About Rabbit In Hindi Essay On Environment

For domesticated breeds (including pets), see Domestic rabbit.

For other uses, see Rabbit (disambiguation).

"Bunny" redirects here. For other uses, see Bunny (disambiguation).

Not to be confused with Rabbet.

Rabbits are small mammals in the familyLeporidae of the orderLagomorpha (along with the hare and the pika). Oryctolagus cuniculus includes the European rabbit species and its descendants, the over 200 breeds of domestic rabbit. Sylvilagus includes thirteen wild rabbit species, among them the seven types of cottontail. The rabbit is familiar as a wild prey animal and as a domesticated form of livestock and pet throughout much of the world. With its far-reaching effect on ecologies and on cultures, the rabbit (or bunny) has made its way into our daily life—as food, clothing, and companion—and our art, as symbol and muse.

Terminology

Male rabbits are called bucks; females are called does. An older term for an adult rabbit is coney, while rabbit once referred only to the young animals.[1] Another term for a young rabbit is bunny, though this term is often applied informally (especially by children) to rabbits generally, especially domestic ones. More recently, the term kit or kitten has been used to refer to a young rabbit. A young hare is called a leveret; this term is sometimes informally applied to a young rabbit as well.

A group of rabbits is known as a colony or nest (or, occasionally, a warren, though this more commonly refers to where the rabbits live).[2] A group of baby rabbits produced from a single mating is referred to as a litter,[3] and a group of domestic rabbits living together is sometimes called a herd.[4]

Taxonomy

Rabbits and hares were formerly classified in the order Rodentia (rodent) until 1912, when they were moved into a new order, Lagomorpha (which also includes pikas). Below are some of the genera and species of the rabbit.

  • Brachylagus Idahoensis
    Pygmy rabbit

  • Nesolagus netscheri
    Sumatran Striped Rabbit
    (Model)

  • Oryctolagus cuniculus
    European rabbit
    (Feral Tasmanian specimen)

  • Pentalagus furnessi
    Amami rabbit
    (Taxidermy specimen)

  • Romerolagus diazi
    Volcano rabbit
    (Taxidermy specimen)

  • Sylvilagus aquaticus
    Swamp rabbit
    (Juvenile)

  • Sylvilagus audubonii
    Desert cottontail

  • Sylvilagus bachmani
    Brush rabbit

  • Sylvilagus brasiliensis
    Tapeti
    (Taxidermy specimen)

  • Sylvilagus palustris
    hefneri

    Lower Keys
    marsh rabbit

Order Lagomorpha
    Family Leporidae

  • Genus Brachylagus
  • Genus Bunolagus
  • Genus LepusNOTE: This genus is considered a hare, not a rabbit
  • Genus Nesolagus
  • Genus OchoronidaeNOTE: This genus is considered a pika, not a rabbit
  • Genus Oryctolagus
  • Genus Pentalagus
  • Genus Poelagus
  • Genus ProlagidaeNOTE: This genus is extinct.
  • Genus Romerolagus
  • Genus Sylvilagus
    • Swamp rabbit, Sylvilagus aquaticus
    • Desert cottontail, Sylvilagus audubonii
    • Brush rabbit, Sylvilagus bachmani
    • Forest rabbit, Sylvilagus brasiliensis
    • Mexican cottontail, Sylvilagus cunicularis
    • Dice's cottontail, Sylvilagus dicei
    • Eastern cottontail, Sylvilagus floridanus
    • Tres Marias rabbit, Sylvilagus graysoni
    • Omilteme cottontail, Sylvilagus insonus
    • San Jose brush rabbit, Sylvilagus mansuetus
    • Mountain cottontail, Sylvilagus nuttallii
    • Marsh rabbit, Sylvilagus palustris
    • New England cottontail, Sylvilagus transitionalis

Differences from hares

Main article: Hare

Hares are precocial, born relatively mature and mobile with hair and good vision, while rabbits are altricial, born hairless and blind, and requiring closer care. Hares (and cottontail rabbits) live a relatively solitary life in a simple nest above the ground, while most rabbits live in social groups underground in burrows or warrens. Hares are generally larger than rabbits, with ears that are more elongated, and with hind legs that are larger and longer. Hares have not been domesticated, while descendants of the European rabbit are commonly bred as livestock and kept as pets.

Domestication of rabbits

Main article: Domestic rabbit

Rabbits have long been domesticated. Beginning in the Middle Ages, the European rabbit has been widely kept as livestock, starting in ancient Rome. Selective breeding has generated a wide variety of rabbit breeds, many of which (since the early 19th century) are also kept as pets. Some strains of rabbit have been bred specifically as research subjects.

As livestock, rabbits are bred for their meat and fur. The earliest breeds were important sources of meat, and so became larger than wild rabbits, but domestic rabbits in modern times range in size from dwarf to giant. Rabbit fur, prized for its softness, can be found in a broad range of coat colors and patterns, as well as lengths. The Angora rabbit breed, for example, was developed for its long, silky fur, which is often hand-spun into yarn. Other domestic rabbit breeds have been developed primarily for the commercial fur trade, including the Rex, which has a short plush coat.

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.[5]Carl Linnaeus originally grouped rabbits and rodents under the class Glires; later, they were separated as the scientific consensus is that many of their similarities were a result of convergent evolution. However, recent DNA analysis and the discovery of a common ancestor has supported the view that they do share a common lineage, and thus rabbits and rodents are now often referred to together as members of the superorder Glires.[6]

Morphology

The wild rabbit's ear, with its blood vessels close to the surface, is an essential thermoregulator[7] and may be an adaptation to improve hearing in a prey animal that must be alert to many threats. Though the domestic descendants of the European rabbit have been bred, in some cases, for lop ears, such drooping appendages have not been noted in the wild rabbit.[citation needed]

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. Unlike the paw structure of some other quadrupeds (including dogs and cats), rabbit paws lack pads.[citation needed] Rabbits use their strong nails for digging and (along with their teeth) for defense.[citation needed] Each front foot has four toes plus a dewclaw. Each hind foot has four toes (but no dewclaw).[8]

Most wild rabbits (especially compared to hares) have relatively full, egg-shaped bodies. The soft coat of the wild rabbit is agouti in coloration (or, rarely, melanistic), which aids in camouflage. The tail of the rabbit (with the exception of the cottontail species) is dark on top and white below. Cottontails have white on the top of their tails.[9]

As a result of the position of the eyes in its skull, the rabbit has a field of vision that encompasses nearly 360 degrees, with just a small blind spot at the bridge of the nose.[10]

Digestion

Rabbits are herbivores that feed by grazing on grass, forbs, and leafy weeds. In consequence, their diet contains large amounts of cellulose, which is hard to digest. Rabbits solve this problem via a form of hindgut fermentation. They pass two distinct types of feces: hard droppings and soft black viscous pellets, the latter of which are known as caecotrophs and are immediately eaten (a behaviour known as coprophagy). Rabbits reingest their own droppings (rather than chewing the cud as do cows and numerous other herbivores) to digest their food further and extract sufficient nutrients.[11]

