Establish a series of unique physical gestures and sounds which create the form of three animals, each involving three people. For example:
– Elephant: one person uses their arms to create a trunk, while their two neighbours circle their arms to the side to create large ears;
– Cow: one person interlocks fingers and turns their hands upside down to point their thumbs down, while their two neighbours each grab one of these thumbs as if milking them: and
– Kangaroo: one person forms a pouch using their arms in front of themselves, while their two neighbours lean on this person’s closet shoulder and thump their outside legs.
To start, randomly point to one person in the circle and call out the name of one of the three animals, and quickly count to ten.
Immediately, this person and their two neighbours, must arrange their bodies to look like the animal, making the appropriate sound, before you get to “…TEN.”
If one of the three people in the circle makes a mistake, or is too slow, the most deserving person is invited to swap positions with you in the middle of the circle.
After several minutes, add extra people in the centre of the circle, or try a variation.
I need a circle, and we have a circle at this point. In a moment I’m going to actually join the centre of the circle, but to set it up I need to ask you to create something, because one of the favourite things I did as a kid was to be taken to the local zoo, and my parents would take me by hand up and down all the different enclosures and check out all the variety of animals at the zoo.
And at this zoo it’s pretty special. In fact there’s some unique animals in this zoo and the first one was the elephants, because they’re so damn big… so the elephants. And there’s three people each time that are going to be required to recreate each of these animals.
Here’s the first part. The elephant will always form three parts. There’s a trunk and two ears. The person in the centre will be the trunk. So just practise this for start by crossing your arms over and the bottom arm, you grab your nose, and then as best as you can use this as a swinging trunk. And then of course it does need to have a sound attached to it, so give us your best elephant… (elephant sounds)
Alright, great. Now you happen to have a pretty good trunk there I noticed, Kev, so could I see your trunk now as the best elephant, and Dudley and I are now going to create the ears, and the ears, because they’re nice and big and they flap in the wind, is that you create them to the sides here, partway down the thigh, somewhere on the shoulder, and we then flap in the breeze Dudley as… Perfectly done. Excellent. Alright, so that’s your elephant.
You move a little further on and you see a really unique elephant… Not elephant, another enclosure, and it’s referred to as the cow. You know the cow. By placing your fingers together here and interlocking them, turn it upside down and you’ve created the udder. And the two neighbours will actually help you create the milking of that cow.
So for example Jack if you are the cow… if you’re the cow I’m going to grab one part of a teat, you grab my other neighbour, and as we start to milk you, what do you think Jack needs to do? (cow sounds)
Over here as well we’ll do the same thing. So it’s like… (cow sounds) Sounds like he’s enjoying that. Alright.
Elephant. Quick recap of the elephant. And practise an ear with your neighbours, either side.
(people practising Speed Rabbit)
Alright, good. And of course the cow.
(people practising Speed Rabbit)
And if you need to, start milking your neighbours.
(people practicing Speed Rabbit)
Naturally in Australia one of the favourite exhibits although we do see them in the wild is the kangaroo exhibit. And so the person in the centre will have the pouch, they’ll form their two hands like a pouch-like formation, and they’re going to basically jump up and down a little bit, just raise their heels off the ground, and go (kangaroo sounds).
There’s a very famous kangaroo called Skippy, and Skippy could tell you the most amazing stories just by going (kangaroo sounds). Wow, really someone’s fallen down the hole, Skippy? (kangaroo sounds) We have to get a helicopter?
Okay, so that would be Skippy, and your two neighbours placing a hand… You could do that. You could have a little boxing kangaroo, but this is the different enclosure, Dudley.
You’re going to place a hand on their shoulder, and your outside leg, note the outside leg is going to bounce up and down like Thumper, because it’ll be bouncing through the bush. So quickly practise your bouncing, your pouch, and then either side your neighbours use the thumping of the legs as you bounce around the bush.
