Last Sunday marked the Lunar New Year in China - and in terms of Chinese astrology - the beginning of the Year of the Rabbit.

The Chinese zodiac consists of twelve different animals which are all symbolic to an entire calendar year in China, unlike the Western zodiac whose assortment of critters only receive a single month to offer their heavenly influence annually.

So Mr. Rabbit (or Tùzǐ as he is also known to his homelanders) will have exactly 383 days to instill the essence of his many virtues for the people of China, and to those around the globe who also believe in his magical gifts for mankind and the world.

The Rabbit is considered the luckiest of the Chinese zodiac's dozen avatars, and also personifies beauty, elegance, and mercy, as well as peace and serenity. So if the attributes of his roughly 2,500-year legacy hold true in impacting our lives, then 2023 promises to be a most enjoyable year for certain.

As it pertains to life some 6,000 miles away here in Washington, the Rabbit is also one of seven animals within the Chinese zodiac that are indigenously wild to the Evergreen State; and North Central Washington has one very special variety whose year to shine has only just begun - the Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit!

This li'l bunny is the smallest of its overall kind found in North America - measuring no more than 12 inches from adorably-twitchy nose to cute cottony tail and weighing only about 16 ounces, which is roughly only as heavy as a can of soup or a small loaf of bread. And of course, like all rabbits, they're soft and fluffy and move about by using a spirited hop.

Columbia Basin pygmy rabbits are only found in a small area of their regional namesake where enough sagebrush covers the landscape to offer them plenty of food and cover from predators. They are also the only rabbits found in North America that dig burrows for shelter.

Not that long ago, prior to the development of large-scale agriculture and in a time when far fewer wildfires ravaged the landscape, the Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit flourished in plentiful numbers (like any rabbit should ;-) within its native landscape. Sadly however, 2023's Year of the Rabbit also marks the 20th anniversary of this Lilliput friend to all's placement on the Endangered Species List, as well as the 15th year since the last known purebred of its kind died in captivity.

Since then, conservationists have gone to great lengths to ensure the survival of this diminutive dweller of the desert sands, but far more will need to be done before they can be delisted from their current protective status.

So as we look ahead to the many remaining days we have to celebrate the benevolence of bunnies everywhere, take a moment Washingtonians and remember that smallest of ones found right in our own backyard; whose prominent place within Chinese mythology helps in reminding us that we are all connected to the creatures of this Earth, great and small, and to each other.

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