Rabbits graze heavily and rapidly for roughly the first half-hour of a grazing period (usually in the late afternoon), followed by about half an hour of more selective feeding.[citation needed] In this time, the rabbit will also excrete many hard fecal pellets, being waste pellets that will not be reingested.[citation needed] If the environment is relatively non-threatening, the rabbit will remain outdoors for many hours, grazing at intervals.[citation needed] While out of the burrow, the rabbit will occasionally reingest its soft, partially digested pellets; this is rarely observed, since the pellets are reingested as they are produced.[citation needed]

Hard pellets are made up of hay-like fragments of plant cuticle and stalk, being the final waste product after redigestion of soft pellets. These are only released outside the burrow and are not reingested. Soft pellets are usually produced several hours after grazing, after the hard pellets have all been excreted.[citation needed] They are made up of micro-organisms and undigested plant cell walls.[citation needed]

Rabbits are hindgut digesters. This means that most of their digestion takes place in their large intestine and cecum. In rabbits, the cecum is about 10 times bigger than the stomach and it along with the large intestine makes up roughly 40% of the rabbit's digestive tract.[12] The unique musculature of the cecum allows the intestinal tract of the rabbit to separate fibrous material from more digestible material; the fibrous material is passed as feces, while the more nutritious material is encased in a mucous lining as a cecotrope. Cecotropes, sometimes called "night feces", are high in minerals, vitamins and proteins that are necessary to the rabbit's health. Rabbits eat these to meet their nutritional requirements; the mucous coating allows the nutrients to pass through the acidic stomach for digestion in the intestines. This process allows rabbits to extract the necessary nutrients from their food.[13]

The chewed plant material collects in the large cecum, a secondary chamber between the large and small intestine containing large quantities of symbiotic bacteria that help with the digestion of cellulose and also produce certain B vitamins. The pellets are about 56% bacteria by dry weight, largely accounting for the pellets being 24.4% protein on average. The soft feces form here and contain up to five times the vitamins of hard feces. After being excreted, they are eaten whole by the rabbit and redigested in a special part of the stomach. The pellets remain intact for up to six hours in the stomach; the bacteria within continue to digest the plant carbohydrates. This double-digestion process enables rabbits to use nutrients that they may have missed during the first passage through the gut, as well as the nutrients formed by the microbial activity and thus ensures that maximum nutrition is derived from the food they eat.[9] This process serves the same purpose in the rabbit as rumination does in cattle and sheep.[14]

Rabbits are incapable of vomiting.[15] Because rabbits can't vomit, if buildup occurs within the intestines (due often to a diet with insufficient fiber[16]), intestinal blockage can occur.[17]

Sleep

Further information: Sleep (non-human)

Rabbits may appear to be crepuscular—most active at dawn and at dusk—but their natural inclination is toward nocturnal activity.[18] In 2011, the average sleep time of a rabbit in captivity was calculated at 8.4 hours per day.[19] As with other prey animals, rabbits often sleep with their eyes open, so that sudden movements will awaken the rabbit to respond to potential danger.[20]

Diseases

For a more comprehensive list, see Category:Rabbit diseases.

In addition to being at risk of disease from common pathogens such as Bordetella bronchiseptica and Escherichia coli, rabbits can contract the virulent, species-specific viruses RHD ("rabbit hemorrhagic hisease", a form of calicivirus)[21] or myxomatosis. Among the parasites that infect rabbits are tapeworms (such as Taenia serialis), external parasites (including fleas and mites), coccidia species, and Toxoplasma gondii.[22][23] Domesticated rabbits with a diet lacking in high fiber sources, such as hay and grass, are susceptible to potentially lethal gastrointestinal stasis.[24] Rabbits and hares are almost never found to be infected with rabies and have not been known to transmit rabies to humans.[25]

Ecology

Rabbits are prey animals and are therefore constantly aware of their surroundings. For instance, in Mediterranean Europe, rabbits are the main prey of red foxes, badgers, and Iberian lynxes.[26] If confronted by a potential threat, a rabbit may freeze and observe then warn others in the warren with powerful thumps on the ground. Rabbits have a remarkably wide field of vision, and a good deal of it is devoted to overhead scanning.[27] They survive predation by burrowing, hopping away in a zig-zag motion, and, if captured, delivering powerful kicks with their hind legs. Their strong teeth allow them to eat and to bite in order to escape a struggle.[28] The longest-lived rabbit on record, a domesticated European rabbit living in Tasmania, died at age 18.[29] The lifespan of wild rabbits is much shorter; the average longevity of an eastern cottontail, for instance, is less than one year.[30]

Habitat and range

Rabbit habitats include meadows, woods, forests, grasslands, deserts and wetlands.[31] Rabbits live in groups, and the best known species, the European rabbit, lives in underground burrows, or rabbit holes. A group of burrows is called a warren.[31]

More than half the world's rabbit population resides in North America.[31] They are also native to southwestern Europe, Southeast Asia, Sumatra, some islands of Japan, and in parts of Africa and South America. They are not naturally found in most of Eurasia, where a number of species of hares are present. Rabbits first entered South America relatively recently, as part of the Great American Interchange. Much of the continent has just one species of rabbit, the tapeti, while most of South America's southern cone is without rabbits.

The European rabbit has been introduced to many places around the world.[9]

Environmental problems

See also: Rabbits in Australia

Rabbits have been a source of environmental problems when introduced into the wild by humans. As a result of their appetites, and the rate at which they breed, feral rabbit depredation can be problematic for agriculture. Gassing, barriers (fences), shooting, snaring, and ferreting have been used to control rabbit populations, but the most effective measures are diseases such as myxomatosis (myxo or mixi, colloquially) and calicivirus. In Europe, where rabbits are farmed on a large scale, they are protected against myxomatosis and calicivirus with a genetically modified virus. The virus was developed in Spain, and is beneficial to rabbit farmers. If it were to make its way into wild populations in areas such as Australia, it could create a population boom, as those diseases are the most serious threats to rabbit survival. Rabbits in Australia and New Zealand are considered to be such a pest that land owners are legally obliged to control them.[32][33]

As food and clothing

Main article: Cuniculture

See also: Category:Rabbit dishes.

In some areas, wild rabbits and hares are hunted for their meat, a lean source of high quality protein.[34] In the wild, such hunting is accomplished with the aid of trained falcons, ferrets, or dogs, as well as with snares or other traps, and rifles. A caught rabbit may be dispatched with a sharp blow to the back of its head, a practice from which the term rabbit punch is derived.

