Everyone who survived middle school history class is familiar with Napoleon Bonaparte and his famously humiliating defeat at Waterloo.
But the one thing history books never tell you is that in a defeat even more embarrassing than Waterloo, Le Petit Caporal (who, at 5’7″, wasn’t really that short) was once bested by bunnies.
And by that I mean about 2000 fluffy little rabbits ganged up on the Emperor of France and totally kicked his butt.
It’s generally agreed that this particularly shameful event occurred in July of 1807, when the 38-year-old Napoleon was at the height of his power. In celebration of the signing of the Treaty of Tilsit, the emperor proposed a rabbit hunt, leaving the gathering of huntable rabbits up to his chief of staff, Alexandre Berthier.
Berthier was just a little too enthusiastic about gathering rabbits for the hunt. In a wild bid to make sure everybody got to kill a decent few rabbits, he collected between one and three thousand of the fluffy little creatures and caged them around the edges of a contained hunting field, ready to release them on Napoleon’s orders. A luncheon was arranged, and everyone who was everyone in Napoleon’s government was there.
Alas, Berthier had made a fatal error. The rabbits he purchased were not wild, but very, very tame. So tame in fact, that to them, people were not enemies, but bringers of tasty food.
And these very friendly rabbits had not eaten for some time.
Napoleon gave the signal, and the rabbits were released. At first, they just hopped around a bit, as bunnies will do, and Napoleon had a good laugh at Berthier’s foolishness.
But then the bunnies noticed a little man in a big hat. Rabbit farmers also tend to wear big hats. And rabbit farmers bring food to rabbits.
Naturally, all 2000 bunnies stampeded Napoleon and his hunting party at their impressive top speed of 35 miles per hour.
The emperor didn’t stand a chance.
Rabbits swarmed all over him, climbing up his legs and jumping on his attendants, who tried in vain to beat them away with riding crops. Eventually, Napoleon managed to get into his carriage, bunnies leaping in after him as he tried to shut the door. Still battling the hordes of furry terrors, his driver managed to get the carriage moving, and it rolled away from the field, Napoleon flinging rabbits out the window as he retreated in shame.
The man who, by the age of 45, had risen from a second lieutenant with a goofy accent to become His Imperial and Royal Majesty Napoleon I, By the Grace of God and the Constitutions of the Republic, Emperor of the French, King of Italy, Protector of the Confederation of the Rhine, and Mediator of the Helvetic Confederation was no match for a hungry, confused little fluffball of ears and legs.