101 Rabbit Facts – Amazing Animal Books
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Bugs Bunny. Peter Rabbit. Pooh’s friend, Rabbit. These are just some of the famous, well-loved rabbits in books and film. Even in real life, though, rabbits, along with their close relatives, the hares, are lovable creatures, perhaps more so, with their gentle nature and their soft and cuddly appearance. They are also fascinating animals, whether in the wild or in captivity, and this book will tell you exactly why.
Eastern Cottontail rabbit
Rabbits and hares belong to the family Leporidae and so are collectively known as leporids. The word “leporidae” comes from the word “lepus” which is Latin for “hare”.
A male leporid is called a buck and a female leporid is called a doe. Young rabbits are called kittens or kits, while a hare that is less than a year old is called a leveret.
Leporids are not very diverse, with most species looking pretty much the same. They vary in size, though, from weighing just around 10 ounces (283 grams) to as much as 11 pounds (5 kilograms).
Rabbits and hares can be found on every continent except Antarctica. About half of the world’s population can be found in North America.
Black-tailed jackrabbit, a species of hare
Rabbits and hares can live for 4 to 6 years in the wild. In captivity, they can live for up to 12 years on average.
Because of their relatively small size, rabbits and hares are common prey. Their list of predators varies from one place to another but the most common ones are foxes, badgers, hawks and wild cats.
Together with pikas – furry, tailless mammals that live in rock crevices or underground burrows – rabbits and hares make up the order Lagomorpha. The word “lagomorpha” comes from the Greek words “lagos”, which means “hare”, and “morphe”, which means “form”.
Pika in Shikaoi, Hokkaido, Japan
Lagomorphs are often confused with rodents – mice, rats, squirrels and several other animals that make up a third of all the existing mammals. However, they belong to their own distinct order. Rabbits and hares are different from rodents in that they have more upper teeth – four instead of just two – and have fur on their feet.
Carl Linnaeus, a Swedish scientist who is renowned as the Father of Modern Taxonomy, once grouped rodents and lagomorphs under a grand order called Glires. However, this remains a subject of debate.
Rabbits and hares can breathe only through their noses. This is because their epiglottis – the elastic cartilage attached to the entrance of the voice box – is spread over their soft palate at all times, except when they are swallowing.
A rabbit in Kansas
Like rodents, the front teeth of leporids keep on growing throughout their lifetime, so they have to keep these sharp and short by gnawing on food or objects such as wood.
Apart from their constantly growing teeth, another trait leporids share with rodents is the fact that they cannot vomit, having a strong valve between the esophagus, the tube through which food goes down, and the stomach.
Most mammals have a part of the brain called the corpus callosum, which is a bundle of nerves that connects the right side of the brain to the left. Rabbits and hares, however, along with marsupials, bats and rodents, lack this part. Strangely, this lack has no negative effect on them, whereas humans who lack a corpus callosum suffer from seizures and poor hand-eye coordination.
Rabbits and hares may seem like they only have four toes in their front paws but they actually have five. The fifth one, called the dewclaw, does not touch the ground, like in dogs.
The knee of leporids – the joint between the upper and lower leg bones – is called a stifle, much like in horses.
Rabbit at Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge
Most of the digestion of leporids takes place in the beginning of the large intestine called the cecum. This cecum makes up about 40% of the leporids’ entire digestive tract and is 10 times larger than the stomach.
Leporids have three types of hair – guide hairs, which are the outer hairs that are long and rough; guard hairs, which surround the guide hairs; and down hairs, which are soft and short, hardly seen. There are about 60 down hairs for each strand of guide hair. Rabbit hair is called fur, cony, comb or lapin.
The most distinguishing features of leporids are their long ears, which normally grow over 4 inches (10 centimeters) long. These allow them to hear very well, detecting the slightest sound from up to 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) away.
Like dogs, leporids can twitch their ears and move them in various directions. They keep their ears up when they are alert, move their ears back and forth to pinpoint the exact direction of a sound and keep their ears down when they are relaxed.
European hare in South Hungary
Leporids also have an excellent sense of smell, able even to smell food that is buried under the ground. They have about 100 million scent cells, making their sense of smell far more developed than a human’s.
Just as they move their ears to pinpoint a sound, leporids twitch their noses when trying to detect a smell. This twitching is called “nose blinking”.
Leporids have good vision, as well. They can see nearly 360 degrees all around them, with the only blind spot being that on the bridge of their noses.
Leporids are far-sighted, meaning they can see objects that are far away more clearly than objects that are up close. They can see from very long distances, ready to sprint at the first sign of danger.