Wild leporids comprise a small portion of global rabbit-meat consumption. Domesticated descendants of the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) that are bred and kept as livestock (a practice called cuniculture) account for the estimated 200 million tons of rabbit meat produced annually.[35] In 1994, the countries with the highest consumption per capita of rabbit meat were Malta with 8.89 kilograms (19.6 lb), Italy with 5.71 kilograms (12.6 lb), and Cyprus with 4.37 kilograms (9.6 lb), falling to 0.03 kilograms (0.066 lb) in Japan. The figure for the United States was 0.14 kilograms (0.31 lb) per capita. The largest producers of rabbit meat in 1994 were China, Russia, Italy, France, and Spain.[36] Rabbit meat was once a common commodity in Sydney, Australia, but declined after the myxomatosis virus was intentionally introduced to control the exploding population of feral rabbits in the area.

In the United Kingdom, fresh rabbit is sold in butcher shops and markets, and some supermarkets sell frozen rabbit meat. At farmers markets there, including the famous Borough Market in London, rabbit carcasses are sometimes displayed hanging, unbutchered (in the traditional style), next to braces of pheasant or other small game. Rabbit meat is a feature of Moroccan cuisine, where it is cooked in a tajine with "raisins and grilled almonds added a few minutes before serving".[37] In China, rabbit meat is particularly popular in Sichuan cuisine, with its stewed rabbit, spicy diced rabbit, BBQ-style rabbit, and even spicy rabbit heads, which have been compared to spicy duck neck.[35] Rabbit meat is comparatively unpopular elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific.

An extremely rare infection associated with rabbits-as-food is tularemia (also known as rabbit fever), which may be contracted from an infected rabbit.[38] Hunters are at higher risk for tularemia because of the potential for inhaling the bacteria during the skinning process. An even more rare condition is protein poisoning, which was first noted as a consequence of eating rabbit meat to exclusion (hence the colloquial term, "rabbit starvation"). Protein poisoning, which is associated with extreme conditions of the total absence of dietary fat and protein, was noted by Vilhjalmur Stefansson in the late 19th century and in the journals of Charles Darwin.

In addition to their meat, rabbits are used for their wool, fur, and pelts, as well as their nitrogen-rich manure and their high-protein milk.[39] Production industries have developed domesticated rabbit breeds (such as the well-known Angora rabbit) to efficiently fill these needs.

In art, literature, and culture

Main article: Rabbits and hares in art

Rabbits are often used as a symbol of fertility or rebirth, and have long been associated with spring and Easter as the Easter Bunny. The species' role as a prey animal also lends itself as a symbol of innocence, another Easter connotation. They appear in folklore and modern children's stories, often but not invariably as sympathetic characters.

Additionally, rabbits are often used as symbols of playful sexuality, which also relates to the human perception of innocence, as well as its reputation as a prolific breeder.

Folklore and mythology

The rabbit often appears in folklore as the tricksterarchetype, as he uses his cunning to outwit his enemies.

  • In Aztec mythology, a pantheon of four hundred rabbit gods known as Centzon Totochtin, led by Ometotchtli or Two Rabbit, represented fertility, parties, and drunkenness.
  • In Central Africa, the common hare (Kalulu), is "inevitably described" as a trickster figure.[40]
  • In Chinese folklore, rabbits accompany Chang'e on the Moon. In the Chinese New Year, the zodiacal rabbit is one of the twelve celestial animals in the Chinese zodiac. Note that the Vietnamese zodiac includes a zodiacal cat in place of the rabbit, possibly because rabbits did not inhabit Vietnam.[citation needed] The most common explanation, however, is that the ancient Vietnamese word for "rabbit" (mao) sounds like the Chinese word for "cat" (卯, mao).[41]
  • In Japanese tradition, rabbits live on the Moon where they make mochi, the popular snack of mashed sticky rice. This comes from interpreting the pattern of dark patches on the moon as a rabbit standing on tiptoes on the left pounding on an usu, a Japanese mortar.
  • In Jewish folklore, rabbits (shfanim שפנים) are associated with cowardice, a usage still current in contemporary Israeli spoken Hebrew (similar to the English colloquial use of "chicken" to denote cowardice).
  • In Korean mythology, as in Japanese, rabbits live on the moon making rice cakes ("Tteok" in Korean).
  • In Anishinaabe traditional beliefs, held by the Ojibwe and some other Native American peoples, Nanabozho, or Great Rabbit, is an important deity related to the creation of the world.
  • A Vietnamese mythological story portrays the rabbit of innocence and youthfulness. The Gods of the myth are shown to be hunting and killing rabbits to show off their power.
  • Buddhism, Christianity, and Judaism have associations with an ancient circular motif called the three rabbits (or "three hares"). Its meaning ranges from "peace and tranquility", to purity or the Holy Trinity, to Kabbalistic levels of the soul or to the Jewish diaspora. The tripartite symbol also appears in heraldry and even tattoos.

Other fictional rabbits

Main article: List of fictional hares and rabbits

The rabbit as trickster is a part of American popular culture, as Br'er Rabbit (from African-American folktales and, later, Disney animation) and Bugs Bunny (the cartoon character from Warner Bros.), for example.

Anthropomorphized rabbits have appeared in film and literature, in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (the White Rabbit and the March Hare characters), in Watership Down (including the film and television adaptations), in Rabbit Hill (by Robert Lawson), and in the Peter Rabbit stories (by Beatrix Potter). In the 1920s, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, was a popular cartoon character.

Superstition and urban legend

A rabbit's foot may be carried as an amulet, believed to bring protection and good luck. This belief is found in many parts of the world, with the earliest use being recorded in Europe c. 600 BC.[42]

On the Isle of Portland in Dorset, UK, the rabbit is said to be unlucky and even speaking the creature's name can cause upset among older island residents. This is thought to date back to early times in the local quarrying industry where (to save space) extracted stones that were not fit for sale were set side in what became tall, unstable walls. The local rabbits' tendency to burrow there would weaken the walls and their collapse resulted in injuries or even death. Thus, invoking the name of the culprit became an unlucky act to be avoided. In the local culture to this day, the rabbit (when he has to be referred to) may instead be called a “long ears” or “underground mutton”, so as not to risk bringing a downfall upon oneself. While it was true 50 years ago that a pub on the island could be emptied by calling out the word "rabbit", this has become more fable than fact in modern times.[citation needed]

In other parts of Britain and in North America, invoking the rabbit's name may instead bring good luck. "Rabbit rabbit rabbit" is one variant of an apotropaic or talismanic superstition that involves saying or repeating the word "rabbit" (or "rabbits" or "white rabbits" or some combination thereof) out loud upon waking on the first day of each month, because doing so will ensure good fortune for the duration of that month.

The "rabbit test" is a term, first used in 1949, for the Friedman test, an early diagnostic tool for detecting a pregnancy in humans. It is a common misconception (or perhaps an urban legend) that the test-rabbit would die if the woman was pregnant. This led to the phrase "the rabbit died" becoming a euphemism for a positive pregnancy test.

