Rabbits


Description


Rabbits are small mammals in the family Leporidae of the order Lagomorpha, found in several parts of the world. There are eight different genera in the family classified as rabbits, including the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus). These, along with pikas and hares, make up the order Lagomorpha. The male is called a buck and the female is a doe; a young rabbit is a kitten or kit.

The European rabbits was introduced to these shores by the Romans, as recorded by Marcus Terrentius Varro (116-27BC) who wrote that the legions brought rabbits from Spain, where they were reared in walled enclosures and then served up as a gourmet dish.

On occasion, wild rabbits will interbreed with their domesticated descendants resulting in colour abnormalities such as those in the picture to the left. Other colour abnormalities (such as black or ginger) can often be attributed to inbreeding within a local population.

Habitat

Rabbits are gregarious, social animals, living in medium-sized colonies known as warrens. Rabbits are largely crepuscular, being most active around dawn and dusk, although they are not infrequently seen active during the day. During the day, rabbits prefer to reside in vegetated patches which they use for protection from predators. At night, they move into open prairie to feed. Rabbit populations seem to be greatest in ecotone habitats and less in scrublands or grasslands. Rabbits are essentially mixed-feeders, both grazing and browsing, but grass is their primary food source. They nevertheless have a diverse diet of grasses, leaves, buds, tree bark, and roots. They will also eat lettuce, cabbage, root vegetables, and grains. Birds of prey, such as the Buzzard, are the primary predators of rabbits in scrublands. Rabbits in grasslands are preyed on by carnivores such as foxes and Stoats. 

Breeding

Rabbits are famed for their reproductive capabilities. Although certainly not the strongest, fastest, or most intelligent of the mammals, they have carved out a strong ecological niche through their rate of impregnation, due to the fact that female rabbits ovulate at the time of copulation. One striking example of rapid rabbit reproduction took place in Australia, where the 24 rabbits first introduced in 1859 had multiplied in number to over 600 million over the course of less than a century. The gestation cycle for a rabbit averages 31 days, although it can vary anywhere between 29 and 35 days. Litter sizes generally range between two to twelve kits.

Control

There are many differing methods of controlling a rabbit population such as Ferreting, shooting, gassing, trapping and snaring. However, due to their famed ability to breed these will only remove a population briefly; we recommend that preventative measures such as rabbit fencing are carried out to provide a long term solution to your problem.

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