Why do they say 'The Rabbit Died' when they find out someone is pregnant? What does a rabbit have to do with determining if a woman is pregnant or not?
Obviously, nowadays you don't use a rabbit to see if you're pregnant. You simply go to the local CVS, grab a kit for $10 and find out in about 1 minute if you are pregnant or not. But in the old days, things weren't that easy.
In the 20s, doctors discovered that a pregnant woman started making a special hormone - hCG. It shows up in her urine. They also found that injecting a woman's urine (and therefore her hCG) into a rabbit caused the *rabbit's* ovaries to start to change as a result of the hormone. In initial years they could only tell that by killing and cutting open the rabbit to examine the ovaries. So the rabbit *always* died during the test, whether the woman was pregnant or not.
In later years, they were able to do surgery on the rabbit, examining its ovaries without killing it. So the test could be done on a live rabbit, whether the woman was pregnant or not.
This was even mentioned on a MASH episode!
But in any case, the legend is therefore half true and half false. Yes, female rabbits used to be killed in order to determine if a woman was pregnant or not. But the rabbit's death had nothing to do with the woman *being* pregnant, it was just a way to check if she was or not.
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