The Ghastly Story Of Mary Toft, The Woman Who ‘Gave Birth To Rabbits’

Truth be told, most people are forgotten by history — unless they're rich, powerful, or exceptionally weird. An otherwise ordinary woman named Mary Toft made a name for herself in that last category by allegedly giving birth to live rabbits! This peculiar phenomenon baffled the most distinguished minds of the age, but it eventually came to light that Mary was concealing a dark, disturbing secret.

No silver spoon in her mouth

Like so many others in 18th-century England, Mary Toft lived in abject poverty. Born in one of the poorest areas of London, Mary was only 17 when she married textile worker Joshua Toft. Her status wasn’t exactly elevated by the marriage either. In some ways, her life got even harder.

Fighting against poverty

Instead, Mary found herself working harder than ever to keep her family, which now included two young children, afloat. She walked two hours each day to work as a laborer, only to return to a hungry family and even more responsibilities at home.

"Lower class" tragedy

Now, none of this can excuse what happened to Mary later on, but it’s important to remember when telling her story. After all, it all began with what was back then considered to be a lower-class tragedy: Mary had a miscarriage. It was a devastating experience, though its cause was clear.

Medical mystery

Her backbreaking days likely brought on the miscarriage, which occurred frequently among poor women. Mary’s doctor brushed it off. Back in the early 1700s, the female reproductive system was even more of a mystery that it is today. And the medical system could only offer so much to the impoverished people of London. From there, things only got worse.