Learning how to clean a rabbit is not difficult. In fact, rabbits are one of the easiest animals to field dress.
Field dressing is the process of skinning the game and removing the internal organs. Once cleaned the animal can be preserved for cooking. This is generally done by wrapping the meat in a protective paper and placing it in the freezer.
Rabbits are an easy animal to field dress. Their small size makes them easy to handle and their skin is easy to remove.
Rabbits are much easier to clean than other similar animals like squirrels which have a tough hide that's difficult to remove. Cleaning a squirrel is not an easy task.
I can recall several times using two people and a pair of pliers to help remove the hide from a squirrel. A rabbit takes one person and just a couple of fingers.
When fully dressed out, the cleaned rabbit will weigh a little over half of its live weight.
There are two ways to dispatch a rabbit. The first way, which is considered the most humane, is do dislocate the rabbit's neck which breaks the spinal column.
With your left hand, hold the rabbit by it's hind legs. Then with your right hand place your thumb on the rabbits neck just behind the ears. Wrap the rest of your fingers around the rabbit's neck towards the chin.
Press down with your thumb and at the same time stretch the rabbit and quickly snap its neck up. When done quickly, it severs the spinal cord and the rabbit is quickly killed.
If you're uncomfortable with this method you can hold the rabbit by the hind legs and strike the animal in the back of the neck with a heavy object. Use a 1'' piece of steel pipe, broom stick or axe handle and swing in on a 45 degree angle striking the rabbit at the base of the neck just behind the ears.
Once you've dispatched the rabbit, remove its head by chopping it off with an axe or sharp knife. Then hang the rabbit upside down by a hook inserted just above the hock (the big part of the leg, like the thigh) between the tendon and bone in the rear leg. Let the rabbit thoroughly bleed out which will make the meat appear cleaner and even improve the flavor.
Next, remove the tail, front feet and rear leg (the one that's not on the hook) with a sharp knife. Cut off the front feet and rear leg at the ankle knuckle by slightly bending the knuckle and cutting through it with your knife.
Next, make an incision on the inside of the legs running from hock to hock through the tail cut. Make sure you don't cut too deep and only cut deep enough to cut the skin, not the meat underneath.
Once cut, separate the skin from the carcass along this cut. If the rabbit is still warm the skin will be easy to remove.
The skin will be slightly more difficult to remove on a rabbit that has been dead for a few hours and is cold and stiff.
You can use a knife to cut along the skin/carcass in areas that are difficult to separate.
Pull and work the skin all the way down like a sock until you remove all the skin from the rabbit. Try to keep as much fat on the meat as possible. This will help add flavor to the meat and keep it moist when cooking.
Remove the skinned rabbit from the hook and remove the remaining hind leg. Take the skinned rabbit and lay it on its back. Cut a slit up the belly to the rib cage. Be careful to only cut through the skin and not into the organs underneath.
When you reach the rib cage you'll need to cut through the breast bone to open up the chest cavity. The ribs should be pretty easy to cut.
Make sure not to pierce the urine sac or the colon which will ruin the meat. The urine sack looks like a small yellow ballon near the anus. To remove it, pinch it or twist it a couple of times then pull it away without popping it.
Finally pull out all the remaining organs. You can use your knife to cut away any membrane holding the organs in the ribcage.
Once cleaned, thoroughly rinse the rabbit meat and package it for later use. Wrap the meat in two layers of freezer paper and secure the wrap with tape. Label the packaging and place it in the freezer.
That's it, you're done! Now you know how to clean a rabbit!