It’s spring. Have you seen a few pictures of lambs, bunnies and chicks?
It’s because spring provides the best weather and conditions for the animals in our latitudes to give birth. Science shows increasing ties between weather and reproduction.
It’s spring! Time for critters to reproduce.
It’s not just warming that encourages springtime babies. Even air pressure has an effect! University of Arkansas scientists report that spring calves tend to be born when barometric (air) pressure is high!
High air pressure discourages rainfall (think “high and dry”). Calves born when the pressure is high are more likely to have some healthy dry weather before they have to deal with cold springtime rains and snow. (Can you tell I’ve been spending a lot of time among cattle raisers this month!)
Spring calves tend to be born when the air pressure is high.
For most grazing animals, spring is the time when the weather is warmer and food is becoming plentiful. Middle latitude animals born in spring have the best chance of survival. Tropical animals, where food is easily available all year round, are born during any season. For most middle latitude animals, it is a delicate balance between being born late enough to avoid the last snow storm and early enough to be well developed to face the rigors of fall and winter.
This correlation between babies and spring have made them Easter symbols, symbols of rebirth and hope. Have you noticed the pictures of lambs, chicks and bunnies festooning your local stores?
Of course, one Easter symbol, the rabbit, does not restrain its reproduction to springtime. So why are Easter Bunnies decorating everything? One reason is that rabbits can conceive one litter while still pregnant with another. European superstition, not knowing this, believed that rabbits were giving virgin birth. So rabbits became a symbol of Virgin Mary! At the same time, one of the first signs of spring in Europe, was the rabbits leaving their burrows and “frolicking”. So the long-earred critters became the symbol of springtime, fertility, Mother Mary and rebirth. Enter the Easter Bunny.
Medieval Europe believed rabbits had virgin births, so bunnies became the symbol of Mary!
So if you are one of those people from Denver to the Midwest to the Mid-Atlantic States that are being hit by spring snow, remember—springtime warmth and Easter are coming. As you shovel snow, dream of chicks, lambs and bunnies—and yummy chocolate bunnies!
Evelyn Browning Garriss, historical climatologist, is a longtime writer for The Old Farmer's Almanac. She is also editor of The Browning World Climate Bulletin and has advised farmers, businesses, and investors worldwide on upcoming climate events and their economic and social impact for the past 21 years.