Rabbits are one of Britains most familiar animals and favourite pets. Rabbits are seen about in broad daylight, near roadsides, hedgerows and scampering in fields often in large numbers. It seems hard to believe that rabbits are not native of Great Britain. (See Rabbit History).
Rabbits are mammals which belong to the ‘Lagomorph’ order (Lagomorph means ‘hare-shaped’) that also includes hares and pikas. Rabbits are similar to rodents in that they have incisor teeth that continually grow.
Rabbits form the Family ‘Leporidae’ in which there are over 50 species. The rabbit species which is commonly kept as a pet is called a ‘Oryctolagus cuniculus’ and within this species various breeds have been developed by enhancing different characteristics through selective breeding.
An adult rabbit can grow up to 40 centimetres in length and weigh between 1.2 – 2 kilograms. Both male and female rabbits are similar in size, however, young rabbits are smaller.
Rabbits vary in colour from black, grey to white. Rabbits have to groom their fur frequently otherwise it will become matted and lose its insulating properties. This means that rabbits avoid getting wet. Rabbits have very long hind feet and a distinctive fluffy tail that is usually black on top and white below.
Rabbits large brown eyes are set on the side of their head to allow almost a 180 degree vision. A rabbit has large sensitive ears that can be turned in any direction. Rabbits have acute hearing that provides maximum information about their surroundings and alerts them of any danger.
In the wild, rabbits like dry, well-drained slopes on field edges, grassland, woodland and dunes. Rabbits live in open country where predators like foxes and birds of prey are easily spotted. One rabbit is always on guard when they are feeding. When danger approaches the guard stamps its feet and the whole colony will very quickly hurry down into their burrows.
Rabbits that are kept as pets tend to have a life expectancy of about 8 – 12 years if cared for properly, however, rabbits in the wild do not live as long. Because of natural predators such as foxes, weasels and even crows, wild rabbits have a shorter life expectancy of about 2 – 4 years.
General Rabbit Statistics:
Gestation (pregnancy) 30 – 33 days. Litter Size 4 – 12. Average 7.
Weaning Age 7 – 8 weeks. From 50 days.
Average domesticated rabbit life span 8 – 12 years.
Heart Rate is around 220/per minute.
Normal Temperature 37 – 39.5 degrees Celsius, 101 – 103 degrees fahrenheit .
Average Daily Water Intake 100 millilitres./Kg bodyweight
Sexual Maturity of a rabbit 16 – 24 weeks
In the wild, the Doe (female rabbit) can produce a litter of around 3 – 7 young at one time. These litters of young rabbits (called ‘kittens’) are usually produced at 5 week intervals from January through to late summer. Kittens are born in underground burrows and are suckled by the female.
Useful information about Rabbits
Rabbits are not rodents. Rabbits are lagomorphs. Other lagomorphs include hares and pikas.
A well cared for house rabbit that has been spayed or neutered early in life has a life expectancy of 8 to 12 years of age.
The gestation period of a rabbit is about 30 – 33 days.
A group of rabbits is called a herd.
A group of rabbits lives in a warren.
The male rabbit is called a buck. The female is called a doe and has 6 teats.
The doe is larger. The young are called kittens and as with baby cats, their eyes open at about 10 days of age, their ears at about 12 days.
The smallest breed of rabbit is the Netherland Dwarf Rabbit which weighs just about 1 kilogram.
The largest breed of rabbit is the Flemish Giant Rabbit which weighs in at about 8 kilograms. – twice the size of the average cat.
The rabbit is by nature a night browsing herbivore, resting in its burrow by day.
Rabbits are naturally communal animals.
Male rabbits should not be kept together as they are likely to fight.
Does and Bucks should be housed separately for obvious reasons. (You could be over-run with baby rabbits).
Rabbits front teeth (incisors) grow continuously, like toenails.
Rabbits are vegetarians and have a great ability to digest fibre that the rest of us cannot.
Rabbits feet are supposed to be lucky!