Route 66 Series: Henry’s Rabbit Ranch

Animals – the beautiful, elegant, and cuddly creatures we share our humble planet with.

As a student of military history, I’ve come across many spots in otherwise grim battlefield memoirs about the love and kindness of animals. Baby rabbits who turned fierce World War I fliers into maternal care givers. Wounded forest critters who cracked through the hearts of grizzly foxhole dwellers. Dogs who served as honorary mascots to their regiments, warning their human friends of impending danger. Birds who carried messages which saved entire battalions. Cats who provided good luck and giggles aboard battleships.

In this crazy world of darkness and pain, animals have a way of steering us toward the light. Perhaps that’s why people turn to them to fill the void, and not just in our souls. You’d be surprised how many times, even in recent history, humans turned to animals for leadership. Honest to God leadership in the form of an electoral ballot. Think I’m crazy? Here’s just a few examples.

Little Red Phoenix Petco

I mean seriously… I would vote for these guys. Photo Provided by Henry’s Rabbit Ranch

In 1994, the town of Sunol, California, elected a new mayor named Bosco, a black Labrador and Rottweiler mix. Rabbit Hash, a small town in Kentucky, has only opted for canine mayors, according to Wikipedia. Talkeenta, Alaska, saw the election of a cat named Stubbs for mayor in 1997 (which made me extra happy, since our cat Sergeant Stubby goes by Stubbs for short). In July of 2018, Sweet Tart the cat took over the mayoral duties of Omena, Michigan. And just last year, Fair Haven, Vermont saw a real squeaker of a mayor election when a Nubian goat unseated the city’s incumbent mayor (a dog named Sammie) by two votes.

Another prominent animal leader once resided in the quiet countryside of Illinois. Her name was Montana, and from the very beginning, she had big life dreams. Being a fuzzy little bunny rabbit didn’t dampen her spirit, and she didn’t sell herself short. A small-town mayoral post wasn’t even enough for her. Instead, she went straight to the top and ran for President of the United States. It’s no tall tale. Just ask her owner – Rich Henry of Henry’s Rabbit Ranch off Historic Route 66.

Montana with Rich

Meet Montana! (And Rich Henry!) Photo Provided by Henry’s Rabbit Ranch

My husband and I learned about Montana and the rabbit ranch as we traveled along the route last summer. It actually wasn’t the best travel day. That old highway can be a bit tough to navigate. Pieces of it are missing, routes are re-directed, and those isolated country roads can make two city dwellers lose their bearings. We also had a nasty storm to contend with. As the rain poured down and the roads got muddier, we were increasingly anxious to reach the day’s final destination of St. Louis.

Suddenly, something caught my eye in the travel guide book. “Henry’s Rabbit Ranch.” It was a good hook for me, since any fuzzy creature is likely to get my attention. Then when I read that visitors could play with the rabbits, St. Louis was a lost cause. This was a stop we couldn’t miss. Besides, bunny rabbits seemed like the perfect antidote to our irritable travel moods.

We pulled into the driveway of what looked like an old pump station, and we immediately knew we were in for a treat. Right outside, there was a line of cars buried in the yard hood first (like Cadillac Ranch). There was also an impressive array of rabbit regalia in the yard – statues, wooden carvings, bumper stickers, and even an old bunny playground piece.

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Since it was still pouring down the rain, my husband and I hurried into the friendly-looking place. There, we were greeted warmly by Rich Henry, along with one of his big and furry rabbit friends named Gilbert.

I’ve always been more of an animal person than a people person, so Gilbert got better manners from me than poor Rich. That bunny was pretty sociable too. He dove in for pets, happily sniffed at my fingers, and when I tried to wonder about the place, he hopped right along at my heels (probably because he learned fast what a sucker I am). While I petted and played with this incredibly friendly rabbit, we learned about the history of this very unique stop on old 66.

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Gilbert!