See also

References

  1. ^"coney". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 2 March 2018. 
  2. ^"The Collective Noun Page". Archived from the original on 1 February 2008. Retrieved 30 January 2008. 
  3. ^McClure, DVM PhD DACLAM, Diane (2018). "Breeding and Reproduction of Rabbits". Merck Veterinary Manual. Archived from the original on 6 January 2018. Retrieved 5 January 2018. 
  4. ^"Common Questions: What Do You Call a Group of...?". archived copy of Animal Congregations, or What Do You Call a Group of.....?. U.S. Geological Survey Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center. Archived from the original on 20 March 2015. Retrieved 26 February 2018. 
  5. ^Brown, Louise (2001). How to Care for Your Rabbit. Kingdom Books. p. 6. ISBN 978-1-85279-167-4. 
  6. ^Katherine Quesenberry & James W. Carpenter, Ferrets, Rabbits, and Rodents: Clinical Medicine and Surgery (3rd ed. 2011).
  7. ^Fayez, I.; Marai, M.; Alnaimy, A.; Habeeb, M. (1994). Baselga, M.; Marai, I.F.M., eds. "Thermoregulation in Rabbits"(PDF). Rabbit Production in Hot Climates. Cahiers Options Méditerranéennes. Zaragoza: CIHEAM - International Centre for Advanced Mediterranean Agronomic Studies. 8: 33–41. 
  8. ^van Praag, Esther. "Deformed claws in a rabbit, after traumatic fractures". ResearchGate. www.medirabbit.com (July–August 2015). Retrieved 27 February 2018. 
  9. ^ abc"rabbit". Encyclopædia Britannica (Standard ed.). Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. 2007. 
  10. ^"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 23 September 2015. Retrieved 9 August 2013. 
  11. ^"Information for Rabbit Owners — Oak Tree Veterinary Centre". Oaktreevet.co.uk. Archived from the original on 23 June 2012. Retrieved 30 August 2010.
Hare
Johann Daniel Meyer (1748)
Rabbit
Johann Daniel Meyer (1748)
Development of the rabbit heart
(wax models)
Melanistic coloring
Oryctologus cuniculus
European rabbit (wild)
European rabbit
with ears twitching and a jump
Rabbit kits
(one hour after birth)
Saint Jerome in the Desert
[Note rabbit being chased by a (trained?) domesticated hound]
Taddeo Crivelli (Italian, died about 1479)
Rabbit being prepared in the kitchen
Simulation of daily life, mid-15th century
Hospices de Beaune, France
"Rabbit fools Elephant
by showing the reflection of the moon."
Illustration (from 1354) of the Panchatantra
WWII USAF pilot D.R. Emerson
"flys with a rabbit's foot talisman,
a gift from a New York girl friend"

This article is about the domesticated form of the European rabbit. For the wild variety, see European rabbit. For all rabbit species, see Rabbit.

A domestic (or domesticated) rabbit (Oryctolagus), more commonly known as a pet rabbit, a bunny, or a bunny rabbit is any of the domesticated varieties of the European rabbit species. Rabbits were first domesticated in the Middle Ages as sources of food, fur, and wool, and later as pets. They may be considered a pocket pet depending on their size. A male rabbit is a buck, a female is a doe, and a young rabbit is a kit or kitten.

Rabbits have been kept as pets in Western nations since the 19th century. Beginning in the 1980s, the idea of the domestic rabbit as a house companion, or house rabbit, was promoted. Rabbits are intelligent and can be litter box trained and may come when called, but they need exercise and can damage a house that is not "rabbit proof". Especially following the Easter season, unwanted rabbits end up in animal shelters.[1] Because they have become invasive in Australia, pet rabbits are banned in Queensland.[2]

History[edit]

Phoeniciansailors visiting the coast of Spain c. 12th century BC, mistaking the European rabbit for a species from their homeland (the rock hyraxProcavia capensis), 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.[3] In Rome, rabbits were raised in large walled colonies.

The captivity of rabbits as a food source is recorded as early as the 1st century BC, when a Roman writer described the use of rabbit hutches, along with enclosures called leporaria (fr).[4] True domestication of rabbits may have begun in the Middle Ages, when they are thought to have been selectively bred as farm animals for meat and fiber. By the 16th century, several new breeds of different colors and sizes were being recorded.[citation needed]

In the 19th century, as animal fancy in general began to emerge, rabbit fanciers began to sponsor rabbit exhibitions and fairs in Western Europe and the United States. Breeds of various domesticated animals were created and modified for the added purpose of exhibition, a departure from the breeds that had been created solely for food, fur, or wool. The rabbit's emergence as a household pet began during the Victorian era.

Domestic rabbits have been popular in the United States since the late 19th century. What became known as the "Belgian Hare Boom" began with the importation of the first Belgian Hares from England in 1888 and, soon after, the founding of the American Belgian Hare Association, the first rabbit club in America. From 1898 to 1901, many thousands of Belgian Hares were imported to America.[5] Today, the Belgian Hare is one of the rarest breeds, with only 132 specimens found in the United States in a 2015 census.[6]

The American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA) was founded in 1910 and is the national authority on rabbit raising and rabbit breeds having a uniform Standard of Perfection, registration and judging system. The domestic rabbit continues to be popular as a show animal and pet. Many thousand rabbit shows occur each year and are sanctioned in Canada and the United States by the ARBA. Today, the domesticated rabbit is the third most popular mammalian pet in Britain after dogs and cats.

Rabbits have been, and continue to be, used in laboratory work such as the production of antibodies for vaccines and research of human male reproductive system toxicology. The Environmental Health Perspective, published by the National Institute of Health, states, "The rabbit [is] an extremely valuable model for studying the effects of chemicals or other stimuli on the male reproductive system." According to the Humane Society of the United States, rabbits are also used extensively in the study of bronchial asthma, stroke prevention treatments, cystic fibrosis, diabetes, and cancer. Animal rights activists have opposed animal experimentation for non-medical purposes, such as the testing of cosmetic and cleaning products, which has resulted in decreased use of rabbits in these areas.[citation needed]

Terminology[edit]

Male rabbits are called bucks; females are called does. An older term for an adult rabbit is coney, while rabbit once referred only to the young animals.[7] Another term for a young rabbit is bunny, though this term is often applied informally (especially by children) to rabbits generally, especially domestic ones. More recently, the term kit or kitten has been used to refer to a young rabbit. A young hare is called a leveret; this term is sometimes informally applied to a young rabbit as well. A group of rabbits is known as a "colony" or a "nest".[8]

Biology[edit]

Genetics[edit]

Main article: Cuniculture § Genetics

The study of rabbit genetics is of interest to fanciers, the fiber & fur industry, medical researchers, and the meat industry. Among rabbit fanciers, the genetics of rabbit health and diversity are paramount. The fiber & fur industry focuses on the genetics of coat color and hair properties. In the biomedical research community and the pharmaceutical industry, rabbit genetics are important in model organism research, antibody production, and toxicity testing. The meat industry relies on genetics for disease resistance, feed conversion ratios, and reproduction potential in rabbits.

