Hares chew their cud
Hares chew their cud is a reference to a passage in the Old Testament:
- "(6)And every beast that parteth the hoof, and cleaveth the cleft into two claws, and cheweth the cud among the beasts, that ye shall eat. (7)Nevertheless these ye shall not eat of them that chew the cud, or of them that divide the cloven hoof; as the camel, and the hare, and the coney: for they chew the cud, but divide not the hoof; therefore they are unclean unto you."
- Deuteronomy 14:6-7
Hares (rabbits), do not chew their cud and this is commonly used as an example of where the Bible contradicts science.
Apologists commonly respond that this is a non-issue for the following reasons:
- Ancient authors didn't have the benefit of modern taxonomy.
- Rabbits are pseudo-ruminants who, instead of actually chewing their cud, expel their food and eat the resultant fecal matter.
- If the Bible is the inspired word of God, we wouldn't expect to see mistakes of this nature. Surely the omniscient God described in the Bible could have inspired a passage which would never directly contradict scientific knowledge.
- Additionally, the entire section concerning which animals can be used for food is absurd and, as it is no longer considered by Christians to be a binding law of God, represents an example of an "unchanging" God who changes his mind.
- At the time of the King James translation the English word "coney" usually referred to the European rabbit. This species was native only to the Iberian Peninsula and France and thus can't be the "hare" or "coney" referred to in these verses. The Hebrew word shaphan, here translated as "coney" or "hare", is better translated as "hyrax". The hyrax is a small burrowing mammal superficially similar to a hare but which is actually a distant relative of the elephant. Though the hyrax doesn't chew the cud, its mouth is constantly moving. This movement is used to smell for danger but could easily be misconstrued as chewing the cud. Note that, while "hyrax" is currently the best translation for shaphan (indeed, many modern translations make a note of this) it still doesn't resolve the problem. The bible still lists this animal as chewing the cud. Even if it were a rabbit, the Bible would still be wrong, since rabbits swallow their cecotrophs (soft night stools) whole. So there is still no 'chewing' nor 'cud' involved.
- Since both the rabbit and hyrax constantly move their mouths, it appears that they are 'chewing' (they are actually smelling). This led the primitive authors of the Bible to believe the animal (whichever it is) chews cud.
Rabbits and Intelligent Design
- "I think that everyone who thinks that intelligent design is a good idea should look at rabbits. They should notice that the rabbit actually eats its own fecal pellets. The reason it does that is that rabbits, like cows, have an internal rumen-type storage area where bacteria break down food that the rabbit can't break down itself. But unlike cows, in the rabbit that pouch is on the wrong end of the intestine. The food goes through the intestine, then it gets broken down by the bacteria, then the rabbit has to eat it again to get the nutritional value. Now, if that's intelligent design. . ."
- Andrew Knoll - professor of Natural History at Harvard University
What is the Shaphan? at talkorigins.org