It all started with Rich’s daughter in the 1990s. She got a pair of rabbits as pets, a boy and a girl, and she took them to live in her one-bedroom apartment. Have you ever heard the expression “breeding like rabbits”? Well, there’s a reason for it. “She didn’t account for the resulting population explosion,” Rich explains. “Things were getting a little out of hand.” So, he stepped in and adopted the rabbits, every single one of them. He took them to his lovely home, with plenty of yard space, just off Route 66. He fast fell in love with all the rabbits and their charms. He also noticed how well they responded to training and treats. Enamored with the fuzzy playmates, Rich decided he couldn’t keep them to himself. “Next thing you know, there was a new attraction on Route 66.” First called Henry’s Old Route 66 Emporium, Henry’s Rabbit Ranch became the official name in 1999.

It didn’t take long for Rich Henry and his rabbits to earn a place on the 66 map. Word of mouth travels fast, but so do travel guides, and Henry’s rabbits got write-ups in plenty of them. Especially since the ranch was one of the first modern attractions on the resurrected historic highway.

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Part of that attraction was a very determined little rabbit named Montana. She was born in 2001, and she quickly became Rich’s steadfast companion, as well as the undisputed queen of the rabbit ranch. “It was like the Lone Ranger and Tonto, only Montana was the Lone Ranger,” says Rich. Montana delighted all the visitors who came to the ranch with tricks, standing up for treats, and even signing autographs. Her star rose fast, and she became an official member of the Route 66 E-Group. She was also a favorite at the local Route 66 Festival, where she met fans and travelers from all over the world. She had an amazing run in a pet photo contest too. Out of 30,000 entries, Queen Montana placed 106th.

Perhaps the celebrity went to her head, because she decided to aim a bit higher after that. In 2008, Montana ran for President. As her campaign bumper stickers and pins show, she was very qualified. “Seven years as Queen has taught her effective leadership. She has no relatives to give jobs to, and she is uninfluenced by lobbyists (the rumors of being influenced by the Carrot Growers Association were largely unfounded).” Montana was also very good with the public, since she continued to greet the many 66 travelers at the Rabbit Ranch with warmth and affection.

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While Montana never became President of the United States (it was our loss really), she certainly enjoyed a long and healthy reign at Henry’s Rabbit Ranch before she passed away in June of 2008. She was buried next to her many furry playmates, 63 to be exact, in the Long Ears Memorial Park. Rich keeps it very-well maintained and dreams to make it a full-on memorial garden someday. “The stones tell some of their story,” Rich says of the rabbit final resting places. “I tell the rest.”

So, what did Henry’s Rabbit Ranch teach me? A big lesson is to take pleasure in the simpler things, like plump little rabbits and all the love they have to give. And inside the simple disguise, there was a lot of greatness on that ranch. Rabbits like Montana taught me to dream big, and as an aspiring writer, that is important. It doesn’t matter who or what you are. You can reach for the stars. Even if you don’t get there, you’re bound to make some friends along the way. Or at the very least, pet a very adorable bunny rabbit.

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SOURCES

Henry’s Rabbit Ranch Visit

Interview with Rich Henry & Henry’s Rabbit Ranch Website: https://www.henrysroute66.com/

Route 66 Road Trip – Moon & C. Taylor

I hope, even in these unusual times, that this article provides some smiles and joy at the prospect of the coming Easter season. Many thanks to Rich Henry for kindly providing me with lots of history and photos from his incredible Rabbit Ranch.  

Montana Standing

Lovely Montana Photo Provided by Henry’s Rabbit Ranch

109 Comments on “Route 66 Series: Henry’s Rabbit Ranch

  1. Thanks, MB. That was a fun read. I especially appreciate that you have a cat named Sgt. Stubby. Are you familiar with the Algonquin Hotel cat? You could have a lot of fun with that story.

    • Why no I’m not, but I’m going to fire up the google machine and learn all about it! 🙂 Glad you enjoyed it, we had a great time at Henry’s ranch and on the entire 66!

  2. How would ya like to be the guy who lost an election to a goat!! haha! Great story MB – just in time for the best candy holiday in the world. Love the bunnies and please give Stubbs a scratch under the chin for me!

