Rabbit

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Rabbit

Rabbits are small mammals in the family Leporidae of the order Lagomorpha (along with the hare and the pika). Oryctolagus cuniculus includes the European rabbit species and its descendants, the world’s 305 breeds of domestic rabbit. Sylvilagus includes thirteen wild rabbit species, among them the seven types of cottontail.

The European rabbit, which has been introduced on every continent except Antarctica, is familiar throughout the world as a wild prey animal and as a domesticated form of livestock and pet. With its widespread effect on ecologies and cultures, the rabbit (or bunny) is, in many areas of the world, a part of daily life—as food, clothing, and companion, and as a source of artistic inspiration.

Scientific classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Subphylum: Vertebrata
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Order: Lagomorpha
  • Family: Leporidae

Habitat

While originally from Europe and Africa, rabbits are now found all over the world. They occupy most of the world’s land masses, except for southern South America, the West Indies, Madagascar, and most islands southeast of Asia, according to ADW. Although originally absent from South America, Australia, New Zealand, Java, rabbits have been introduced to these locations during the last few centuries.

Domestic rabbits need a regulated environment to protect against heat exhaustion or hypothermia. Wild rabbits don’t have this problem and make their homes in various temperature extremes. Wild rabbits can be found in woods, forests, meadows, grasslands, deserts, tundra and wetlands.

History

Phoenician sailors visiting the coast of Spain c. 12th century BC, mistaking the European rabbit for a species from their homeland, gave it the name i-shepan-ham (land or island of hyraxes). A theory exists that a corruption of this name, used by the Romans, became the Latin name for the peninsula, Hispania – although this theory is somewhat controversial. In Rome, rabbits were raised in large walled colonies.

Selective breeding of rabbits began in the Middle Ages, when they were first domesticated as farm animals. By the 16th century, several new breeds of different colors and sizes were being recorded.

Size

Some rabbits are about the size of a cat, and some can grow to be as big as a small child. Small rabbits, such as pygmy rabbits, can be as little as 8 inches (20 centimeters) in length and weigh less than a pound. Larger species grow to 20 inches (50 cm) and more than 10 lbs. (4.5 kilograms).

According to Dr. Lianne McLeod, a veterinarian, in a column for The Spruce website, the largest rabbit breeds are the checkered giant, over 11 lbs. (5 kg); Flemish giant, 13 lbs. (5.9 kg) and over; giant papillon, 13 to 14 lbs. 5.9 to 6.3 kg); and giant chinchilla, 12 to 16 lbs. (5.4 to 7.2 kg). The world’s longest rabbit, according to Guinness World Records, is a Flemish giant that clocked in at 4 feet 3 inches (129 cm) and 49 pounds (22 kg).

Diet

Commercial food pellets are available in most countries in a variety of formulations, and are typically fed to adult rabbits in limited quantities to prevent obesity.

Most pellets are based on alfalfa as a protein and fiber source, with other grains being used to complete the carbohydrate requirements. Minerals and vitamins geared toward specific requirements of rabbits are added during production. Many commercial rabbit raisers also feed grass hay, although this can represent a hygiene issue in rabbitries. Alfalfa hay in particular is recommended for immature rabbits.

Biology

Evolution

Because the rabbit’s epiglottis is engaged over the soft palate except when swallowing, the rabbit is an obligate nasal breather. Rabbits have two sets of incisor teeth, one behind the other. This way they can be distinguished from rodents, with which they are often confused.

Morphology

Since speed and agility are a rabbit’s main defenses against predators (including the swift fox), rabbits have large hind leg bones and well developed musculature. Though plantigrade at rest, rabbits are on their toes while running, assuming a more digitigrade form.

Ears

Within the order lagomorphs, the ears are utilized to detect and avoid predators. In the family leporidae, the ears are typically longer than they are wide. For example, in black tailed jack rabbits, their long ears cover a greater surface area relative to their body size that allow them to detect predators from far away.

Facts

  • Rabbits also live in Southwestern Europe, Southeast Asia, Sumatara, parts of japan, Africa and South America.
  • There are many species of rabbits.
  • Cottontails, Pygmy and European Rabbits live in the US.
  • Most domestic or pet rabbits are European Rabbits.
  • Rabbits live in meadows, woods, forests, grasslands, deserts and wetlands.
  • Throughout history rabbits were a symbol of fertility.
  • They reproduce often. Rabbits usually have 2-3 litter a year.
  • Each litter has 4-6 babies.
  • Babies are born with their eyes closed and no fur.
  • A rabbit has 28 teeth.
  • Their teeth never stop growing.
  • Some people eat rabbit for food.

Rabbit images

Image by Joshua Choate from Pixabay

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