The rabbit genome has been sequenced and is publicly available.[9] The mitochondrial DNA has also been sequenced.[10] In 2011, parts of the rabbit genome were re-sequenced in greater depth in order to expose variation within the genome.[11]

  • Rabbit Coat Pattern & Color Genes
  • Gene = En
    Pattern: English
    Gene = A- B- C- D- E-
    Color: Chestnut

  • Gene = du
    Pattern: Dutch
    Gene = B
    Color: Black (on white)

  • Gene = e(j)
    Pattern: Harlequin

  • Gene = Enen
    Pattern: Broken
    Gene = D
    Color: Chocolate (on white)

  • Gene = si
    Silvering of the hair shaft

There are 11 color gene groups (or loci) in rabbits. A rabbit's coat has either two pigments (pheomelanin for yellow, and eumelanin for dark brown) or no pigment (for an albino rabbit). Clusters of color genes plus their modifiers control such aspects as coat patterns (e.g. Dutch or English markings), color hues and their intensity or dilution, and the location of color bands on the hair shaft (e.g., silvering).

Diet[edit]

Main article: Rabbit § Diet and eating habits

As a refinement of the diet of the wild rabbit, the diet of the domestic rabbit is often a function of its purpose. Show rabbits eat for vibrant health, strong musculoskeletal systems, and—like rabbits intended for the fur trade—optimal coat production and condition. Rabbits intended for the meat trade eat for swift and efficient production of flesh, while rabbits in research settings have closely-controlled diets for specific goals. Nutritional needs of the domestic rabbit may also be focused on developing a physique that allows for the safe delivery of larger litters of healthy kits. Optimizing costs and producing feces that meet local waste regulations may also be factors.[12] The diet of a pet rabbit, too, is geared toward its purpose—as a healthy and long-lived companion.

Hay is an essential part of the diet of all rabbits and it is a major component of the commercial food pellets that are formulated for domestic rabbits and available in many areas. Pellets are typically fed to adult rabbits in limited quantities once or twice a day, to mimic their natural behavior and to prevent obesity. Most rabbit pellets are alfalfa-based for protein and fiber, with other grains completing the carbohydrate requirements. Minerals and vitamins are added during production to meet the nutritional requirements of the domestic rabbit. Along with pellets, many commercial rabbit raisers also feed one or more types of loose hay, for its freshness and important cellulose components. Alfalfa in particular is recommended for the growth needs of young rabbits.[13]

Digestion[edit]

Rabbits are hindgut fermenters and therefore have an enlarged cecum. This allow a rabbit to digest, via fermentation, what it otherwise would not be able to metabolically process.

After a rabbit ingests food, the food travels down the esophagus and through a small valve called the cardia. In rabbits, this valve is very well pronounced and makes the rabbit incapable of vomiting. The food enters the stomach after passing through the cardia. Food then moves to the stomach and small intestine where a majority of nutrient extraction and absorption takes place. Food then passes into the colon and eventually into the cecum. Peristaltic muscle contractions (waves of motion) help to separate fibrous and non-fibrous particles. The non-fibrous particles are then moved backwards up the colon, through the illeo-cecal valve, and into the cecum. Symbiotic bacteria in the cecum help to further digest the non-fibrous particles into a more metabolically manageable substance. After as little as three hours, a soft, fecal "pellet", called a cecotrope, is expelled from the rabbit's anus. The rabbit instinctively eats these grape-like pellets, without chewing, in exchange keeping the mucous coating intact. This coating protects the vitamin- and nutrient-rich bacteria from stomach acid, until it reaches the small intestine, where the nutrients from the cecotrope can be absorbed.[14][15]

The soft pellets contain a sufficiently large portion of nutrients that are critical to the rabbit's health. This soft fecal matter is rich in vitamin B and other nutrients. The process of coprophagy is important to the stability of a rabbit's digestive health because it is one important way that which a rabbit receives vitamin B in a form that is useful to its digestive wellness.[16] Occasionally, the rabbit may leave these pellets lying about its cage; this behavior is harmless and usually related to an ample food supply.

When caecal pellets are wet and runny (semi-liquid) and stick to the rabbit and surrounding objects they are called ontermittent soft cecotropes (ISCs). This is different from ordinary diarrhea and is usually caused by a diet too high in carbohydrates or too low in fiber. Soft fruit or salad items such as lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes are possible causes.

Reproduction[edit]

Further information: § Spaying and neutering

Rabbits have a reputation as prolific breeders, and deservedly so, in part because rabbits reach breeding age quickly. To prevent unwanted offspring and to benefit the rabbit's health and behavior, rabbits may be spayed or neutered at sexual maturity: 4-5 months for small breeds (e.g., Mini Rex, Netherland Dwarf), 5-6 months for medium-sized breeds (e.g., Rex, New Zealand), and 6–7 months for large breeds (e.g., Flemish Giant). Bucks usually require more time to sexually mature than does, and they normally reach adult sperm counts at 6–7 months.

Rabbits, like all mammals, produce milk for their young. Female rabbits have six to eight nipples and produce milk for four weeks after birthing.[17] Rabbit milk is relatively high in fat, as a percentage by mass. While most species produce approximately 5% milk fat, rabbits produce 12%. The excerpted table below compares milk characteristics among mammals.[18]

SpeciesFat
%
Protein
%
Lactose
%
Ash
%
Total
Solids
%
Gray Seal 53.2     11.2      2.6   0.7   67.7
Polar Bear 31.0     10.2      0.5   1.2   42.9
Rabbit 12.2     10.4      1.8   2.0   26.4
Bison   1.7       4.8      5.7   .96   13.2
Donkey   1.2       1.7      6.9   .45   10.2

Health[edit]

A disease is rare when rabbits are raised in sanitary conditions and provided with adequate care. Rabbits have fragile bones, especially in their spines, and need support on the belly or bottom when they are picked up.

Spayed or neutered rabbits kept indoors with proper care may have a lifespan of 8 to 12 years, with mixed-breed rabbits typically living longer than purebred specimens, and dwarf breeds having longer average lifespans than larger breeds.[19] The world record for longest-lived rabbit is 18 years.[19]

Rabbits will gnaw on almost anything, including electrical cords (possibly leading to electrocution), potentially poisonous plants, and material like carpet and fabric that may cause life-threatening intestinal blockages, so areas to which they have access need to be rabbit-proofed.[20][21][22]

Spaying and neutering[edit]

Rabbit fancier organizations and veterinarians recommend that pet rabbits be spayed or neutered by a rabbit-experienced veterinarian.[23][24]:123 Health advantages of surgically altering a rabbit include increased longevity and (for females) a reduced risk of ovarian and uterine cancers or of endometritis.[24]:195–9[25][19] For both rabbit sexes, spaying or neutering reduces aggression toward other rabbits, as well as territorial marking (especially in males).[25][26][27] Rabbits are at high risk for complications from anesthesia and infection of the surgical site is another top concern.[28] Since un-altered animals are not as likely to form agreeable social bonds, spaying and neutering promotes less stressful interactions.

