The Paradox of the Lucky Rabbit's Foot: Using Bad Omens to Create Good Luck

By | July 9, 2019

test article image
A woman kissing her lucky rabbit's foot, circa 1955. (Photo by Jacobsen /Three Lions/Getty Images)

In the list of traditional lucky charms or tokens, the rabbit foot ranks up there with four-leaf clovers and horseshoes, but it's considerably more macabre. Why did people start carrying severed rabbit limbs around in the first place? The answer is much more complicated than one would think. While rabbits have long been cherished by cultures around the world, the rabbit's foot talisman comes to us via African-American slaves in the 19th-century American South. According to folklore, as many bad luck symbols as possible must align to make the rabbit's foot a powerful token of good luck. 

test article image
Rabbits are found in abundance nearly everywhere in the world. (

Rabbits Are Everywhere

Thanks to their impressive reproductive powers, rabbits can be found pretty much everywhere on the planet. They are quick, attentive, nimble, and evasive—all admirable qualities unless you're using them to rob someone. Rabbits show up in myths, legends, and folklore all around the world, and they often exhibit these traits. Then there is the association with fertility. Since rabbits breed quickly and produce an abundance of offspring, the animal is most often linked to reproduction and is a symbol of fertility.