Could turkey tycoon have been bunny businessman?

It could have been Bernard's 'bootiful bunnies,' said the Royal Norfolk Show's president in 2002.

Bernard Matthews told 200 judges and stewards at a show dinner that he was once the world's largest rabbit breeder.

As one of only three presidents in the history of the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association to serve two consecutive terms, he had been to his first show in 1950 when he and his wife, Joyce, who exhibited French miniature poodles, were presented to the late Queen Mother and Princess Margaret at Anmer.

'Several years later I had my first stand at the Royal Norfolk Show. Some of you may be surprised to know that I was not only selling turkeys but also fish and rabbits at the same time.' He had the idea of rearing rabbits the same way as breeding turkeys and chickens.

He started his rabbit venture by importing 100 Danish lops from Denmark. 'They weighed about 20 to 25lb and were much larger than traditional English rabbits.

'They were packed in cardboard boxes and loaded on to a chartered plane,' said Mr Matthews, who was then told that the pilot refused to take off because he was frightened that the rabbits might escape and kill him .

'Within a short period although I was a turkey breeder, I became the world's largest rabbit breeder as well.'