Green’s Dictionary of Slang

rabbit n.2

1. a wooden drinking vessel.

[UK]G. Meriton In Praise of York-shire Ale 1: Strong Beer in Rabits and cheating penny Cans.
[UK]B.E. Dict. Canting Crew n.p.: Rabbits, Wooden Kanns to Drink out of, once used on the Roads, now almost laid by.
[UK]New Canting Dict. [as cit. c.1698].
[UK]Bailey Universal Etym. Eng. Dict. [as cit. c.1698].
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue n.p.: Rabbits were also a sort of wooden canns to drink out of, now out of use.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum [as cit. 1785].
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]R. McGregor-Hastie Compleat Migrant 108: Rabbit, to rum the: to fetch beer from a public house.

2. (US/Aus., also bunny) a bottle of beer.

[Aus]C. Crowe Aus. Sl. Dict. 64: Rabbit, [...] a bottle of beer.
[US]O. Johnson Varmint 299: Dish out the bunny.
[Aus]Baker Popular Dict. Aus. Sl. 58: Rabbit, a bottle of beer.
[Aus]N. Pulliam I Travelled a Lonely Land (1957) 237/2: rabbit – [...] sometimes a bottle of beer.

In phrases

run the rabbit (v.) (Aus.)

1. to bring home liquor from a public house; thus rabbit-runner, one who carries out this errand.

[Aus]Coburg Leader (Vic.) 15 June 1/6: Billy H., of Coburg, runs the rabbit pretty often.
[Aus]Bendigo Indep. (Vic.) 22 Jan. 6/5: His ‘push’ who for the whole of Friday and late into Friday night were ‘running the rabbit’ (carry beer in bottle or billy-can).
[Aus]Morwell Advertiser (Vic.) 4 Dec. 4/1: In one of the public offices there used to be messenger who was pretty frequently sent for beer, to ‘run the rabbit,’ as the saying is.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 4 Aug. 10/1: ‘Do you mix your drinks with water? Do you house a demijohn? / Do you ever run the rabbit? Do you like it cold, or hot? / Have you got the sipping habit? / Are you sober, please, or not?’ [Ibid.] 22 Sept. 10/1: He also ‘runs the rabbit,’ and may be seen at certain times of the day cantering out from among his green-stuffs with a drinking vessel in either hand [...] Snowball, M.L.A., cold-tea apostle, represents the Brighton Chows in Parliament; but, as Snowball doesn’t know a rabbit-runner when he sees one, he can hardly be blamed for permitting the presence of these offensive Chow-encouraging beer-houses in his constituency.
[Aus]C.J. Dennis ‘The Intro’ in Songs of a Sentimental Bloke 22: Not since I wus a tiny little cub, / An’ run the rabbit to the corner pub.
[Aus]Call (Perth) 27 Oct. 2/6: ‘Running the rabbit’ in Perth is not confined to the ‘humble beer jug,’ as a close watch of a well-known Beaufort-street hostelry would easily demonstrate.
[Aus]Cairns Post (Qld) 31 Mar. 1/4: Sir—In to-day’s quiz you state that ‘to run the rabbit’ means in Australian language, to fetch beer from a hotel. Well, you may be right, but in the bush we call it ‘running the cutter’.

2. to obtain liquor illegally.

[Aus]Baker Popular Dict. Aus. Sl. 62: Run the rabbit, to secure liquor, often illegally, e.g. after hours.
[Aus]N. Pulliam I Travelled a Lonely Land (1957) 238/1: run the rabbit – to buy liquor illegally after closing hours or in some zone supposed to be closed.