How to Clean a Rabbit

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Cottontail rabbit
Photo by MDC Staff, courtesy Missouri Department of Conservation.

Cottontail rabbit can be excellent table fare, but first it must be prepared properly for cooking. There are multiple ways to skin a rabbit. Many demonstrations exist online by searching the phrase “skinning a rabbit.” Most methods involve removing the skin before removing the entrails. This keeps your hands free of blood and hair, thus a cleaner finished product.
Start by cutting through the skin around each hind leg, just above the “knee” joint. Next, cut through the skin from one hind foot to the other, staying on the inside of the legs, connecting the circular cuts made previously. Next, run your fingers under the skin, creating a “loop” on the back just in front of the tail.  While holding both hind feet with one hand, grab the loop of skin just created and pull downward until you have separated the skin from the carcass approximately half way down the rabbit’s back. From the belly side of the rabbit, grab the skin and pull downward. Continue this process until you have removed the skin all the way down to the rabbit’s front legs, just past the shoulder.

Use your fingers to separate the skin from the rabbit’s leg at the “elbow” joint, creating another loop of skin. Insert the index finger of one hand through the loop of skin while grabbing the already-skinned shoulder of the rabbit with the other hand. Pull in opposite directions until the front leg is completely separated from the skin. Repeat the process with the other front leg. Continue pulling the skin downward until you have reached the base of the rabbit’s head. With a sharp knife, separate the rabbit’s head, with skin attached, from the rest of the carcass. Remove the front and hind feet using a sharp knife. You are now ready to gut the rabbit.
Make an incision just below the rabbit’s sternum, being careful not to puncture any internal organs. Cut downward from the sternum through the rabbit’s pelvis, taking caution not to cut the intestines. Reach into the rabbit’s body cavity, grabbing just above the heart, and pull downward until all of the entrails are removed. Rinse the carcass thoroughly.
You are now ready to prepare the rabbit for cooking. Separate the front and hind quarters from the carcass at the “shoulder” and “hip” joints, respectively. Season and cook according to one of our tasty rabbit recipes.

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Eastern Cottontail (Cottontail Rabbit)

The eastern cottontail is a medium-sized rabbit with long ears, large hind legs, shorter front legs, a short fluffy tail, and soft fur. The upperparts vary from reddish to grayish brown sprinkled with black; when fluffed, the fur of the rump is grayish. The back of the neck is bright rust-colored. The underparts are grayish white except for a brownish chest; the tops of the hind feet are tan to whitish.