Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Buckeye Rabbit (Big Eye Rabbit) - lyrics & video example

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post presents lyrics and a video example of the old time music dance song "Buckeye Rabbit" (also known as "Buck Eye Rabbit", "Buckeyed Rabbit", "Big Eye Rabbit", and "Big Eyed Rabbit". Comments about this song and the phrase "buckeye" are also included in this post.

The content of this post is presented for folkloric, cultural, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to the composers and collectors of these songs, and thanks to all those who are quoted in this post. Thanks also to the featured artists in this video and thanks to the publisher of this video on YouTube.

RELATED POST: ""Buckeye Jim" & "Limber Jim" comments, lyrics, & videos"

WHAT "BUCKEYE" MEANS [Read Update: March, 13, 2014. After finding that information, I've changed my mind about the meaning of this word.]

"Buckeye" ("buck eye"- protruding (bulging) eyes, similar to "buck tooth" (teeth that stick out (protrude). "Buck eye" is also given as "bug eye", probably because some bugs have bulging eyes. "Buck tooth" is ae more commonly used adjective (in the United States) and refers to teeth that protrude. All of these terms are considered to be impolite.

It should also be noted that "bugged eyes" (protruding eyes, a wide eyed stare, particularly to express fear; "pop eyes", eyes popping out") are descriptions of a racial (racist) coded look for Black people via 19th black-faced minstrelsy. Also, "buck" is a stereotypical persona that refers to "a large Black man who is proud, sometimes menacing, and always interested in White women" However, I'm not sure if that stereotypical image of Black people or the stereotypical reference to Black men as "Bucks" and Black areas of town being called "Bucktown" have anything to do with the song "Buck Eye Rabbit".

Another meaning for "buckeye" which I think has nothing to do with the "Buck Eye Rabbit" song is the "buckeye tree" (and the brown nut from that tree). Buckeye trees are the official state of Ohio. According to that website, holding a buckeye nut in your pocket s considered to bring good luck. indicates that the "Ohio Buckeye (Aesculus glabra) was designated the official state tree of Ohio in 1953. Ohio's nickname is "the buckeye state." The buckeye is fairly common in Ohio, growing especially well along rivers, streams, and on floodplains."
People who live in Ohio are sometimes informally called "buckeyes". That nickname has nothing to do with their eyes. Also, the mascot of Ohio State University is "Brutus Buckeye".

UPDATE March 13, 2014
From a 2002 discussion on Rootsweb of the song "Buckeye Jim":
"Buckeye" (every meaning but the candy? ) as a reference would seem
to denote the dark eyes of Africans -- that might be assumed by lots of
folks who associate songs like this, and "slavery times", with the era
of chattel slavery; but as Thom Moore's comment indicates, this song
probably predates that era. "Buckeye" might've endured among enslaved
people of all kinds of color & mixture, as an admonition to keep your
gaze "dark" -- impassive, so as not to reveal your emotions or
intentions.... whatever the color of your own eyes or skin, or the
colors showing in your parents, or your children... or in your
"masters", or in their children."...

-Angela in KY

The song "Buck Eye Rabbit" ("Big Eye Rabbit") is a song of African American origin. The song is composed of a chorus and floating verses from (other?)19th century African American dance songs and/or children's play song.

Here a comment about this song that I found at , posted by John Minear, "Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics",06-Jul-02
..."I've only found two other references to "buckeye" or "buck-eyed". One is the song "Big Eye Rabbit". A version from Alabama goes as follows:
I wanted sugah very much,
I went to Sugah Town
I climbed up in that sugah tree.
An' I shook that sugah down.

Buck-eye rabbit, Shoo! Shoo!
Buck-eye rabbit, Shoo-dah!
Buck-eye rabbit, Shoo! Shoo! Shoo!
Buck-eye rabbit, Shoo-dah!

I went down to my sweetheart's house,
I ain't been dah befo'
She fed me out of an old hog trough,
And I don't go dah no mo'!

Way down yonder on Cedar Creek,
Where all them gals grow 'bout 'leven feet,
Jump in the bed but it ain't no use,
Feets stick out like a chicken roost.
[From: p. 120 of FOLK SONGS OF ALABAMA, Byron Arnold (University of Alabama Press, 1950). Reprinted in Alan Lomax's THE FOLK SONGS OF NORTH AMERICA, #266, p. 504]

Note the "trough" and the "way down yonder".

Thomas Talley also has a version called "Buck-Eyed Rabbit! Whoopee!" (#269, p.149, THOMAS W. TALLEY'S NEGRO FOLK RHYMES): last verse only

Buckeyed Rabbit! Whoopee!
Buckeyed Rabbit! Ho!
Buckeyed Rabbit! Whoopee!
Squir'l's got a long way to go.