Vaccinations[edit]

In most jurisdictions, including the United States (except where required by local animal control ordinances), rabbits do not require vaccination. Vaccinations exist for both rabbit hemorrhagic disease and myxomatosis.[29] These vaccinations are usually given annually, two weeks apart. If there is an outbreak of myxomatosis locally, this vaccine can be administered every six months for extra protection.[30] Myxomatosis immunizations are not available in all countries, including Australia, due to fears that immunity will pass on to feral rabbits. However, they are recommended by some veterinarians as prophylactics, where they are legally available.[24]:182

Declawing[edit]

A rabbit cannot be declawed. Lacking pads on the bottoms of its feet, a rabbit requires its claws for balance. Removing its claws would render it unable to stand.[31][32]

Tonic immobility[edit]

Coping with stress is a key aspect of rabbit behavior, and this can be traced to part of the brain known as ventral tegmental area (VTA). Dopaminergic neurons in this part of the brain release the hormone dopamine, generalized as a "feel-good" hormone. In humans, dopamine is released through a variety of acts, including sexual activity, substance abuse, and even eating chocolate. However, in rabbits, it is released as part of a coping mechanism while in a heightened state of fear or stress, and has a calming effect. Dopamine has also been found in the rabbit's medial prefrontal cortex, the nucleus accumbens, and the amygdala.[33] Physiological and behavioral responses to human-induced tonic immobility (TI, sometimes termed "trancing" or "playing dead") have been found to be indicative of a fear-motivated stress state, confirming that the promotion of TI to try to increase a bond between rabbits and their owners—thinking the rabbits enjoy it—is misplaced.[34] However, some researchers conclude that inducing TI in rabbits is appropriate for certain procedures, as it holds less risk than anesthesia.[34]

Sore hocks[edit]

The formation of open sores on the rabbit's hocks, commonly called "sore hocks", is a problem that commonly afflicts mostly heavy-weight rabbits kept in cages with wire flooring[35] or soiled solid flooring. The problem is most prevalent in rex-furred rabbits and heavy-weight rabbits (9+ pounds in weight), as well as those with thin foot bristles.

The condition results when, over the course of time, the protective bristle-like fur on the rabbit's hocks thins down. Standing urine or other unsanitary cage conditions can exacerbate the problem by irritating the sensitive skin. The exposed skin in turn can result in tender areas or, in severe cases, open sores, which may then become infected and abscessed if not properly cared for.

Gastrointestinal stasis[edit]

Gastrointestinal stasis (GI stasis) is a serious and potentially fatal condition that occurs in some rabbits in which gut motility is severely reduced and possibly completely stopped. When untreated or improperly treated, GI stasis can be fatal in as little as 24 hours.

GI stasis is the condition of food not moving through the gut as quickly as normal. The gut contents may dehydrate and compact into a hard, immobile mass (impacted gut), blocking the digestive tract of the rabbit. Food in an immobile gut may also ferment, causing significant gas buildup and resultant gas pain for the rabbit.

The first noticeable symptom of GI stasis may be that the rabbit suddenly stops eating. Treatment frequently includes intravenous or subcutaneous fluid therapy (rehydration through injection of a balanced electrolyte solution), pain control, possible careful massage to promote gas expulsion and comfort, drugs to promote gut motility, and careful monitoring of all inputs and outputs. The rabbit's diet may also be changed as part of treatment, to include force-feeding to ensure adequate nutrition. Surgery to remove the blockage is not generally recommended and comes with a poor prognosis.[36]

Some rabbits are more prone to GI stasis than others. The causes of GI stasis are not completely understood, but common contributing factors are thought to include stress, reduced food intake, low fiber in the diet, dehydration, reduction in exercise or blockage caused by excess fur or carpet ingestion. Stress factors can include changes in housing, transportation, or medical procedures under anesthesia. As many of these factors may occur together (poor dental structure leading to decreased food intake, followed by a stressful veterinary dental procedure to correct the dental problem) establishing a root cause may be difficult.[37]

GI stasis is sometimes misdiagnosed as "hair balls" by veterinarians or rabbit keepers not familiar with the condition.[38][39] While fur is commonly found in the stomach following a fatal case of GI stasis, it is also found in healthy rabbits. Molting and chewing fur can be a predisposing factor in the occurrence of GI stasis, however, the primary cause is the change in motility of the gut.

Dental problems[edit]

Dental disease has several causes, namely genetics, inappropriate diet, injury to the jaw, infection, or cancer.

  • Malocclusion: Rabbit teeth are open-rooted and continue to grow throughout their lives. In some rabbits, the teeth are not properly aligned, a condition called malocclusion. Because of the misaligned nature of the rabbit's teeth, there is no normal wear to control the length to which the teeth grow. There are three main causes of malocclusion, most commonly genetic predisposition, injury, or bacterial infection. In the case of congenital malocclusion, treatment usually involves veterinary visits in which the teeth are treated with a dental burr (a procedure called crown reduction or, more commonly, teeth clipping) or, in some cases, permanently removed. In cases of simple malocclusion, a block of wood for the rabbit to chew on can rectify this problem.[citation needed]
  • Molar spurs: These are spurs that can dig into the rabbit's tongue and/or cheek causing pain. These should be filed down by an experienced exotic veterinarian specialised in rabbit care, using a dental burr, for example.
  • Osteoporosis: Rabbits, especially neutered females and those that are kept indoors without adequate natural sunlight, can suffer from osteoporosis, in which holes appear in the skull by X-Ray imaging. This reflects the general thinning of the bone, and teeth will start to become looser in the sockets, making it uncomfortable and painful for the animal to chew hay. The inability to properly chew hay can result in molar spurs, as described above, and weight loss, leading into a downward spiral if not treated promptly. This can be reversible and treatable. A veterinary formulated liquid calcium supplement[40] with vitamin D3 and magnesium can be given mixed with the rabbit's drinking water, once or twice per week, according to the veterinarian's instructions. The molar spurs should also be trimmed down by an experienced exotic veterinarian specialised in rabbit care, once per 1-2 months depending on the case.

Signs of dental difficulty include difficulty eating, weight loss and small stools and visibly overgrown teeth. However, there are many other causes of ptyalism, including pain due to other causes.[41]

Respiratory and conjunctival problems[edit]

An over-diagnosed ailment amongst rabbits is respiratoryinfection, known colloquially as "snuffles". Pasteurella, a bacterium, is usually misdiagnosed and this is known to be a factor in the overuse of antibiotics among rabbits.[42][full citation needed] A runny nose, for instance, can have several causes, among those being high temperature or humidity, extreme stress, environmental pollution (like perfume or incense), or a sinus infection. Options for treating this is removing the pollutant, lowering or raising the temperature accordingly, and medical treatment for sinus infections.[42]Pasteurella does live naturally in a rabbit's respiratory tract, and it can flourish out of control in some cases. In the rare event that happens, antibiotic treatment is necessary.

Sneezing can be a sign of environmental pollution (such as too much dust) or a food allergy.

