Rabbits are often confused with hares: they look very similar, but rabbits are much more delicate and have shorter ears.
What do rabbits look like?
Rabbits belong to the lagomorph family and are mammals. By the way, they are not related to rodents. Rabbits are quite small: from head to bottom they are 34 to 45 centimeters long, 16 to 18 centimeters high and weigh one to a maximum of three kilograms.
Their ears are six to three inches long and are always erect. It is typical for rabbits that the upper edge of the ears is black. Its tail, four to eight centimeters long, looks like a woolen tassel. It is dark on top and white on the underside.
Rabbits’ fur can be beige, brown, grey, black, or white. Rabbits have a special feature: their incisors grow back throughout their lives. Males and females are difficult to tell apart. Male animals are called bucks, the female rabbits.
Rabbits are often confused with hares. But rabbits are 40 to 76 centimeters tall and weigh up to seven kilograms. Also, their ears are much longer than rabbits’.
Where do rabbits live?
In the past, wild rabbits probably only existed on the Iberian Peninsula, i.e. in Spain and Portugal as well as in Northwest Africa. However, they were kept by humans very early on and brought to the British Isles, Ireland, southern Sweden, and the Canary Islands.
Today they are at home almost all over the world because rabbits kept as pets were taken away by European settlers and abandoned: They live in Australia and New Zealand as well as in South America Rabbits like dry habitats with sandy and clay or rocky soils. They are mainly found in grass steppes, park landscapes, and sparse forests. Today, however, they also feel at home in fields and gardens.
What types of rabbits are there?
The brown hare and the mountain hare are closely related to the rabbit. In addition to wild rabbits, there are now around 100 different rabbit breeds that have been bred by humans and are kept as pets. They are popular because of their meat, but also because of their fur and wool, such as the long-haired Angora rabbits. The name of a very special breed is confusing: it is the hare rabbit.
They are not a cross between a hare and a rabbit – which would not be biologically possible – but a breed from a Belgian rabbit breed, the Belgian giant. Hare rabbits are larger than other rabbits, weighing 3.5 to 4.25 kilograms. Her body is elongated and elegant. Their fur has a reddish tint, similar to that of a wild rabbit.
How old do rabbits get?
Rabbits can live up to ten, sometimes twelve years.
How do rabbits live?
Rabbits are most active at dusk. They usually live in a fixed area about one square kilometer in diameter. There they have their underground burrow where they are safe and protected from enemies. These burrows consist of branched passages up to 2.7 meters deep. Sometimes they also live in crevices and hollows on the earth’s surface. Rabbits are very sociable animals: A rabbit family consists of up to 25 animals.
Usually, an adult male, several females, and many young animals live together. The “boss” of the family is the male. Foreign animals from another family are not tolerated but chased away.
When they look for food, they can travel up to five kilometers. They always use the same paths: Sometimes you can discover these paths in the grass because they are well-trodden. Such paths are also called alternations. Rabbits have a very typical way of moving: they jump and hop.
They can also scuttle when hunted; that is, they change direction at lightning speed and thus shake off their pursuers. Rabbits can hear very well. This is important so that they can be aware of dangers in the wild and flee in good time.
Because they are able to move both ears independently, they can listen forward with one ear and backward with the other at the same time – so they don’t miss a sound. In addition, rabbits can see very well, especially at a distance and at dusk, and they can smell very well.
Rabbits were kept as pets by the Romans around 2000 years ago. They valued these animals primarily as suppliers of meat. Wild rabbits are difficult to keep in an enclosure because they are not very tame and are very shy. Today’s rabbit breeds are usually much larger and calmer than wild rabbits. But when tame rabbits escape, they quickly become feral and live like their wild ancestors.
Friends and foes of the rabbit
Rabbits have many enemies: all predatory animals from stoats, martens, and foxes to wolves, lynxes, and bears hunt them down. But large owls and birds of prey as well as ravens can also be dangerous to them. Because they reproduce so rapidly, they have also been heavily hunted by humans in some regions.