Alright. Okay. Quick recap. Elephant trunk. And the ears. Remember they wave in the wind. Alright, good job. And the cow. And you start milking those people. Very good. And the kangaroo. And Thumper. Alright, good job. You’ve got everything you need.
Just close that circle up a little bit now that I’ve come into the centre of the circle. You’re all good right where you are. Alright, here’s what’s going to happen. As I went through the zoo led by my parents, I would point all the time. So the person in the centre has the fun of pointing to any person randomly and calling out the animal of any one of those three characters you just created.
So I might go “elephant” or “cow” or “kangaroo”, it won’t matter, but that’s an invitation for that person to form the central character of the animal. So for example if I went “Elephant!” you’d become the trunk and your two friends immediately move in to the ears. Exactly. Very good. It’s a windy day, Hunter. It’s a windy day.
Alright. Or I could do “Kangaroo”. Exactly. Nicely played. Very good. Excellent. And finally we could do a “Cow”. Good. Okay, great.
Now of course I’ll assume the animals are on display all the time and you’ll note that often when you go they’re often just lying around not really doing anything, often behind a log but you can’t see them.
So we need to be quick. Sometimes you’ve got to catch them at their best. And so we’re going to give it a quick count because we want to keep the game moving. So when the person points they’re going to call one of those three animals and they’re going to count very quickly to ten.
So it’ll sound and look a little bit like this… Elephant! One, two, three, four, six, seven, eight, nine… Alright, they got there. The object is I want to get to ten before the animal has been formed.
(people doing Speed Rabbit)
One, two, three, four, five, six… Nice.
(people attempting Speed Rabbit)
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven…
Alright. So on the occasion someone should happen to do the wrong thing, attach or milk a kangaroo or perhaps put a trunk to a cow, or they’re just a little slower than the ten, you can then invite any one of that three that actually perhaps made that error to swap with me, which means it’s their turn to have some fun.
However it is a choice. If you choose not to, that’s okay. I get to choose… to be able to point to somebody else. But most often people are looking forward to coming into the centre. It seems a little easier at times.
Kangaroo! One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. Cow! One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. Oh, I think I might have caught you. Would you like to come into the centre?
Alright, good job. Don’t forget the counting.
(people playing Speed Rabbit)
Alright. Now we have twice the opportunity. We’re opening up twice as many enclosures. So come and join me in the middle here. So two of us now in the centre can point at the same time, more often than not at different people of course. Alright, so you got twice the chance of now being pointed at. Alright, start when you’re ready.
How To Play Narrative
Speed Rabbit is one of those classic co-operative ‘do-this-quickly-or-you’re-out’ type of activities, which most groups love.
Ask your group to form one line in which every person has a neighbour on both sides of them. Of course, it just so happens the two ends of this line must meet. Ah, a circle!
First up, establish the creation of three animals, let’s say, an elephant, a cow and a kangaroo. Calling on the creative talents of your group, explain that each animal needs the assistance of three people to come into being, ie one middle person and two neighbours.
Your group can help you develop the anatomy, but here’s a glimpse of what might transpire:
Elephant: One person uses their arms to create the elephant’s trunk, while their neighbours create huge flappy ears with their arms off to the side. Everyone trumpets like an elephant.
Cow: One person interlocks their hands, turns this configuration up-side down and points their thumbs to the ground, while their neighbours grab a thumb each and start milking, as if it was the cow’s udder. Everyone moos like a cow.
Kangaroo: One person forms a pouch with their arms in front of them, while their neighbours lean on this person’s closest shoulder and thump their feet on the ground to become the kangaroo’s powerful legs. Everyone makes ‘boing-boing’ sounds.
With these images and sounds in mind, explain next that the person in the middle – the ‘pointer’ – will aim at any one person in the circle and call out the name of one of the three animals. Immediately, this person and their two neighbours will spring into action and create the desired and anatomically correct animal.
To add spice, the ‘pointer’ will count to ten as fast as possible, suggesting that if the animal is not created either correctly, or by the time he/she gets to “…TEN,” the most deserving of the other three will be invited to swap positions with the pointer. Game continues with a new ‘pointer.’
