As plantation workers pick cotton, one mistakes Bugs' fluffy cottontail for a real tuft of cotton and stuffs it, and the rabbit, in his sack. Bugs is then dumped into the baler, and his bale is loaded on a riverboat called The Southern Star. He frees himself in time to see the conductor boot a stowaway into the river. Not wanting the same fate to befall him, he ducks into a stateroom and dons a wealthy man's attire. He walks about the ship until he encounters Colonel Shuffle who is looking for anyone man enough to sit in a poker game with him. Of course Bugs accepts the challenge. Bugs tosses a hundred-dollar bill on the table and the Colonel hands him half of a poker chip. When the Colonel lays down five aces, Bugs beats him with six aces. When the Colonel challenges him to a duel, Bugs gives him a heaping helping of southern hospitality. After the Colonel lands in the river a couple times, he chases the rabbit into another stateroom, but this time Bugs comes out in drag. She/he persuades another gentleman to defend her/his honor. This man kicks the Colonel into the river again, but when Bugs' dress tears and he realizes he was flirting with a rabbit, he jumps into the river himself.
Censorship and Bans
- When this cartoon aired on ABC, the scene of Bugs rewarding Colonel Shuffle with a cigar that explodes, and Bugs giving him a banjo and the two perform Camptown Races was cut (though that censored scene was shown as a "Comedy Classics" clip shown in between cartoons in the 1989-1990 season of The Bugs Bunny and Tweety Show), with the scene where the Colonel re-emerges onto the ship being moved to after he walks off the ship. Also cut on ABC was the part where Colonel holds a gun to Bugs' face after falling off the boat (in the "Uncle Tom's Cabinet" scene) and Bugs warns him that the gun is filled with water and Colonel Shuffle ends up supposedly getting shot in the face and the scene where Bugs Bunny (dressed as a Southern belle) whacks Colonel Shuffle with an umbrella was shortened.
- On the now-defunct WB channel, the beginning where it shows the black sharecroppers singing "Dixie" and picking cotton (and Bugs) was cut as was the part where Colonel Shuffle supposedly shoots himself in the face after Bugs tells him the gun is filled with water that was edited on ABC.
- Cartoon Network has this cartoon on its list of twelve Bugs Bunny cartoons that were pulled from airing on the 2001 "June Bugs" marathon by order of AOL Time Warner that purportedly was supposed to show every Bugs Bunny cartoon ever made, presumably due to its offensive depiction to African Americans (i.e. plantation farming, the blackface/"Camptown Races" song that was censored on ABC, and the "Uncle Tom's Cabinet" scene). There were rumors that this cartoon aired uncut and uncensored on the short-lived anthology series, The Chuck Jones Show, but this has been denied. To date, this cartoon hasn't aired on American television since the ban, though it is available uncut, uncensored, and remastered (and even re-remastered) on most home media and streaming programs.
- This short has aired uncut and uncensored on the Canadian cable channel Teletoon Retro (a Teletoon sister channel that airs classic animation, similar to Cartoon Network's Boomerang) as recently as 2015.
- In a common Looney Tunes take on the old Mel Blanc/Jack Benny gag, Southern Star is sailing for Memphis, Vicksburg, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and Cuc-amonga.
- The dance Bugs was doing in the "Camptown Races" scene would appear again in The Looney Tunes Show episode "Reunion", when Bugs was on the dance floor.
- On an audio commentary track, Eric Goldberg explains why the cartoon has been banned (though the racism in this cartoon, according to Goldberg, is "tastefully done" and not as blatant as in some other cartoons) and points out the presumably racist scenes (specifically the beginning with the cottonpickers, the Camptown Races scene, and the Uncle Tom's Cabinet gag), the gun gag that was cut when it aired on ABC and the WB (though he doesn't mention those channels specifically; he just makes an off-hand comment that this scene was often cut on Saturday morning broadcasts), and emphatically points out that Bugs' Camptown Races dance was animated by Ken Harris and not Virgil Ross as other sources have claimed.
- Despite being rarely shown these days due to content, Amazon Prime Video and iTunes Video have released a previously unreleased re-restored print of this short.