Rabbit eating grass
Leporids cannot see well at night, though. While they are able to see well in dim situations, they cannot see things in the dark because they lack the tapetum lucidum that most nocturnal animals have.
Because of the fact that they have more rod cells – cells that work in poor light conditions – than cone cells – cells that are responsible for color and detail in their eyes, leporids are very sensitive to bright light and often squint or run away when it is too bright.
Rabbits and hares have about 17,000 taste buds. Like humans, they can tell between sweet, sour, bitter and salty foods. In the wild, they can also tell which plants are poisonous.
Young wild rabbit eating dandelion flower in Lancashire, England
Rabbits and hares are herbivores. They eat mostly grass, forbs and weeds, grazing heavily during the first part of the feeding and then more selectively during the second part. Feeding periods usually take an hour.
Leporids have two kinds of droppings – hard droppings and soft pellets called caecotrophs. These caecotrophs are partially digested food which the leporids eat as soon as they come out in order to fully digest the food. In short, they eat some of their poop!
Dropping of a rabbit
Rabbits and hares sleep with their eyes open. This allows them to keep alert to predators and other dangers so they can flee to safety. Even rabbits in captivity do this as well, but they sleep longer – up to 8.4 hours a day.
Rabbits and hares move from one place to another by jumping. They push their bodies off the ground using their strong hind legs and then use their shorter front legs to soften the landing. They can jump as high as 4 feet (1.2 meters) into the air and can cover over 9 feet (2.7 meters) in a single bound.
Leporids are fast runners – or jumpers. They can go as fast as 22 to 45 miles (35.4 to 72.4 kilometers) per hour but can only sustain this speed for a short period of time.
Ethiopian highland hare running
Rabbits and hares are not vocal. Rather, they warn others of danger by thumping their hind legs on the ground or lifting their tail, also called scuts, like a flag.
Sometimes, rabbits will run, jump into the air, twist their bodies and then flick their feet. This series of moves is called “the binky” and is a sign that they are happy.
Hares and rabbits groom themselves frequently, just as frequently as cats, in fact. Rabbits even groom each other, which is called allogrooming.
European hare grooming
Because of their constant grooming, rabbits and hares can also get hairballs or “wool blocks” – balls of fur that get stuck in their digestive tract. Because they cannot vomit, this can pose a problem, and in rabbits and hares with impaired digestive systems, can be fatal.
Rabbits and hares are able to reproduce anywhere from 3 to 10 months, with males reaching sexual maturity first. In some species, leporids are able to reproduce even before they reach their full size while in others, this happens after.
Rabbits and hares are polygamous, meaning the buck can mate with several does and the does can mate with several bucks, usually having a litter with different fathers.
Rabbits and hares are prolific breeders. They can have as many as eight litters a year and can have as many as eight young in a litter.
Rabbits and hares nurse their young like other mammals but only do so once a day, for about five minutes, and not immediately after they are born. Their milk is so rich it can sustain their young for up to 24 hours.
Two baby bunnies sharing a leaf
Whether in rabbits or in hares, only the doe takes care of her young. She does not stay with them all the time, though. In fact, she is often away from them so as not to attract predators.
Hares belong to the genus Lepus. Rabbits belong to eight different genera of leporids.
Hares are larger than rabbits – the largest leporid is a hare while the smallest is a rabbit. They also have longer ears, longer hind legs and larger feet.
Both hares and rabbits come in various coat colors. However, hares always have black markings on their fur, except the species that are completely white during winter.
Rabbits are born blind and pink, without any fur. They only open their eyes between 10 to 14 days. Hares are born with fur and with their eyes open so they are able to move about shortly after they are born.
Rabbit kits only one hour old
Rabbits are social and live in groups, called herds, nests or colonies. Sometimes, these groups are headed by a dominant male. Hares are solitary, coming together only during mating.
Most rabbits live in burrows under the ground called rabbit holes. When there are many rabbit holes in an area, the area is called a warren. Hares, on the other hand, live in nests above the ground called forms.
Entrance to a rabbit warren
Hares are faster runners. When threatened, they will usually flee, often in a zigzag motion. Rabbits, on the other hand, will usually burrow when pursued by a predator and kick if they are captured.
Rabbits prefer soft grass and leaves and sometimes, eat soft vegetables. Hares prefer to eat hard shoots, buds and twigs.
Rabbits have been domesticated and are commonly kept as pets worldwide. Hares are not really kept as pets although those who find leverets in the wild sometimes decide to keep them.
The Amami rabbit is a bulky, woolly rabbit found only on two Japanese islands. It is considered the most primitive of rabbits and is even called a living fossil, being the only remaining descendant of ancient rabbits that were once widespread throughout Asia.