It is not clear which came first, "buckeyed" or "big-eyed". Mellinger Henry has a different variation of "Big-Eye Rabbit" (#173 FOLK-SONGS FROM THE SOUTHERN HIGHLANDS, 1938), obtained from Mr. C.L. Franklin, of Crossnore, Avery County, North Carolina, "who learned it when a child from his father, William Franklin." Henry does not give a date.
Big eyed rabbit behind the pine;
Big eyed rabbit, you are mine.
Rabbit skipped; rabbit hopped;
Rabbit ate my turnip top.
I cocked my gun; the hammer flew;
I tore that rabbit square in two.

My only other reference is to a "buck-eyed Whippoorwill" in a song in Talley's book (#79,pp.51-52) called "Sheep Shell Corn": (first verse only)
Oh: De Ram blow de ho'n an' de sheep shell co'n;
An' he sen' it to de mill by de buck-eyed Whippoorwill.
Ole Joe's dead an' gone but his Hant blows de ho'n;
An' his hound howls still from de top o' dat hill.

So, who knows the orign of "buckeye". It could refer literally to a deer's eye, or to a horse chestnut, or to Ohio, or be a form of "big-eyed", or simply brown-eyed, or it might have a racial overtone, like "Cotton-eyed Joe". There is a "Buckeyed Jim" version in the DT [Digital Tradition- A collection of song lyrics on Mudcat]."...
If "Buck Eye Rabbit" was composed in the 19th century as is suggested by the fact that its verses are found in other 19th century African American dance songs, the scarcity of sugar and the desire for sweet treats among many 19th century African Americans (enslaved or otherwise) helps to add context to the first verse of that song. In that verse the person speaks about wanting sugar, journeying to a fictitious town where sugar trees grow, and shaking sugar down from sugar trees. sugar tree.

Read this post on my cocojams cultural website about food and beverages in the usually inadequate diets of 19th century African Americans that were mentioned in examples collected by Thomas E. Talley and compiles in his 1922 book Negro Folk Rhymes: Wise And Otherwise Also, click for a digital reproduction of Talley's book.

Click for the Mudcat thread ""Buckeye Jim: Oddest Lullaby I've heard".

There's a lot of debate about the meaning of "cotton-eyed" in the song "Cotton Eyed Joe". Click for information and comments about that song.
The chorus of "Buck Eye Rabbit" is the only part of that song which refers to a rabbit. I imagine the singer walking along singing this song, and upon seeing a buck eyed rabbit in his path, waves his hands and says "Shoo Shoo! (Shoo means "leave", "run away").

FEATURED VIDEO: Buckeye Rabbit


dgustav, Uploaded on Oct 28, 2006

Old River Band reunited.

(as sung by Old River Band)

I wanted sugar very much.
I went to Sugar Town.
I climbed up in that sugar tree
And I shook that sugar down.

Buckeye Rabbit,
Shoo Shoo.
Buckeye Rabbit,
Shoo now.
Buckeye Rabbit,
Shoo Shoo Shoo.
Buckeye Rabbit,
Shoo now.


I went down to my sweetheart’s house.
I ain’t been there before.
She tossed me in the old pig pen.
And I don’t go there no more.



Love it is a killing thing,
Beauty is a blossom.
If you want your finger bit,
Poke it at a possum."


From Richie, "RE: Folklore: Negro Folk Rhymes (Thomas W. Talley)", 01 Sep 09
"The next song in Talley is:


Love is jes a thing o' fancy,
Beauty's jes a blossom;
If you wants to git yo' finger bit,
Stick it at a 'possum.

Beauty, it's jes skin deep;
Ugly, it's to de bone.
Beauty, it'll jes fade 'way;
But Ugly'll hoi' 'er own.

It's incredible that there is so much wisdom in these two simple verses. Both are well known folk sayings:

Teh first usually appears in Bile Dem Cabbage Don as from Frank Warner:

"Love it is a killing thing,
Beauty is a blossom,
If you want your finger bit,
Poke it at a possum."


"Love is a funny lookin' thing
Shaped like a blossom;
If you want your finger bitten,
Stick it to a possum."

or in the song "Mabel":

Love it is a an awful thing and beauty is a blossum,
If you want your finger bit just poke it at a 'possum.

Perrow had an ealier vesion, he collected from African-American in Virgina in 1912:
Love it am a killin' thing, beauty am a blossom;
Ef yuh want tuh get yuh finger bit, poke it at a 'possum.

BEAUTY'S BUT SKIN DEEP is a poem by John Davies of Hereford
from 1616.

There is also an old jingle, author unknown, which parodies the famous beauty line. It reads:
"Beauty is but skin deep, ugly lies the bone;
Beauty dies and fades away, but ugly holds its own." "

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