START A PETITION 27,000,000 members: the world's largest community for good
4,342,595 people care about Environment & Wildlife

Celebrity Rabbit Suffers From Cancer-Causing Cottontail Papilloma Virus

Celebrity Rabbit Suffers From Cancer-Causing Cottontail Papilloma Virus

An unfortunate cottontail rabbit with a rare disease became an Internet sensation this month. Nicknamed “Frankenstein,” the celebrity bunny, from Mankato, Minnesota, has disturbing horn-like growths protruding from his face and head. He’s not a monster, though. He’s just a rabbit with a problem.

College student Gunnar Boettcher told the U.K.’s MailOnline that the rabbit most likely lives in his family’s shed or wood pile. “Whenever we got close, he always ran away. We could never get a close look at him,” he said. But Boettcher managed to capture this unusual rabbit on video in his backyard recently, which you can see here:

The now-famous rabbit is infected with the Shope papilloma virus, also known as cottontail papilloma virus. In addition to cottontails, this virus affects snowshoe hares, jackrabbits and house rabbits.

The virus appears to infect rabbits via the bites of mosquitoes, ticks and other bugs. The first sign of infection is usually visible on the more fur-free parts of a rabbit’s body such as ears, eyelids, anus and nose. As the virus takes hold, a circular reddish lesion appears that eventually develops into a horny wart-like growth.

Infected rabbit

Photo credit: YouTube

Sadly, these tumorous growths often cluster on a rabbit’s face and lower jaw and grow larger with time.  Eventually, growths near the mouth can make it impossible for a rabbit to eat, causing the poor creature to starve to death.

Even if a rabbit is lucky enough to avoid having growths that affect its ability to eat, Shope papilloma virus is still a serious condition. If left untreated, 25 percent of these growths can become malignant. The resulting cancer can spread to lymph nodes, lungs, kidneys and the liver.

If caught early enough, before malignancy develops, veterinarians can remove the growths surgically.

Named for Dr. Richard E. Shope, the Shope papilloma virus was first example ever discovered of a cancer caused by a virus. Dr. Shope discovered the virus in the 1930s and proved it could infect domestic rabbits with the same wart-like tumors found in wild rabbits.

Dr. Shope’s work proved not only that the horny growths contained a virus, but also that the virus itself actually created the the horns out of infected cells. The human papilloma virus vaccine was developed using research based on this rabbit-borne virus.

Remember those stories we heard as kids about the strange and mysterious “jackalope” — the rabbit with antelope horns on its head? Now we know where that tall tale probably got its start. Odd looking horned rabbits really do exist.

Reports and stories about horned rabbits date back longer than you might think. For example, a French encyclopedia of animals and plants called the Tableau Encyclopédique et Méthodique, published in 1789, contains an illustration of rabbits sporting horns.

With luck, the attention focused on this particular bunny may yet save him. Perhaps a kindly volunteer can reach out to the Boettcher family and arrange to capture the rabbit and get him to a veterinarian? Minnesota animal rescuers, take note. A bunny needs you.

Related Stories:

Elderly Gorilla and Rabbit Become Friends

Late Night Rural Road: “God Please Help Me Catch this Rabbit!”

Sheepherding Rabbit Hops to Fame (Video)

Read more: , , , , , , ,

Photo Credit: YouTube

have you shared this story yet?

some of the best people we know are doing it


+ add your own
12:15PM PDT on May 25, 2015

I just saw a rabbit i my yard with strange things on the back of its head and took a closer look they are also on the top like a unicorn, which led me to this story. I too have a rabbit nearby that has this. Too bad this forum doesnt let you post photos. I feel like someone could save this one or do more research from it.

6:29AM PST on Jan 18, 2015

Poor rabbit! Please visit:

7:54PM PST on Dec 11, 2013

Poor rabbit!!! I wish someone would catch it and get it treated.

5:00AM PDT on Aug 2, 2013

poor bunny :( hope the rabbit gets treated, thanks for sharing

10:24AM PDT on Jul 30, 2013

Clara H - I find your comment sickening. Guns are for lowlife scum of the earth (you???) What planet do you live on? If this poor rabbit has to be "put out of it's suffering" then we have such things as a vet who can give an injection and end suffering that way.

8:03PM PDT on Jul 21, 2013

I would of got a gun and put it out of it's misery. Before you say that's cruel looking at the pictures it's probably to far gone and capturing may stress it out too much killing the poor thing.

11:08PM PDT on Jul 20, 2013

Oh this poor rabbit!!! :(

8:51AM PDT on Jul 13, 2013

Poor guy, I pray he makes it.!!!

9:50PM PDT on Jul 12, 2013

I sure hope they can save him in time.

9:31AM PDT on Jul 11, 2013

What a sweet way to reach out in order to try and find help for this bunny! I hope this bunny can be helped.... we're praying for you muffin...

add your comment

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

Care2 - Be Extraordinary - Start a Care2 Petition
ads keep care2 free

Recent Comments from Causes

Poor kitty.Mine has trouble with her left eye.

AS usual David is completely clueless on what is happening in his own party

ads keep care2 free

Select names from your address book   |   Help

We hate spam. We do not sell or share the email addresses you provide.

site feedback


Problem on this page? Briefly let us know what isn't working for you and we'll try to make it right!