    • Sure will do! 🙂 He does love being petted, especially on his bum!

  3. MB, what an upbeat post in a downbeat time! Loved it!

    I see a VW sign in the gas-pump photo. A Volkswagen Rabbit? 🙂

    • Oh maybe! And that miiiight be what the cars stacked in the grass are? I will admit I’m not the biggest car expert so I totally missed that connection hahaha! 🙂 Glad you enjoyed the post, I thought it would be a good one for Easter bunny time

      • That is so awesome haha. I did not make that connection at all and neither did my husband! I’m not as up on cars for sure, I didn’t even know there was a VW Rabbit.

  4. I’m not usually interested in the Route 66 attractions, but this looks like one i would like! If we ever go camping up that way, I’d like to see them!

    • You wouldn’t be disappointed! We loved our stop there, and Rich is very friendly.

  5. Fabulous post, MB! We could use a lot more furry politicians in this world. Unfortunately, as Montana’s case shows, longevity is an issue (given she was laid to rest many months before Election Day).

    I had a cat named Sergeant once, but I neglected to give it a last name!

    • Yes, a good point, longevity would be an issue! Our Sgt. Stubby does like to throw his rank around the house haha. He’s a good boy though 🙂

    • 🙂 Figured we could all use some fuzzy rabbits these days!

  6. Great story superbly written. BTW my wife is a great rabbit lover. We have porcelain bunnies and bunny paintings all over the house. Thanks to you I will take her to Henry’s Rabbit Ranch someday. Maybe as a surprise during our 60th anniversary trip coming up in September. Thank you for a great anniversary surprise.

    • Ooooh she would LOVE it! So glad I could help come up with a charming surprise idea! Happy upcoming anniversary!

    • Oh goodness the rabbit who jumped! Glad you negotiated his release, what a great post 🙂

  7. I enjoyed this post so much! Thanks for bringing some smiles my way this morning. This is exactly the kind of place we love visiting. I can’t believe we missed it when we were making cross country trips! I’m so glad you mentioned Stubbs the mayor of Talkeetna, Alaska. We met him when we were there – he was sleeping and not paying any attention to us – and I wrote a post about him https://wanderingdawgs.com/2013/10/19/stubbs-the-cat-mayor-of-talkeetna-alaska/

    • How cool that you met Stubbs the mayor! Someone should warn him about sleeping on the job haha 😉 What a great post about him, that’s so sad about the dog attack! 🙁

  8. This is truly delightful and heart warming story! In light of Easter this Sunday, the timing is perfect. Thank you for sharing this with us.

    • That is very real 🙂 We visited while we were there and Rich has done a great job with it.

  9. Thanks very much – this was indeed a delightful treat. You and I share the belief that animals make better friends than people.
    I would have preferred any rabbit to the person who is supposedly the leader of the free world now.
    Stay safe and sane.

    • I do love my animal friends <3 Glad you do too. Hope you are safe and sane as well, especially sane, because at least for me the stress of the times has been a bit overwhelming! Hence the fuzzy bunny posts 🙂

      • Pretty has been struggling with so much angst worrying about me that even our dog Spike is worried – and he doesn’t even know why. Bless his heart. Bless all of our hearts. Stay safe and sane.

    • 🙂 Sometimes you just have to pet a bunny rabbit and smile! So glad you liked it

  10. Such a great post! We have a pet mini lop so this was especially enjoyable to read! Very uplifting🐇!

    • Ha! I totally would but I’m afraid my two kitties would make life hell for that poor little bunny!

  11. absolutely love it! Here they are considered a pest but mine on the front lawn are most entertaining 🙂

    Must say I seldom read posts over 200 words and yours well exceed that … but I always know I’m in for an interesting lesson as you write well, research your topic thoroughly and I have a great read 🙂

    • May I say you’ve made my day with this comment? I mean it. Made. My. Day. 🙂 Thank you so much for saying so.

      • been meaning to say it each post, so you must have needed it today, take care xx

      • Definitely 🙂 Thanks again so much, it means very much to me.

