flourish. The critics of the Bible will have to direct their attention elsewhere.

______________________________________________________ Ó 2010 Arthur V. Chadwick, Ph.D.