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The Woman Who Gave Birth To Rabbits

Updated: Mar 18, 2022

England was bewildered in 1726 by Mary Toft’s claims to have given birth to rabbits

Mary Toft's doctor, Mr Howard, a well-regarded man who had practised medicine for over thirty years, backed up her claims, saying that he had personally helped her deliver at least eighteen rabbits. When King George I heard of this he was so intrigued that he sent his anatomist Mr St. Andre to investigate, and he returned convinced that Mary Toft had indeed given birth to rabbits, and recommended that she be awarded a royal pension.

Sir Richard Manningham, Fellow of the Royal Society and of London’s College of Physicians was sent to investigate. Manningham soon got to the bottom of the matter and got a porter to confess to supplying Mary Toft’s sister-in-law with a rabbit. Still Mary Toft refused to confess to the fraud and it was only when Manningham threatened to perform painful surgery on her to investigate whether her body was different from other women that she admitted to the deception. Mary admitted that she had manually inserted dead rabbits into her vagina after a miscarriage, subsequently allowing them to be removed as if she had given birth to them. Manningham published his account An Exact Diary of what was observ’d during a Close Attendance upon Mary Toft, the pretended Rabbit-Breeder of Godalming in 1726.

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