Two of the most common animals in the Mojave desert are the Desert Cottontail and the Black-tailed Jackrabbit. These animals, though cute, posed a big problem for early Antelope Valley residents.
The coyote, which is a natural predator to these rabbits, were targeted by pioneers as they frequently raided chicken coops. With the local coyote population reduced, the local rabbit populations flourished and began invading local farms and destroying their crops. The rabbit population quickly grew out of control, with pioneer Evan Evans even saying that the ground appeared to move at night because there were so many rabbits.
Rather than using poison to eradicate this problem, rabbit drives were held in which men on horses corralled hordes of rabbits into improvised wooden enclosures. The men would form a circle around the rabbits, gradually closing in until they were driven into the corrals. Once rounded up it was easy to hunt the rabbits, with men, women, and children all participating.
These rabbit drives were a common Sunday practice from the 1880s until the 1920s, with special trains from Los Angeles bringing people from outside of the Antelope Valley to participate. After the drives, participants would return to Lancaster for a large communal barbecue referred to as a "big feed". Any leftover meat did not go to waste and was sent to orphanages throughout Los Angeles.
"Gurba, Norma H. Lancaster. Arcadia, 2005.
Photo courtesy of MOAH Collections"