Mary Toft and Her Delivery of Rabbits

Mary Toft
  • Mary Toft, was an English woman from Godalming, Surrey, who in 1726 became the subject of considerable controversy when she tricked doctors into believing that she had given birth to rabbits.
  • In September, 1726 Mary Toft began to give birth to rabbits. The local surgeon, John Howard, responded to her family's summons and hurried to Mary's house where, to his amazement, he helped her deliver nine of the animals. They were all born dead, and they were actually rabbit parts rather than whole rabbits. Nevertheless, this didn't lessen the amazing fact that she was giving birth to them.
  • John Howard excitedly wrote to other men of science around the country, urging them to help him investigate this bizarre phenomenon. Soon two prominent men, sent by the King himself, arrived to investigate
  • In the presence of the doctors, Mary continued to give birth to even more rabbits. The men performed tests to verify the reality of the phenomenon.
  • On November 29th Mary was brought to London. By now her case had become a national sensation, and huge crowds surrounded the house where she was kept. But when kept under constant supervision, Mary stopped giving birth to rabbits, and her case quickly began to unravel.
  • Witnesses came forward who claimed that they had supplied Mary's husband with rabbits. Then, when a famous London physician, Sir Richard Manningham, threatened that he might have to surgically examine Mary's uterus in the name of science, she wisely decided to confess.
  • She explained that she had simply inserted the dead rabbits inside her womb when no one was looking, motivated by a desire for fame and the hope of receiving a pension from the King. She was briefly imprisoned for fraud, but was released without trial. It is said that she managed to give birth to a normal, human child less than a year later.
  • John Howard and Nathanael St. Andre, the two surgeons who had most passionately believed and defended her, fared less well. Their medical careers were both ruined.