Runny eyes and other conjunctival problems can be caused by dental disease or a blockage of the tear duct. Environmental pollution, corneal disease, entropion, distichiasis, or inflammation of the eyes are also causes. This is easy to diagnose as well as treat.[42]

Viral diseases[edit]

Rabbits are subject to infection by a variety of viruses. Some have had deadly and widespread impact.

Myxomatosis[edit]

Main article: Myxomatosis

Myxomatosis is a virulent threat to all rabbits but not to humans.[43] The intentional introduction of myxomatosis in rabbit-ravaged Australia killed an estimated 500 million feral rabbits between 1950 and 1952. The Australian government will not allow veterinarians to purchase and use the myxomatosis vaccine that would protect domestic rabbits, for fear that this immunity would be spread into the wild via escaped livestock and pets.[44] This potential consequence is also one motivation for the pet-rabbit ban in Queensland.[45]

In Australia, rabbits caged outdoors in areas with high numbers of mosquitoes are vulnerable to myxomatosis. In Europe, fleas are the carriers of myxomatosis. In some countries, annual vaccinations against myxomatosis are available.

Rabbit hemorrhagic disease (RHD)[edit]

Main article: Rabbit haemorrhagic disease

Rabbit hemorrhagic disease (RHD), also known as viral hemorrhagic disease (VHD) or rabbit calicivirus disease (RCD),[46] is caused by a rabbit-specific calicivirus known as RHDV or RCV. Discovered in 1983, RHD is highly infectious and usually fatal. Initial signs of the disease may be limited to fever and lethargy, until significant internal organ damage results in labored breathing, squealing, bloody mucus, and eventual coma and death. Internally, the infection causes necrosis of the liver and damages other organs, especially the spleen, kidneys, and small intestine.

RHD, like myxomatosis, has been intentionally introduced to control feral rabbit populations in Australia and (illegally) in New Zealand, and RHD has, in some areas, escaped quarantine. The disease has killed tens of millions of rabbits in China (unintentionally) as well as Australia, with other epidemics reported in Bolivia, Mexico, South Korea, and continental Europe. Rabbit populations in New Zealand have bounced back after developing a genetic immunity to RHD, and the disease has, so far, had no effect on the genetically-divergent native wild rabbits and hares in the Americas.

In the United States, an October 2013 USDA document[47] stated:

RHD has been found in the United States as recently as 2010, and was detected in Canada in 2011. Thus far, outbreaks have been controlled quickly through quarantine, depopulation, disease tracing, and cleaning and disinfection; however, rabbit losses have been in the thousands. An RHD vaccine exists, but it is not recommended for use where the disease is not widespread in wildlife, as it may hide signs of disease and is not considered a practical response for such a rapidly spreading disease.

In the UK, reports of RHD (as recently as February 2018) have been submitted to the British Rabbit Council's online "Notice Board".[48] Vaccines for RHD are available—and mandatory—in the UK.

West Nile virus[edit]

Main article: West Nile virus

West Nile virus is another threat to domestic as well as wild rabbits.[49] It is a fatal disease, and while vaccines are available for other species, there are none yet specifically indicated for rabbits.[50]

Wry neck & parasitic fungus[edit]

Wry neck (or head tilt) is a condition in rabbits that can be fatal, due to the resulting disorientation that causes the animal to stop eating and drinking.[citation needed]Inner ear infections or ear mites, as well as diseases or injuries affecting the brain (including stroke) can lead to wry neck. The most common cause, however, is a parasitic microscopic fungus called Encephalitozoon cuniculi (E. cuniculi). Note that: "despite approximately half of all pet rabbits carrying the infection, only a small proportion of these cases ever show any illness".[51] Some vets now recommend treating rabbits[clarification needed] against E. cuniculi.[citation needed] The usual drugs for treatment and prevention are the benzimidazoleanthelmintics, particularly fenbendazole (also used as a deworming agent in other animal species). In the UK, fenbendazole (under the brand name Panacur Rabbit), is sold over-the-counter in oral paste form as a nine-day treatment. Fenbendazole is particularly recommended for rabbits kept in colonies and as a preventive before mixing new rabbits with each other.[51]

Fly strike[edit]

Fly strike, or blowfly strike,(Lucilia sericata) is a condition that occurs when flies (particularly bot flies) lay their eggs in a rabbit's damp or soiled fur, or in an open wound. Within 12 hours, the eggs hatch into the larval stage of the fly, known as maggots. Initially small but quickly growing to 15 millimetres (0.59 in) long, maggots can burrow into skin and feed on an animal's tissue, leading to shock and death. The most susceptible rabbits are those in unsanitary conditions, sedentary ones, and those unable to clean their excretory areas. Rabbits with diarrhea should be inspected for fly strike, especially during the summer months.[52] The topical treatment Rearguard® (from Novartis) is approved in the United Kingdom for 10-week-per-application prevention of fly strike.[53]

Breeds[edit]

Main article: List of rabbit breeds

There are currently 49 rabbit breeds recognized by the American Rabbit Breeders Association[54] and 106 recognized by the British Rabbit Council.[55] Many additional breeds of domestic rabbit are found throughout the world.[56]Selective breeding has produced rabbits ranging in size from dwarf to giant. Across the world, rabbits are raised as livestock (in cuniculture) for their meat, pelts, and wool, and also by fanciers and hobbyists as pets.

Rabbits have been selectively bred since ancient times to achieve certain desired characteristics.[56] Variations include size and body shape, coat type (including hair length and texture), coat color, ear carriage (erect or lop), and even ear length.[57] As with any animal, domesticated rabbits' temperaments vary in such factors as energy level and novelty seeking.

Most genetic defects in the domestic rabbit (such as dental problems in the Holland Lop breed) are due to recessive genes.[citation needed] Genetics are carefully tracked by fanciers who show rabbits, to breed out defects.

As pets[edit]

Rabbits have been kept as pets in Western nations since the 19th century, but because of the destructive history of feral rabbits in Australia, domestic rabbits are illegal as pets in Queensland.[58] Depending upon its size, a rabbit may be considered a type of pocket pet. Rabbits can bond (albeit slowly) with owners,[59] can learn to follow simple voice commands and come when called by name,[24]:166 and are curious and playful.

Rabbits do not make good pets for small children because rabbits are fragile and easily injured by rough handling, can bite when hurt or frightened, and are easily frightened by loud noises and sudden motions.[60]

Rabbits are especially popular as pets in the United States during the Easter season, due to their association with the holiday. However, animal shelters that accept rabbits often complain that during the weeks and months following Easter, there is a rise in unwanted and neglected rabbits that were bought as Easter "gifts", especially for children.[61] Similar problems arise in rural areas after county fairs and the like, in jurisdictions where rabbits are legal prizes in fairground games.

Thus, there are many humane societies, animal shelters, and rescue groups that have rabbits available for pet adoption. Fancy rabbit breeds are often purchased from pet stores, private breeders, and fanciers.

