A Chongqing rabbit has become China's latest Internet celebrity due to its chili-eating addiction.
While people from the southwestern municipality have long been known for their love of chili, it was not, until now, something the local rabbits were known for.
Huang Chao, from Chongqing, owns a pet rabbit that eats chili, as well as red and green peppers, with every meal. Before his main meal, the rabbit even likes to tuck into dried chili as an appetizer.
Huang, 31, bought the rabbit from a street vendor at the start of the year.
"It was as tiny as a man's fist. I thought it was quite cute," Huang says.
As he had never raised a rabbit before, Huang used the Internet to find out what his pet should be eating: cabbages, carrots, apples and pears. And that was exactly what he fed him until the day of the accident.
Huang's wife dropped half a kilogram of dried chili on the floor, but before she could return to clean the mess she found the rabbit happily munching on the spicy windfall.
"We were worried it might get sick after eating such spicy things, but it was fine the next day," Huang says.
The story has since caused a storm on the Internet, with many netizens poking fun at the spice-loving pet. By early Tuesday evening, a post about the rabbit had attracted more than 1,000 comments on microblog Sina Weibo.
"Come on, the rabbit was born in Chongqing, that's why it loves spicy food!" said one Weibo user.
Chongqing and neighboring Sichuan Province are known in China for their heavy use of spicy cuisine.
"Maybe it should have hotpot some time in the future," another Weibo user wrote.
Huang says that since the rabbit has tasted the spicy flavor, it has become addicted.
"Whether it's dried chili, or fresh green peppers, it eats them all," Huang says. "Now we feed it with chili at fixed times of the day."
Huang gives three to four pieces of chili to the rabbit every morning and evening, while upping its quota to five or six at noon.
"Every time it eats chili his appetite grows significantly," says Huang. "It used to eat three carrots every day, but after eating chili it can easily eat two more carrots."
Huang prepares a bowl of chopped chili, beside the carrots and cabbages, in the rabbit's cage every day.
"The bowl we use is similar to the sauce dishes served at hotpot," Huang says.
Despite his unlikely passion for chili, the habit does not seem to have done the animal any harm, and the once tiny bunny has grown into a huge rabbit.
"It's weird," Huang says. "I always knew that Chongqing people loved their spicy food, but I did not know a rabbit could too."
Wang Xiaoyou, a researcher from Chongqing Academy of Animal Science, weighed in on the topic telling Chongqing Evening News that though it was rare for a rabbit to eat chili every meal, it was possible that those in rural areas ate a few peppers on occasion.
"Maybe the rabbit got used to chili at an early age," says Xiong Bibo, the president of a Chongqing rabbit-breeding company.
Though most netiznes were surprised, others suggested rabbits were often keen to add a bit of spice to their diet.
"My rabbit stole my spicy tofu once," a netizen said.