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“By Lo, Baby Bunting”

Ma called Mary and Laura into the house. She built up the fire and drew her rocker near it, and she sat rocking Baby Carrie and singing softly to her… — Little House in the Big Woods, Chapter 16, “Fire in the Chimney”

By Lo, Baby Bunting (or “Baby Bunting”) is a traditional Mother Goose rhyme often set to a tune or simply chanted. The verse often varied by region based on the local word for “Papa” (Daddy, Father, etc.) and whether the rabbit skin was bought, hunted, or fetched. Illustrations that accompanied this rhyme in early Mother Goose books – those that would have been available during the Little House years, for example – often picture a baby wearing a rabbit skin complete with ears, similar to a costume today. Bunting is typically thought of today as a thin material used for flags or decoration, but in the mid-1800s, bunting was used to refer to a hooded sleeping sacque for infants, possibly from the Scots buntin, meaning short or plump, which could refer to both the baby and his or her “wrapping.”

Although the idea of “skinning” a rabbit for its hide to use as an infant’s protective clothing may be distasteful to some today, to Laura Ingalls in Little House on the Prairie (see Chapter 11, “Indians in the House”), it was a normal part of everyday life. Laura and Mary wear “rabbit skin hoods” at the beginning of the book, and when Pa returns from hunting with a big rabbit for their dinner: Laura held the edge of the rabbit skin while Pa’s keen knife ripped it off the rabbit meat. “I’ll salt this skin and peg it out on the house wall to dry,” he said. “It will make a warm fur cap for some little girl to wear next winter.”

“By Lo, Baby Bunting” was included in the existing manuscripts for Little House on the Prairie in exactly the same manner as in the published version. This is one of the few songs initiated and sung by Caroline Ingalls (Ma) in the Little House series.

(Mother Goose)

Bye, baby bunting,
Father’s gone a-hunting,
Mother’s gone a-milking,
Sister’s gone a-silking,
Brother’s gone to buy a skin
To wrap the baby bunting in.


Bye, bye baby bunting,
Daddy’s gone a-hunting,
To fetch a little rabbit skin
To wrap the baby bunting in.

(from Little House on the Prairie)

By lo, baby bunting.
Papa’s gone a-hunting,
To get a rabbit skin
To wrap the baby bunting in.

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“By Lo, Baby Bunting” (LTP 8)
     “By lo, Baby Bunting…”