  12. I, too, am a fan of furry things, MB, and who has softer fur than a bunny. Glad the bunnies were there for you in your hour of need. 🙂 As for Montana running for President, there was a tradition in South America of animals being used for write-ins when the existing candidates weren’t favored. Don’t know if that still happens. And finally, speaking of bunnies, there is an RV campground near the Oregon town of Tillamook (where the cheese comes from) that is literally hopping with them. Quite cute. I took lots of photos. Thanks for your happy post! –Curt

    • 🙂 Cheese and bunny rabbits are two very good reasons to visit Tillamook 🙂 So glad you enjoyed the post!

  13. A lovely, timely post. M.B. Thank you for making me smile. And for bringing back memories of my pet rabbits. I, too, kept a boy and girl together, and learned about the “breeding like rabbits” part. 🙂 🐇🐇🐇

    • Awwww I’m so glad to spread some smiles during these troubling times, and bring back happy memories of course 🙂 Rabbits do make pretty adorable pets, and yeah, get one boy and girl rabbit and you can wind up with fifty!

    • Me too! <3 Route 66 is chalked full of them - if you ever have the time to make the drive 🙂

  14. Pingback: Route 66 Series: Henry’s Rabbit Ranch — M.B. HENRY – Truth Troubles

  15. I feel like on every post you write I say, “This is one of my favorite posts of yours”, but this really is one of my favorite posts of yours. Gilbert is so adorable, and I love it that towns will elect animals as mayors, etc. But how do they govern? And Montana? That’s probably one of the best names for a bunny ever. Thanks, M.B.

    • I know right? I only wish we could have met Montana in person 🙂 She was clearly a very special rabbit. The place is pretty awesome, I’m glad we were able to stop and I’m so glad you enjoyed reading about it!

    • We were very glad to have a guidebook with us for this trip, as I don’t know if we would have discovered the place without it! 🙂 I’m glad we did because we had a lovely time there.

      • And Route 66 is full of them! <3 One of my favorite trips we've ever taken!

  16. I LOVE Gilbert!! That is a great photo of you with the giant rabbit. I find myself watching animal planet all the time to see anything other than pandemic news.

    • He was a very friendly rabbit and so soft! 🙂 I don’t blame you about Animal Planet, the news feels like taking a beating these days 🙁

  17. I am smiling ear to ear. What a fun trip for you!
    And those cars like Cadillac Ranch!
    We were on Rte. 66 out here in Arizona this past year! It’s a fun route. We encountered Donkeys instead of rabbits!

    • Ahh, did those donkeys happen to be located in Oatman? We passed through there on our trip and had a blast. Arizona was actually one of our favorite states on the 66! 🙂 So glad you enjoyed the post.

      • Yes it was Oatman! The Donkeys roaming the town streets was so fun! Incredible views driving out of Oatman as well! 🙂

      • Agreed! That loopy, windy road was pretty amazing (Oatman highway I think? The original part of the 66). We got some little treats for all the donkeys and they followed us everywhere! What a fun town 🙂

  18. This year’s the time–we need a non-nonsense independent candidate! I’ve met the mayor of Rabbit Hash, btw. He doesn’t do a lot, but he appreciates a good tummy rub.

  19. Gilbert is adorable!

    What a fab discovery this is. So glad to know there are places like this where people unabashedly embrace their enthusiasms. A terrific read – thanks!

    • So glad you enjoyed it! 🙂 That whole 66 is just full of charming stops like this

  20. What a wonderful place! But the signs were there with the buried cars. I’ve heard of cat cafes an dpubs with lots of dogs but not this. Excellent stuff.

    • Cat cafes have started popping up around LA for sure – there was one with cats, tea, and board games in Burbank but I think they closed 🙁

  21. I’ve heard about Route 66 before but not about the rabbits. I have previous post about my pet rabbit and I can say they really can be trained and very affectionate too!

    • I’ve never had a rabbit as a pet, but it sounds like they are lovely little companions to have around 🙂 So glad you enjoyed the post

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