19 amaz­ing rab­bit facts

Chil­dren may love these furry, longeared bun­nies, but they must be fast and alert to es­cape their preda­tors

World of Animals - - What’s Inside... -

Ev­ery­thing you ever wanted to know about bun­nies

1. Rab­bits can learn to use a toi­let

Just like cats, pet house rab­bits can be trained to use a lit­ter tray. In a hutch they will tend to use one cor­ner as a toi­let.

2. Rab­bits were do­mes­ti­cated for food

The Ro­mans kept rab­bits in large, walled pens as a source of food and fur. They took these rab­bits with them when they in­vaded Bri­tain in 43 CE. The first peo­ple to fully do­mes­ti­cate rab­bits are thought to have been 5th-cen­tury monks liv­ing in France. They were suc­cess­ful at se­lec­tive breed­ing, chang­ing the size, shape and colour of the rab­bits they bred.

3. They are su­perb lit­tle dig­gers

Euro­pean rab­bits are ex­cel­lent dig­gers, ex­ca­vat­ing the ground with their clawed front feet. Within their tun­nels are bur­rows for sleep­ing in; these rab­bit homes are called war­rens and can ex­tend for hun­dreds of me­tres and go deeper than five me­tres (16.4 feet) un­der­ground. A rab­bit’s whiskers are the same width as its body, so they know if their whiskers don’t touch the side of a hole they won’t get stuck.

4. The Easter bunny started as a hare

Our much-loved story of the Easter bunny de­liv­er­ing eggs to chil­dren orig­i­nates from Ger­man folk­lore. It was trans­ported to Amer­ica in the 1700s by Ger­man im­mi­grants spread­ing their cus­tom of a hare called Oster­hase who judged whether chil­dren had been good or dis­obe­di­ent when de­liv­er­ing eggs at Easter.

5. A rab­bit’s teeth never stop grow­ing

And they can grow an amaz­ing 100 mil­lime­tres (3.9 inches) every year. Con­stant chew­ing and gnaw­ing keeps their teeth ground down, and a pet rab­bit needs a high-fi­bre diet with plenty of hay and wooden toys to keep the length of its teeth in check.

6. They suf­fer from many bugs

A num­ber of par­a­sites can in­fest rab­bits, in­clud­ing ticks, fleas, lice and mites. The deadly myx­o­mato­sis dis­ease is spread by blood-suck­ing par­a­sites, par­tic­u­larly fleas. It is im­por­tant that pet rab­bits are pro­tected from ex­ter­nal and in­ter­nal par­a­sites to stop them be­com­ing ill.

7. They have an early warn­ing sys­tem

Rab­bits graze out in the open at a dis­tance from their bur­rows. If one spots dan­ger it will alert its neigh­bours by thump­ing its pow­er­ful hind legs on the ground. This is a vi­tal sur­vival tool for rab­bits as they are hunted by a mul­ti­tude of preda­tors and shot by farm­ers.

8. Ba­bies are born blind and help­less

Baby rab­bits are known as kit­tens or kits and are born with their eyes closed and with­out fur. There are usu­ally be­tween four and eight ba­bies in a lit­ter, but lit­ters of over ten reg­u­larly oc­cur. The mother may nurse her young­sters as lit­tle as once a day, but her milk is among the rich­est of all mam­mals. Af­ter a month the kit­tens will be able to look af­ter them­selves, and at five to six months old they are able to have their own ba­bies.

9. Rab­bits have al­most 360-de­gree eye­sight

Rab­bits have de­vel­oped pow­er­ful legs to run fast and su­per senses to help them avoid their many preda­tors, which in­clude foxes, ea­gles, wild cats and stoats. When chased by a preda­tor they will run to their war­ren, zigzag­ging as they go, and then hide un­der­ground un­til the dan­ger has passed. Rab­bits are also pro­tected from preda­tors thanks to their good hear­ing, ex­cel­lent sense of smell and small blind spot in their all-around vi­sion.

10. Their ears reg­u­late their body tem­per­a­ture

Rab­bits can­not sweat, so they lose heat from their body sur­face, par­tic­u­larly their ears. The size of a wild rab­bit’s ears are there­fore re­lated to the cli­mate it lives in. The Nether­land dwarf rab­bit has the small­est ears of the Lago­morphs at just five cen­time­tres (two inches) long, while the ears of an English lop can grow to an in­cred­i­ble 81 cen­time­tres

(32 inches)!

11. Rab­bits eat their own poo

Rab­bits are her­bi­vores and most of their diet is made up of grass and other plants with low nutri­tion. To get the most from this diet the poo pel­lets that have passed through the rab­bit’s gut once are eaten as they still con­tain veg­etable mat­ter. As a re­sult, the re­main­ing food in­side the pel­lets passes through the gut a sec­ond time, giv­ing the rab­bit ex­tra nutri­tion. The fi­nal drop­pings that are pro­duced have been stripped of all good­ness so the rab­bit does not eat these.

12. They have lots of ba­bies

A doe is ca­pa­ble of get­ting preg­nant again just four days af­ter giv­ing birth. With up to 12 lit­ters a year and an av­er­age of six kit­tens per lit­ter, it is easy to see why rab­bits are com­monly as­so­ci­ated with pop­u­la­tion ex­plo­sions.

13. Not all rab­bits live un­der­ground: Amer­i­can cot­ton­tail rab­bits make a nest formed from a hol­low in the earth.

14. Their pow­er­ful legs help them jump

Rab­bits can jump as high as 0.6 me­tres (two feet) into the air and cover up to 4.5 me­tres (15 feet) in a sin­gle bound. When they are con­tent they some­times jump and spin around in the air, a be­hav­iour known as ‘binky’. 15. The to­tal global rab­bit pop­u­la­tion is es­ti­mated at 709 mil­lion, more than half of which are lo­cated in

North Amer­ica. 16. Rab­bits are so­cia­ble an­i­mals and live in large groups. Some of the colony will be more dom­i­nant and get the best choice of food. 17. 49 unique do­mes­tic

rab­bit breeds are recog­nised in Amer­ica, with

many more cross-breeds. 18. A rab­bit’s heart beats be­tween 120–150 times a minute, twice the speed of an av­er­age hu­man heart and around six- to seven-times faster than the heart rate of

a tor­toise.

19. By the 19th cen­tury rab­bits were be­ing kept and bred as show an­i­mals rather than for their meat and fur.

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