Before you play for ‘real,’ introduce a few mulligan rounds to practice the animal moves and sequence of events.
Once you begin, and the group starts to settle into the routine, unsettle them by adding extra ‘pointers’ into the centre to keep up the energy and sheer cacophony of the moment.
Practical Leadership Tips
This game really benefits from a zany and enthusiastic presentation. Don’t be half-hearted, or you may discover your group is not willing to play along with you.
Wherever possible, invite your group to help you develop the various physical gestures and sounds for each of the animals. This process fosters ownership, and often a great deal more fun in the playing.
Don’t forget to add a sound to each of your animals. Not only is this fun, but it provides another dimension on which people in the circle may make a mistake.
Like many games of this nature, a quick game is a good game. Encourage the ‘pointer’ to move quickly around the circle, not waiting too long between attempts to catch someone off guard.
Wondering where the rabbit is to be found in a game called Speed Rabbit? It was probably named after one of the three animals in the original version, and somehow other animals have now come to the fore. To be fair, and when you think about it, the kangaroo is a bit like a large rabbit. Maybe that’s what happened?
You could integrate Speed Rabbit as part of a well-designed SEL program to promote and maintain healthy and supportive relationships and to effectively navigate settings with diverse people.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Identifying Personal, Cultural & Linguistic Assets
Anticipating & Evaluating the Consequences of One’s Actions
Promoting Personal & Collective Well-Being
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
There is no specific health & wellness perspective to this activity other than promoting the benefits to one’s wellbeing of enjoying a good laugh.
In a small way, you could argue that the focus required to quickly and successfully respond to the commands of the person in the centre may speak to the benefits of being adaptable and mindful, but these would not be considered the primary purposes of this fun game.
If you can think of more explicit ways in which Speed Rabbit could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
Zoo of Animals: Introduce a fourth or even fifth animal. Make them distinctly different, ie even if every animal has ears, make sure they are not similar to each other.
Alternate Forms: Experiment with other forms, such as occupations, famous people, sports or corporate attributes.
Elimination 1: Present the game as an elimination, whereby the ‘pointer’ remains in the middle of the circle all the time, attempting to eliminate all those who make errors along the way. The game continues until you have two people left.
Elimination 2: Ask those folks who are ‘eliminated’ to remain in the circle, but crouched down. The game continues as if they were not there, but the gap between people who are still ‘in’ will cause some of them to overlook who their neighbours truly are, ie their neighbour could be standing halfway around the other side of the circle.
Combination Game: Consider integrating Speed Rabbit with the distinct skills and gestures of Zip Zap or Bumpity Bump Bump Bump for a higher-level challenge.
A classic, highly interactive tag game with longevity.
52 Card Pick-Up
Hilarious, frenetic & surprising whole group game.
Useful Framing Ideas
One of my most favourite things to do as a young child was to visit the zoo. I would often lead my parents by their hands from one enclosure to another, delighting in the wide variety of creatures on display. Long before I knew what was possible, I would dream of owning my own zoo, but strangely, it would only feature certain animals., such as elephants, kangaroos and … cows! Yes, cows, very special cows…
This next exercise will require the rapid response of teams of three people. Each of these teams will be instructed to perform a certain task, and they will have very little to think and then execute their plan. Not only will the pace challenge you, but the membership of your teams will vary. You will simply have to rely on those around you at the time, as much as they will rely on you…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after playing this chaotic, energetic and fun group game:
How often did you make a mistake? How did it happen?
What was the consequence of making a mistake?
In our ordinary lives, are we encouraged to make mistakes, or not?
What is the consequence of living or working in an environment in which mistakes are not tolerated?
Large Group ‘Community-Building Games’ Session
What You Need:
10+ people, 60 mins, index cards, pen, multiple ’52 Card Pick-Up’ sets (Print+Play)
PDQ Test – zany audience-style activity that will generate bursts of laughter