Close message Scootle has stopped supporting resources that use the Adobe Flash plug-in from 18 Dec 2020. Learning paths that include these resources will have alerts to notify teachers and students that one or more of the resources will be unavailable. Click here for more info.

Image Henry Lane Ace rabbit trap, 1935-60

TLF ID M000410

This is a rusted Ace rabbit trap manufactured from steel by Henry Lane, Newcastle, sometime between 1935 and 1960. It consists of a pair of jaws (92 mm wide) held closed by spring tension and a triggering mechanism. The base, the stock bar, is a bar of steel bent over to form a powerful bow spring. At the end of the spring is a hole, the spring eye, that encircles and closes the jaws when the trap is triggered. A chain is attached by a hook to the bent end of the trap's spring. A long steel spike is looped over the last link of the other end of the chain. The jaws of the trap are flat, without ridges.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This trap relates to the battle that Australians have waged against burgeoning rabbit populations since the mid-19th century. Rabbits cause enormous damage to Australian soils and biodiversity, and the introduction of rabbits to the Australian mainland in 1859 was an environmental disaster. The rabbits were released by grazier Thomas Austin onto his property, Barwon Park, near Winchelsea in Victoria for hunting purposes. They quickly multiplied to plague proportions, decimating crops, ruining farmland and spreading across large parts of the continent.
  • The Henry Lane Ace rabbit trap was the most common trap in Australia. Hundreds of thousands of the traps were made and used. The trap is designed so that - when weight is placed on the pressure plate - the metal jaws snap shut against each other. The trap is set with the open jaws buried just below the ground. When an animal steps on the pressure plate, the teeth of the jaws snap around the animal's leg, usually breaking bone and sinew. Thus the animal is immobilised.
  • Steel-jawed traps have been used since the 16th century to catch birds, mammals and humans. In 1827 a bill was passed in England banning the use of man traps, but the manufacture and use of rabbit traps remained legal until 1958.
  • Henry Lane Ltd was established in England in the 1840s to manufacture a wide range of steel-jawed traps. At the end of the First World War, the demand for rabbit traps in Australia was so great that Henry Lane moved his wire-spring trap production to Australia.
  • Today, rabbit trapping is considered labour intensive, inefficient and ineffective for large-scale rabbit control in Australia. It is also considered cruel. Even in states in which trapping is still legal, the use of steel-jawed traps is discouraged because of their potential to cause injury, distress and suffering. Often, animals die of exposure or predation by foxes or eagles before being found and killed by trap owners.
  • Other than setting traps, early efforts to eradicate rabbits included fumigating their warrens with poisonous gases, deep ripping the warrens, laying poisonous baits, shooting the rabbits and hunting them with packs of dogs. These methods had little overall effect. Only biological methods such as the release of the diseases myxomatosis (1950) and rabbit calicivirus (1995) have been effective in reducing numbers, although biological adaptation means constant vigilance is necessary.
Topics Pest control

Other details

  • Contributor
  • Name: Powerhouse Museum
  • Organization: Powerhouse Museum
  • Description: Content provider
  • Address: NSW, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Name: Henry Lane (Australia) Ltd
  • Organization: Henry Lane (Australia) Ltd
  • Description: author
  • Address: New South Wales
  • Publisher
  • Name: Powerhouse Museum
  • Organization: Powerhouse Museum
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: NSW, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
Access profile
  • Generic
Learning Resource Type
  • Image
  • © Curriculum Corporation and Trustees of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences 2009 (except where otherwise indicated). You may view, display, print out, copy and modify this material for non-commercial educational purposes provided you retain all acknowledgements associated with the material.