Cottontail rabbits get their name from their tails which look like cotton balls. They are found in North America where they are widely distributed.
Cottontail rabbits do not hold their food with their front paws. Instead, they use their noses to bring their food within reach of their mouths and turn it around to get to the tastiest and cleanest part.
Mother and baby cottontail enjoying a carrot dinner
Like other rabbits, cottontails live in burrows. During windy days, they stay inside their burrows because the wind interferes with their hearing, putting them at greater risk of being eaten.
Most cottontail rabbits have white undersides on their tails, much like those of the white-tailed deer. The brush rabbit, however, is an exception, with its tail having a gray underside. This cottontail rabbit also does not dig its own burrow but looks for abandoned ones to use.
The eastern cottontail is very common in North America, found in grassy and shrubby areas. It can sit completely still for up to 15 minutes, which it does when a predator is nearby.
An Eastern Cottontail
Most rabbits do not like to swim even if they can swim, but the marsh rabbit is a strong and frequent swimmer. In fact, it can only be found near bodies of water. This cottontail rabbit has short ears and legs and like the brush rabbit, has a grayish brown tail.
The omilteme cottontail is the rarest cottontail in the world and the rarest rabbit, found only in a small part of Mexico. In fact, its population is unknown, and some believe that it is already extinct.
Swamp rabbits are the largest cottontail rabbits, weighing up to 6 pounds (2.7 kilograms). They are skilled swimmers, often seen crossing streams and rivers, and are also fast runners when escaping predators such as alligators, running as fast as 45 miles (72.4 kilometers) per hour.
On April 20, 1979, a swamp rabbit tried to board the fishing boat of then US President Jimmy Carter. The media described the rabbit as a “killer rabbit” although scientists believe it was simply panicking and trying to find safety. The incident became known as the “Jimmy Carter rabbit incident”, the photos of which were released by the White House only during the Reagan administration.
President of the United States Jimmy Carter splashing away a swamp rabbit (seen on right of image)
The European rabbit is the most widely distributed rabbit, having been introduced to nearly every continent. It is also the only breed of rabbit to be domesticated, first kept in ancient Rome.
European rabbits are very social. They live in groups of up to 10 individuals, occupying a network of burrows which they work together to defend from predators.
European rabbits are known to be aggressive. The bucks fight each other often for breeding rights and for territory – fights that start out with one buck squirting urine on the other and then proceed with kicks, bites and scratches. Some of these fights result in serious injury or even death.
In Australia, where European rabbits were introduced in 1859, they are considered pests, so much so that Australia has to use forms of biological control. Since European rabbits have no natural predators in Australia, their population continues to increase, driving the native bilbies to near extinction.
European rabbit by JJ Harrison
The European rabbit is an important prey for the Iberian lynx and for the Spanish imperial eagle. Because of the decline of the European rabbit’s population in Spain, the population of these two predators have also declined, with the Iberian lynx now being the world’s most endangered cat.
The pygmy rabbit is the world’s smallest leporid. It weighs only 1.1 pounds (0.5 kilograms) at most and grows only up to a foot (30.5 centimeters) long.
Pygmy rabbits dig their own burrows, which have 2 to 10 entrances and can be as deep as 3 feet (0.9 meters) below the ground. Some pygmy rabbits stay close to their burrows, never going beyond 60 feet (18.3 meters) from them, while others venture out farther.
A pygmy rabbit
The riverine rabbit is one of the most endangered mammals in the world, with less than 400 individuals remaining. It has a distinct black stripe on its cheek.
The volcano rabbit, the world’s second smallest rabbit, is also social, living in groups and colonies. Instead of thumping its hind feet to warn others of danger like other rabbits, it makes high-pitched sounds, much like the sounds made by pikas.
The arctic hare is a large hare that can weigh up to 15 pounds (6.8 kilograms). It is well-adapted to the cold, having a thick fur that is white in winter and brown in summer. In places where summers are very short, arctic hares remain white all year round.
The Alaskan hare, also known as the tundra hare, is one of two hares native to Alaska. It has shorter ears than other hares, allowing it to conserve its body heat, but has a fairly large body.
The antelope jackrabbit, on the other hand, has long ears that can grow up to 8 inches (20.3 centimeters) long, which allows it to regulate its body heat in the warm deserts and plains where it is found. It gets its name from its fast leaping ability.
Black-tailed jackrabbits are common in North America, where they are the top prey for hawks, owls and eagles. They are also hunted by humans for sport, but not for meat. In fact, they are rarely handled by humans because of the various parasites they carry.
