If you raise or hunt rabbits, you need to know how to kill and butcher one. This tutorial will teach you how to butcher a rabbit.
How to Butcher a Rabbit: A Step-By-Step Breakdown
Warning: This article contains graphic images that may be disturbing, especially to younger readers.
In my last article, I wrote about the costs and benefits of raising rabbits for food. I went over the cages, food, separation of male and female, breeding, babies, and use for rabbit poop. Now it is time to discuss how to take that cute a cuddly rabbit and turn it into a meal.
There are a few things that I need to prepare before I butcher a rabbit: I need to make sure I have three knives sharpened (this is out of convenience rather than necessity), I need two large bowls and one trash bag, and since I hang my rabbits upside down, I need my ropes to be ready.
Leading Up to the Kill
First, I make sure that my dog is in her kennel. She will go nuts if she sees or hears it happening. Then, whichever rabbit I have selected, I grab by the skin near the back of the neck. Sometimes the rabbit will fight and kick to try to escape, other times not. I tie slipknots around the rabbit’s hind feet just above the ankle. Both ropes are attached to a stick. I let the rabbit hang upside down. At this point, the rabbit will struggle for a few moments, and maybe scream. I take the rabbit over to a tree branch and hang it at a height that is convenient for me, with its back facing me.
To Kill a Rabbit
When I first started to learn survival skills, I did not think much about the idea of killing an animal for food. I figured it was something that had to be done, and when the time came, I would be able to do it. The first two times that my rabbits were killed to be part of a meal, my father-in-law handled the killing because he had more experience than I.
After having witnessed a couple of killings and butchering, I got familiar with the process, but the courage was hard to find. I did not like the idea of hurting animals, so I resolved to make it as quick and painless as possible. My initial method was to whack the rabbit on the back of the head with a heavy piece of wood, then cut off its head as quickly as possible after that. It worked well, but sometimes the damage to the skull or neck was such that my wife was not happy with the result. So I moved to another technique. I now place a large knife to the back of the rabbit’s neck and cut as hard and fast as I can. It is quick, without the structural damage that clubbing the rabbit can do. I have looked for other ways to kill the rabbit quickly. I even asked a physics teacher if it were possible to make a “rabbit guillotine”. He was intrigued by the idea, but his wife did not want him doing that.
Removing the Skin
Once the head is separated from the body, the best thing to do is wait until the blood stops flowing. Then, make a small incision on each hind leg between the muscle and the skin. Next, peel the skin with the fingers until the top of the hind legs. Cut off the tail. Cut the fur near the genitals and peel it back in both directions. Pull the skin down until it comes off at the front paws. Rabbit skins and furs can be made into clothing or accessory items once they have been processed.
Removing the Insides
Once the skin is off the rabbit, the next thing you need to do is remove the entrails. Pinch the meat at the base of the belly and poke a hole in it. Stick two fingers inside and point them towards the rabbit’s chest. Slide the tip of the knife inside the meat and between the fingers, without puncturing any internal organs, and cut the meat to the chest. The intestines, stomach, and liver will almost fall out of the rabbit.
The first thing to remove is the bladder. Pinch it off and cut so that the bladder remains intact and no urine spills onto the meat. Next, pull out the intestines as best as you can. Slice the rabbit open to the anus to remove all of the intestines.
Once all intestines are out, reach into the abdominal cavity and free the stomach, liver, heart, and lungs. On the liver rests the gallbladder. It is a greenish tube. Remove it without breaking it. Cut the rabbit down the middle to the throat. All that is left on the inside are the kidneys. Pull them out.
The rabbit is now hollow. Cut off the furry paws, wash it off, and you’re done!
Check out one of my favorite knives the bone collector, perfect for butchering a rabbit.
It is up to you what you want to do with the spare parts of the rabbit. The stomach can be used as a small container, the skin can be used to make clothing, the brain can be used to tan the skin, etc.
Remember, it will probably be a sloppy job the first time you do it. Make sure that your knives are sharp and do your best to ensure that the rabbit does not suffer. Practice will make you better.
Want to learn more? Check out this article on raising chickens, rabbits and fish from our friends at Pioneer Settler.