The swamp rabbit (Sylvilagus aquaticus), or swamp hare, is a large cottontail rabbit found in the swamps and wetlands of the southern United States. Other common names for the swamp rabbit include marsh rabbit and cane-cutter. The common name, along with the species name aquaticus, are suitable names for a species with a strong preference for wet areas and that will take to the water and swim.
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Mammalia
- Order: Lagomorpha
- Family: Leporidae
- Genus: Sylvilagus
- Species: S. aquaticus
- Binomial name: Sylvilagus aquaticus
The swamp rabbit is the largest member of the cottontail genus. Although it is larger in overall size than other cottontails, it has smaller and rounder ears and coarser fur with a more yellow cast. Its thick fur is dense enough to waterproof its skin, and is usually a mix of dark brown, rusty brown, and black. Its throat and tail are white, and it has cinnamon-colored circles around its eyes. Swamp rabbits weigh between three and six pounds. Their total length varies from 16 to 22 inches, with males generally growing slightly larger than females.
The swamp rabbit is found in much of the south-central United States and along the Gulf coast. It is most abundant in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, but also inhabits South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Illinois, Indiana, and Georgia.
Swamp rabbits mainly live close to lowland water, often in cypress swamps, marshland, floodplain, and river tributaries. Swamp rabbits spend much of their time in depressions which they dig in tall grass or leaves, providing cover while they wait until the nighttime to forage.
An herbivore, swamp rabbits eat grass, sedges, shrubs, twigs, tree seedlings, and tree bark. The rabbit typically forages at night.
- Swamp rabbits are also known as swampers, cane cutters and cane jakes.
- The Sylvilagus aquaticus isn’t the only rabbit species that likes to swim. Marsh rabbits, or Sylvilagus palustris, are also semi-aquatic animals.
- Swamp rabbits can reach speeds up to 48 miles per hour when fleeing from predators.
- Unlike other rabbits, swamp rabbits do not burrow for shelter. However, many huddle in burrows abandoned by another animal during the winter months.
- While most cottontails are not territorial, the swamp rabbits are: the males mark their territory by “chinning,” using pheromones from a gland on the chin to scent-mark.
Swamp rabbit images