The European hare, or brown hare, is the fastest leporid, able to run up to 45 miles (72.4 kilometers) an hour when fleeing from predators such as hawks and lynxes. Its limbs are especially built for high-speed endurance.
The phrase “mad as a March hare” comes from the courtship behavior of the European hares. During the breeding season, which peaks in March, female European hares are seen “boxing” with males in meadows in broad daylight, supposedly to let the males know they are not yet ready to mate. When a female is ready to mate, she lets the males chase her, and the winner of the race ends up as her mate.
The snowshoe hare is named for the mark it leaves on the ground with its large hind feet and tail, which looks like a snowshoe. It is another hare well-adapted to cold winters, with short ears, a coat that turns white and large feet that prevent it from sinking into the snow.
Snowshoe hares are herbivores like other leporids but when food is scarce, they have been observed to steal the meat used as bait in traps and to even eat mice!
Snowshoe hare in its winter coat
White-sided jackrabbits differ from other leporids in that they are the only ones to establish pair bonds. Once a male has mated with a female, he defends the female from other males and never goes more than 20 feet (6 meters) away from her.
The white-tailed jackrabbit is the largest jackrabbit, weighing over 8 pounds (3.6 kilometers) in the spring. It is solitary and fairly silent but will emit a high-pitched scream when caught or injured.
White-tailed Jackrabbit in Calgary, Canada
The domestication of rabbits dates back to as early as the 5th century. In the beginning, they were only raised for their meat but today, rabbits are also kept for laboratory research, for their wool and simply for their companionship as pets.
Rabbits have been kept as pets in England since the 1500s. The first rabbit show took place in England in 1820.
Two young refugees from Luxembourg with their pet rabbit in Surrey during 1942
Domestic rabbits were brought to America in the 1940s. They only became popular in the 1980s, though, after Sandy Crook shared her experiences about having a pet rabbit at the American Family Pet Show in California. In 1988, the House Rabbit Society was founded in the United States.
As of 2007, 6.2 million rabbits were kept as pets in the United States alone. Rabbits are the eighth most popular animals owned by humans, after dogs, cats, birds, horses, fish, poultry and livestock.
Domestic rabbits eat hay, which is rich in the fiber they need, and leafy vegetables, fruits and pellets, which must be carefully chosen as some are too high in calories. Giving tomatoes, corn, beans, peas, onions and most human foods is discouraged.
Ovide eating by jpockele
Pet rabbits should never be picked up from behind, as this will make them think you are a predator and startle them. In some cases, they might even bite.
While wild rabbits all have upright ears, some domestic rabbits have floppy ears. These include the English Lop, French Lop and Holland Lop.
Angora rabbits are the oldest type of domestic rabbits. Originally, they were bred for their long, soft wool, which is lighter and warmer than sheep’s wool and is commonly used in baby clothes and sweaters. A single Angora rabbit can produce as much as 15 ounces (0.42 kilograms) of wool a year, with each ounce costing as much as $16.
Baby angora rabbit
The Belgian hare is not a hare but a breed of domestic rabbit which looks like a hare, with its long body and black markings. It has been described as the most intelligent rabbit breed, with some Belgian hares able to respond to their names.
Chinchilla rabbits are rabbits that have been bred to look like chinchillas, but are in no way related to chinchillas. American chinchilla rabbits are heavier than standard chinchilla rabbits.
The Flemish giant is the largest breed of domestic rabbit, able to weigh up to 22 pounds (10 kilograms), although most average 11 to 14 pounds (5 to 6.4 kilograms). Flemish giants were bred as early as the 16th century in Belgium.
A sandy Flemish giant male napping beside a sable-and-white Shetland sheepdog
The Netherland Dwarf is one of the smallest breeds of domestic rabbits, with many weighing only over a pound (0.45 kilograms) and growing about 3 inches (7.6 centimeters) long. Many of the dwarf rabbit breeds today are the result of breeding larger rabbits with the Netherland Dwarf.
In Aztec mythology there are 400 rabbit gods, known as the Centzon Totochtin. They are known for having parties and getting drunk, with their leader, Ometochtli, being closely associated with the drink pulque, made from the sap of the maguey plant.
The foot of a rabbit is carried as a good luck charm in some parts of the world – a practice that dates back to 600 BC. Not any rabbit’s foot will do, though. Rather, it has to be the left foot of a rabbit that has been shot to death during the full moon, during the new moon or on a Friday.
The rabbit is one of the animals in the Chinese zodiac. People who are born under the sign of the rabbit are believed to be gentle, soft-spoken, merciful and peaceful, but are prone to feeling lonely.
