Wild Rabbits are small mammals which are found in several parts of the world including Europe. The European rabbit was introduced to Britain by the Normans in the 12th Century. The male is called a buck and the female is a doe; a young rabbit is a kitten or kit. The oldest rabbit on record lived 18 years. The European Hare, also known as brown hare is a species of hare native to Europe and Western Asia. It is a mammal adapted to temperate, open country. It is related to and looks very similar to the European rabbit. Hares can live for as long as twelve years.
The eastern cottontail rabbit is one of the most common mammals of both the natural and the human generated ecosystems of North America. It is especially abundant in habitats that contain edges of open, grassy fields and thorny or shrubby cover. Both early stage successional ecosystems and many managed suburban landscapes are conducive to both the habitat and food needs of the cottontail. The grass monocultures of some suburban communities, though, do not in themselves provide sufficient food varieties for cottontail nutrition.
Rabbits and hares are in the same taxonomic family, Leporidae, but they are in different genera. There are 11 genera within the family, but the term “true hares” refers only to species in the genus Lepus; all others are rabbits. Also, the American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA) recognizes 49 rabbit breeds.
Physical Description Of A Wild Rabbits
The eastern cottontail is the most familiar rabbit in Virginia and easily recognized by most Virginians. The upper body parts are typically reddish-brown, lower parts are white, and it often has a white spot on the forehead. Its short, fluffy tail is also white, hence the name cottontail. They are typically about 16.5 inches long and weigh approximately 3 lbs. Rabbits resemble rodents, but are actually lagomorphs. Unlike rodents, rabbits have a short tail, large hind legs, and two sets of upper incisors.
Life Span And Reproduction Of A Wild Rabbits
The average life span of an eastern cottontail in the wild is usually less than three years. In captivity, though, a cottontail rabbit can live up to eight years. Cottontails can reproduce by one year of age, and a reproductively mature doe can have up to five litters of three to eight young in a single season! This extremely high potential rate of reproduction can cause rabbit populations to greatly increase in numbers over very short periods of time. A wild population of eastern cottontails typically contains a large number of individuals aged one year or less and is thus almost always on the verge of a population explosion. Females have their litters in grass-lined, surface or subterranean nest cavities. The young are born after a thirty day gestation period and are dependent upon the doe for food for approximately two weeks. At two weeks the small rabbits forage and fend for themselves.
Identification Of A Wild Rabbits
Wild Rabbits have greyish-brown fur with a characteristic white flash on the underside of their tail. Adult rabbits weigh around 1.2 to 2 kilograms. They can be 30-40 cm long, making them smaller than most domestic rabbits. They can live for up to 9 years, but in the wild it may be as short as one year.
The most obvious difference between rabbits and hares is how their kits are born. Rabbits are altricial, having young that are born blind and hairless. In contrast, hares are precocial, born with hair and good vision. Hares are generally larger than rabbits, with longer ears, larger and longer hind legs and have black markings on their fur. Hares are very fast-moving animals and are able to run at speeds of up to 56 km/h (35 mph).
The mountain hare is a large species, though it is slightly smaller than the European hare. It grows to a length of 45–65 cm and weighs around 2–5.3 kilograms, females being slightly heavier than males.
Rabbit habitats include meadows, woods, forests, grasslands, deserts and wetlands. They live in family groups, and the best known species, the European Rabbit lives in underground burrows or rabbit holes. A group of burrows is called a warren. They are often seen sitting on grass verges, by roadsides, at dawn and dusk, where there is plenty of grass and few disturbances. They may also be seen out during the day if they are in an undisturbed location.
Hares primarily live in open fields with scattered brush for shelter. They live in simple nests above the ground rather than in a burrow and usually do not live in groups. They are seen less frequently where foxes are abundant or where there are many buzzards.
Rabbits are herbivores that feed by grazing on grass and leafy weeds. They graze heavily and rapidly for roughly the first half hour of a grazing period (usually in the late afternoon), followed by about half an hour of more selective feeding.
European hares are herbivorous. During the summer, they eat grasses, herbs and field crops. Their preference is for wild grasses and weeds but they have taken to feeding on crops. During the winter, they eat herbage, twigs, buds and the bark of shrubs and young fruit trees. They have been known to eat their own green, pellet faeces to recover proteins and vitamins.
How Much Does A Rabbit Weigh?
Adult domestic rabbits can have a healthy weight ranging from 2 to 11 pounds, depending on the breed. Wild rabbits, such as the Eastern cottontail, may weigh between 1 and 3 pounds. The smallest breeds of domestic rabbits include the Havana, Mini Rex and Mini Lop. These rabbits have a healthy adult size ranging between 2 and 6 pounds, making them slightly larger on average than rabbits found in the wild.
The largest breeds, such as the French Lop, may weigh 11 pounds or more. These breeds are not necessarily kept as pets but may be meat-producing animals for farmers.
The domestic or European rabbit is considered within near threatened range by the IUCN. Found all over the world, scientists think most populations are descendants of domestic rabbits that were released in the wild. It is native to the Iberian Peninsula, and in that area, populations have declined as much as 95 percent from its 1950 numbers, and about 80 percent of its 1975 numbers. The decline is attributed to habitat loss, disease and hunting. Rabbits are considered pests by many gardeners.