There are two common species of wild
rabbit: the American cottontail
and the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus
) which is the ancestor of all breeds of domestic
rabbit. The rabbit is a small gnaw
ing mammal with gray or brown fur
, long ear
s and a short tail
(the cottontail is named after the white fur on the underside of its tail). Rabbits are similar to hare
s; the main differences are that rabbits are smaller, and that their young are born blind and hairless, while the hare's young are born with fur and are able to hop about a few hours after birth. Also, rabbits are gregarious
and hares are usually solitary
The European rabbit was originally found in South-West Europe and North Africa, and has since been introduced into the Americas, Australia and New Zealand. It lives in warrens which are made out of the individual burrows of many rabbits. Rabbits eat green plants such as grass, clover and bracken.
Rabbits are very prolific, producing several litters of 5-8 young per year, and can breed rapidly enough to become a pest. The pregnant female digs a new nursing burrow to use as a nest and lines it with leaves and her own fur.
Rabbits have a placid disposition and make good pets. They are sometimes eaten by humans, and because they are easy to breed in captivity they are used as lab animals. Their fur is used in the fabric industry, for example to make felt.