1987 Year of the Rabbit $10 Silver Proof Coin
Chang’e, the Chinese goddess of the moon, is accompanied by the jade rabbit, the only creature believed to rival her beauty. There are three different versions of her story and in one, the jade rabbit mixes elixirs of life for the goddess, enabling her to live forever.
In Japan, there is also a belief that a rabbit lives on the moon but it is making mochi, a cake made of sticky rice, instead of elixirs. The patches on the moon are believed to be the rabbit’s footprints.
In the pagan culture of the Anglo-Saxons, hares are associated with the spring goddess Eostre and are symbols of fertility. They mistakenly believed that birds laid eggs in the forms (nests) of hares, leading to the tradition of Easter eggs!
In ancient Greece, hares were sacred to Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, and so killing newborn hares was forbidden. Rabbits, on the other hand, were sacred to Aphrodite, the goddess of love and fertility and so were common gifts of men and women to their lovers.
The “three hares” – a symbol of three hares seemingly chasing each other in a circle, sharing a pair of ears – has been observed in churches in both Europe and the East. Its meaning remains a mystery.
An English Lop called Nipper’s Geronimo holds the record for being the rabbit with the longest ears. Its ears were 31 inches (78.7 centimeters) long and over 7 inches (17.8 centimeters) wide.
Lop by ffg
The largest litter ever produced by a rabbit consisted of 24 kits. Two New Zealand rabbits hold this record, first made in 1978 and then in 1999.
The longest-lived rabbit lived to be 18 years, 10 months and 21 days old. Her name was Flopsy and she lived in Tasmania, Australia.
Currently, a giant pink bunny measuring 200 feet (60.9 meters) long lies in the Alps. Made from waterproof materials that are soft enough to lie down on, the bunny can be seen from space and will remain in the Alps until 2025.
Weighing only 2.5 ounces (70.9 grams) – less than the weight of an apple – Ruediger is the world’s smallest rabbit. He was rescued from a dung pile and currently lives in a German zoo.
Steve Lubanzki and Candace Frazee, a couple from California, have the largest bunny collection in the world, having 8437 rabbit-themed collectibles as of 1999.
Pez – Fat Eared Bunnies
You can see more about rabbits and hares at:
Image01 Eastern Cottontail rabbit by Hardyplants
Image02 Black-tailed jackrabbit, a species of hare. Image by Jim Harper
Image03 Pika in Shikaoi, Hokkaido, Japan.
Image04 A rabbit in Kansas by Monique Haen
Image05 Rabbit at Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge by Phil Roeder
Image06 European hare in South Hungary by Takkk cc3.0
Image07 Rabbit eating grass by Monique Haen cc3.0
Image08a Young wild rabbit eating dandelion flower in Lancashire, England by Gidzy cc2.0
Image08 Dropping of a rabbit cc3.0
Image09 Ethiopian highland hare running by Jeffrey Kerby cc2.0
Image10a European hare grooming by Marco Hebing cc2.0
Image10 Baby rabbit by jans canon cc2.0
Image11 Two baby bunnies sharing a leaf by jc.winkler cc2.0
Image12 Rabbit kits only one hour old. Photographs by nangarra…commons.wikimedia.org cc2.5
Image13 Entrance to a rabbit warren by Brammers
Image14 Mother and baby cottontail enjoying a carrot dinner by Jessie Eastland cc3.0
Image15 An Eastern Cottontail by The High Fin Sperm Whale cc3.0
Image16 President of the United States Jimmy Carter splashing away a swamp rabbit
Image17 European rabbit by JJ Harrison ([email protected]) cc3.0
Image18 A pygmy rabbit by U.S. Government National Park Service
Image19 Arctic hare by Steve Sayles cc2.0
Image20 European hares by Martin Hefner cc2.0
Image21 Snowshoe hare in its winter coat by D. Gordon E. Robertson cc3.0
Image22 White-tailed Jackrabbit in Calgary, Canada by Iain George (TheIguana) cc3.0
Image23 Two young refugees from Luxembourg with their pet rabbit in Surrey during 1942
Image24 Ovide eating by jpockele cc2.0
Image25 Baby angora rabbit by Verolg cc3.0
Image26 A sandy Flemish giant male napping beside a sable-and-white Shetland sheepdog by Stamatisclan cc3.0
Image27 1987 Year of the Rabbit $10 Silver Proof Coin by alantankenghoe cc2.0
Image28 Easter eggs by Toelstede cc3.0
Image29 Lop by ffg
Image30 Pez – Fat Eared Bunnies by Dustin Gaffke cc2.0