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Wilbur’s owner, Amy Noland, told the outlet that the tradition began in the last 1990s. “There was a man named Don Claire who thought it would be a great idea to elect some type of animal—not necessarily a canine—as mayor of town, as a fundraising event for the historical society,” she explained. With a population of just under 500 people, Rabbit Hash is listed on the National Register of Historic Places largely due to its general store, which was built in 1831.
Noland fosters kittens and cats, takes rescue dogs to their new homes, and has two other dogs besides Wilbur, who she adopted the French bulldog four months ago. Before Wilbur, there have been five dog mayors since the town's first, Goofy Borneman-Calhoun, who was inaugurated in 1998. Wilbur beat out the last mayor, a pit bull named Brynneth Pawltro, who filled the post from 2016 to 2020 and was up for reelection.
“Although it's not political at all, it always coincides with the presidential election,” Noland said.
Wilbur won the election with 13,143 votes, making him the most popular canine candidate in the town’s history. The race also saw the biggest turnout ever, with 22,985 ballots submitted. Residents cast their votes by writing the dog candidate’s name on the ballot and then gave $1 to the Rabbit Hash Historical Society.
A beagle named Jack Rabbit and a golden retriever named Poppy came in second and third places respectively, earning them the titles of Rabbit Hash Ambassadors. A Border Collie named Lady Stone, was also able to retain her ambassador position. In order to be eligible for the election, each candidate has to be able to chase a rabbit from their home to the town center within an hour.
Noland added that she wanted Wilbur to run because of “all of the negative media that's out there surrounding America, and the election, and Covid-19, so I guess I wanted Wilbur to be something positive in the news.”