Genetic researchers have reportedly solved a longstanding mystery surrounding a strange breed of rabbit that walks on its two front feet rather than hopping. The curious creatures, which were first found in France back in the 1930s, are a domesticated species known as ‘sauteur d’Alfort.’ For reasons heretofore unknown, the bunnies are unable to jump and, instead, employ a bizarre method of locomotion wherein they lift themselves up on their front feet and walk. As one might imagine, their odd gait has puzzled scientists for nearly a century, but a new study appears to have determined the cause of their unique way of moving.
In a newly published paper, genetic researchers Miguel Carneiro and Leif Andersson explained how they bred a sauteur d’Alfort with a more traditional New Zealand white rabbit. The resulting slew of offspring, comprised of 52 in total, allowed them to pinpoint a specific genetic mutation that causes a malfunction in the muscle coordination of the creature and prevents it from being able to jump. Faced with that obstacle, the sauteur d’Alfort in turn naturally adopts the unorthodox style of walking as a means of compensating for its otherwise hindered mobility. By solving this mystery, the researchers were also able to, for the first time, identify the specific genes which make jumping possible for rabbits and similar animals which hop as a form of locomotion.