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Desert Cottontail (Sylvilagus audubonii)
Desert Cottontail (Sylvilagus audubonii)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Lagomorpha
Family: Leporidae
Rabbits are small mammals in the family Leporidae, found in many parts of the world. They are sometimes affectionately known as bunnies, especially by children. There are seven different genera in the family classified as rabbits, including the European Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), cottontail rabbits (genus Sylvilagus; 13 species), and the Amami Rabbit (Pentalagus furnessi, an endangered species on Amami Oshima, Japan). There are many other species of rabbit, and these, along with cottontails, pikas and hares make up the Order Lagomorpha.

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Male and female rabbits
Size and weight
Humans' relationship with rabbits
Environmental problems with rabbits

Hares - Contents

Main article: hare
Rabbits are distinguished from the related hares in that they are altricial, having young that are born blind and hairless; many also live underground in burrows.

Male and female rabbits - Contents

A male rabbit is called a buck, and a female is called a doe. A baby rabbit is called a kit, which is short for kitten.

Size and weight - Contents

The bane of Australian farmers - the wild rabbit
The bane of Australian farmers - the wild rabbit
Rabbits vary in size and weight. As lagomorphs, they have four incisors on their top jaw and two on the bottom jaw, that grow continuously throughout their life. This is distinct from rodents, which have two each on the top and bottom. Rabbits have long ears, large hind legs, and short fluffy tails. Rabbits move by hopping, using their long and powerful hind legs. To facilitate quick movement, rabbit hind feet have a thick padding of fur to dampen the shock of rapid hopping. Their 4 toes are long, and are webbed to keep them from spreading apart as they jump. They have 5 digits on their front paws. Depending on the species of the rabbit, one can reach a speed of 15-20 m/s (35-45 mph). Young rabbits appear to 'walk', instead of hopping.
Some species are well-known for digging networks of burrows, called warrens, where they spend most of their time when not feeding.
A Wild Rabbit sitting in the United States
A Wild Rabbit sitting in the United States

Humans' relationship with rabbits - Contents

Humans' relationship with the European or ‘true’ rabbit was first recorded by the Phoenicians over 1,000 years BC, when they termed the Iberian Peninsula ‘i-shephan-im’ (literally, ‘the land of the rabbit’), which the Romans converted to the Latin form, Hispania, and hence the modern word Spain.The European Rabbit ( Oryctolagus cuniculus) is the only species of rabbit to be domesticated. All pet breeds of rabbits - such as dwarf lops, angoras, etc. - are of this species. However, rabbits and people interact in many different ways beyond domestication. Rabbits are an example of an animal which is treated as food, pet and pest by the same culture.When used for food, rabbits are both hunted and raised for meat. Snares or guns along with dogs are usually employed when catching wild rabbits for food. In many areas rabbits are also raised for meat, a practice called cuniculture. Rabbit pelts are sometimes used as part of accessories, such as scarves or hats. Rabbits are also very good producers of manure; their urine, being high in nitrogen, makes lemon trees very productive. Their milk may also be of great medicinal (see links below) or nutritional benefits due to its high protein content.There are a number of health issues associated with the use of rabbits for meat, one of which is Tularemia or Rabbit Fever. Another is so-called rabbit starvation, due to either the low fat content of rabbit meat or amino acid deficiencies in rabbit meat and synthesis limitations in human beings.

Domestic rabbits - Contents

Provided they are well cared for, rabbits make friendly and playful pets. They are widely kept throughout the world, both indoors and out. Rabbits kept indoors are typically healthier and more social than rabbits kept outdoors. Housed indoors and provided with adequate damage-proofing (especially of electrical cables), rabbits are relatively safe from predators, disease, and temperature extremes. Rabbits kept outdoors must be provided with shelter that is heated in winter and shaded in summer. Domesticated rabbits are most comfortable in temperatures between 10 to 21 degrees Celsius (50 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit), and cannot endure temperatures above 32 degrees Celsius (90 degrees Fahrenheit). Veterinarians specializing in rabbits recommend a diet consisting of hay, leafy green vegetables, water, and small amounts of pellets.Rabbits are crepuscular, meaning they are most active at dawn and dusk; rabbit owners find that these times correspond nicely with their working days. Rabbits sleep intermittently, taking on average 18 naps a day. As prey animals, rabbits behave differently from predator companion animals such as cats and dogs. For example, they have lower 'running expenses', and do not tolerate games of chase. Although well known for hopping, rabbits' spines are inflexible and delicate and they dislike being handled. For these reasons, they are better suited for older teens and adults than for children.The domestic rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) originated from the European wild rabbit.

Environmental problems with rabbits - Contents

Rabbits have also been a source of environmental problems when introduced into the wild by humans (see Rabbits in Australia for details of it as a pest species in that country). Because of their appetites, and the rate at which they breed, wild rabbit depredation can prove problematic for agriculture. Gassing, barriers (fences), shooting, snaring and ferreting have been used to control rabbit populations, but the most effective is diseases such as myxomatosis ('myxo' for short), and calicivirus. In Europe, where rabbits are farmed on a large scale, they are protected against myxomatosis and calicivirus with a genetically modified virus. The virus was developed in Spain, and is beneficial to rabbit farmers. If it were to make its way into wild populations in areas such as Australia, this could create a population boom, since those diseases are the major threats to the rabbits' survival.

Classification - Contents

Rabbits and hares were formerly classified in the order Rodentia until 1912, when they were moved into a new order Lagomorpha. This order, in addition to containing rabbits and hares, also includes the pikas.ORDER LAGOMORPHA
  • Family Leporidae
    • Genus Pentalagus
      • Amami Rabbit/Ryukyu Rabbit, Pentalagus furnessi
    • Genus Bunolagus
      • Bushman Rabbit, Bunolagus monticularis
    • Genus Nesolagus
      • Sumatra Short-Eared Rabbit, Nesolagus netscheri
      • Annamite Rabbit, Nesolagus timminsi
    • Genus Romerolagus
      • Volcano Rabbit, Romerolagus diazi
    • Genus Brachylagus
      • Pygmy Rabbit, Brachylagus idahoensis
    • Genus Sylvilagus
      • Forest Rabbit, Sylvilagus brasiliensis
      • Dice's Cottontail, Sylvilagus dicei
      • Brush Rabbit, Sylvilagus bachmani
      • San Jose Brush Rabbit, Sylvilagus mansuetus
      • Swamp Rabbit, Sylvilagus aquaticus
      • Marsh Rabbit, Sylvilagus palustris
      • Eastern Cottontail, Sylvilagus floridanus
      • New England Cottontail, Sylvilagus transitionalis
      • Mountain Cottontail, Sylvilagus nuttallii
      • Desert Cottontail, Sylvilagus audubonii
      • Omilteme Cottontail, Sylvilagus insonus
      • Mexican Cottontail, Sylvilagus cunicularis
      • Tres Marias Rabbit, Sylvilagus graysoni
    • Genus Oryctolagus
      • European Rabbit, Oryctolagus cuniculus
    • Genus Poelagus
      • Central African Rabbit, Poelagus marjorita
    • 3 other genera in family, regarded as hares, not rabbits
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