<p><strong>People can't actually breed like rabbits, although in 1726, Mary Toft said that she did. </strong></p><p>The 25-year-old English servant claimed that she gave birth to a litter of rabbits (pictured in an illustration), even showing some of the dead animals to her doctor, John Howard. Incredulous, Howard sent letters to the English elite—including King George I—informing them of the apparent miracle.</p><p>The story spread like wildfire, making the Toft family 18th-century celebrities, <a href="http://special.lib.gla.ac.uk/exhibns/month/aug2009.html">according to the University of Glasgow</a>. Later examinations of the rabbit corpses revealed they could not have come from Toft's womb, and the story was eventually discredited.</p><p>"Interest in monstrosities and willingness to pay to see them was common in Europe in the mid-18th century. It is not hard to see why a poor family like the Tofts saw a way to make money with what seems, at first, a ridiculous scheme," according to the university website.</p><p>The human-rabbit mother is just one of many animal hoaxes perpetrated over the centuries—especially as <a href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/03/080328-april-fools.html">April Fools' Day</a> pranks. Click through for more.</p><p>(Related: <a href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/03/photogalleries/april-fools-day-hoaxes/?now=2011-03-31-00:01">"April Fools' Day Pictures: Four Historic Science Hoaxes."</a>)</p>

Rabbit Mother

People can't actually breed like rabbits, although in 1726, Mary Toft said that she did.

The 25-year-old English servant claimed that she gave birth to a litter of rabbits (pictured in an illustration), even showing some of the dead animals to her doctor, John Howard. Incredulous, Howard sent letters to the English elite—including King George I—informing them of the apparent miracle.

The story spread like wildfire, making the Toft family 18th-century celebrities, according to the University of Glasgow. Later examinations of the rabbit corpses revealed they could not have come from Toft's womb, and the story was eventually discredited.

"Interest in monstrosities and willingness to pay to see them was common in Europe in the mid-18th century. It is not hard to see why a poor family like the Tofts saw a way to make money with what seems, at first, a ridiculous scheme," according to the university website.

The human-rabbit mother is just one of many animal hoaxes perpetrated over the centuries—especially as April Fools' Day pranks. Click through for more.

(Related: "April Fools' Day Pictures: Four Historic Science Hoaxes.")

Illustration by William Hogarth via WikiPaintings

April Fools' Day Pictures: Seven Animal Hoaxes

From a woman birthing rabbits to a human-dog hybrid—see pictures of famous animal hoaxes, including some used as April Fools' Day pranks.

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