House rabbits[edit]

Rabbits may be kept as smallhouse pets and "rabbit-proofed" spaces reduce the risks associated with their intrinsic need to chew.[20][21] Rabbits are easily litter box trained[62] and a rabbit that lives indoors may be less exposed to the dangers of predators, parasites, diseases, adverse weather, and pesticides.[20] Rabbits are often compatible with others of their kind, or with birds, chinchillas[citation needed], or guinea pigs, but opinion differs regarding the dangers of housing different species together.[63] Some people consider rabbits a pocket pet.

Keeping a rabbit as a house companion was popularised by Sandy Crook in her 1981 book Your French Lop.[citation needed] In 1983, at the American Family Pet Show in Anaheim, California (attended by 35,000), Crook presented her personal experiences living with an indoor rabbit as evidence of a human-rabbit bond.[64] In the late 1980s, it became more common to litter box train a rabbit and keep it indoors, after[citation needed] the publication of Marinell Harriman's House Rabbit Handbook: How to Live with an Urban Rabbit in 1985.[citation needed] The House Rabbit Society was founded in the US in 1988.[65]

As the domestic descendants of wild prey animals, rabbits are alert, timid creatures that startle fairly easily, and many of their behaviors are triggered by the fight-or-flight response to perceived threats. According to the House Rabbit Society, the owner of a pet rabbit can use various behavioral approaches to win the animal's trust,[27] which can be a long and difficult process.[59]

In addition, there is evidence to suggest that young rabbits that occupy the periphery of the "litter huddle" obtain less milk from the mother and, as a result, have a lower weight. It has been suggested that this factor may contribute to behavioural differences in litter mates during adolescence. [66]

Advantages and disadvantages[edit]

The advantages of keeping rabbits as pets is that they are quiet, clean, smart, cute, and soft. They may react favorably to handling and petting depending on their personality and how they were raised. There are also many different sizes and characteristics available to a pet owner owing to a long history of breeding. Rabbits are friendly to each other and are often compatible with other pets. Rabbits are herbivores and their diet is relatively simple. Compared to other small animals, rabbits are robust creatures with strong hind legs (they can run fast) and powerful teeth. They have a "scruff" on the back of their neck, which can be used to pick them up.

The disadvantages of keeping rabbits as pets is that they may chew many things in the house. Male rabbits may mark their territory with a strong-smelling urine. Rabbits can bite under certain circumstances and they can also scratch. They can injure someone with their hind legs and rear claws if they jump out of someone's arms quickly. They have to be picked up and handled properly. They may leave poops around the house. Many rabbits may not be that friendly or interested in human beings. Male rabbits can be aggressive and territorial. Rabbits may not want to be touched. They will also do a high pitched scream when they are hurt or scared.

As livestock[edit]

See also: Cuniculture

Rabbits have been kept as livestock since ancient times for their meat, wool, and fur. In modern times, rabbits are also utilized in scientific research as laboratory animals.

Meat rabbits[edit]

Breeds such as the New Zealand and Californian are frequently utilized for meat in commercial rabbitries. These breeds have efficient metabolisms and grow quickly; they are ready for slaughter by approximately 14 to 16 weeks of age.

Rabbit fryers are rabbits that are between 70 and 90 days of age, and weighing between 3 and 5 lb (1 to 2 kg) live weight. Rabbit roasters are rabbits from 90 days to 6 months of age weighing between 5 and 8 lb (2 to 3.5 kg) live weight. Rabbit stewers are rabbits from 6 months on weighing over 8 lb.

Any type of rabbit can be slaughtered for meat, but those exhibiting the "commercial" body type are most commonly raised for meat purposes. Dark fryers (any other color but albino whites) are sometimes lower in price than albino fryers because of the slightly darker tinge of the fryer (purely pink carcasses are preferred by consumers) and because the dark hairs are easier to see than if there are residual white hairs on the carcass. There is no difference in skinability.

Wool rabbits[edit]

Rabbits such as the Angora, American Fuzzy Lop, and Jersey Wooly produce wool. However, since the American Fuzzy Lop and Jersey Wooly are both dwarf breeds, only the much larger Angora breeds such as the English Angora, Satin Angora, Giant Angora, and French Angoras are used for commercial wool production. Their long fur is sheared, combed, or plucked (gently pulling loose hairs from the body during molting) and then spun into yarn used to make a variety of products. Angora sweaters can be purchased in many clothing stores and is generally mixed with other types of wool. Rabbit wool, called Angora, is 2.5 times warmer than sheep's wool.[67]

Fur rabbits[edit]

Rabbit breeds that were developed for their fur qualities include the Rex with its plush texture, the Satin with its lustrous color, and the Chinchilla for its exotic pattern. White rabbit fur may be dyed in an array of colors that aren't produced naturally. Rabbits in the fur industry are fed a diet focused for robust coat production and pelts are harvested after the rabbit reaches prime condition, which takes longer than in the meat industry. Rabbit fur is used in local and commercial textile industries throughout the world. China imports much of its rabbit fur from Scandinavia (80%) and some from North America (5%), according to the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service GAIN Report CH7607.[citation needed]

Laboratory rabbits[edit]

Rabbits have been and continue to be used in laboratory work such as production of antibodies for vaccines and research of human male reproductive systemtoxicology. In 1972, around 450,000 rabbits were used for experiments in the United States, decreasing to around 240 000 in 2006.[68] The Environmental Health Perspective, published by the National Institute of Health, states, "The rabbit [is] an extremely valuable model for studying the effects of chemicals or other stimuli on the male reproductive system."[69] According to the Humane Society of the United States, rabbits are also used extensively in the study of bronchial asthma, strokepreventiontreatments, cystic fibrosis, diabetes, and cancer.

The New Zealand White is one of the most commonly used breeds for research and testing.

Animal rights activists generally oppose animal experimentation for all purposes, and rabbits are no exception.[improper synthesis?] The use of rabbits for the Draize test,[70] which is used for, amongst other things, testing cosmetics on animals, has been cited as an example of cruelty in animal research. Albino rabbits are typically used in the Draize tests because they have less tear flow than other animals, and the lack of eye pigment makes the effects easier to visualize.[71]

Housing[edit]

Rabbits can live outdoors in properly constructed, sheltered hutches, which provide protection from the elements in winter and keep rabbits cool in summer heat. To protect from predators, rabbit hutches are usually situated in a fenced yard, shed, barn, or other enclosed structure, which may also contain a larger pen for exercise.[72] Rabbits in such an environment can alternatively be allowed to roam the secured area freely, and simply be provided with an adapted doghouse for shelter. A more elaborate setup is an artificial warren.

Exhibition[edit]

Conformation shows[edit

Virgin & Child with Saint Catherine of Alexandria and a Rabbit
Titian (ca 1530)
Rabbit kits
suckling from their mother
Johann Daniel Meyer (1752)
Digestive system of the rabbit
by Ruth Lawson, Otago Polytechnic 26 November 2007
Myxomatosis Trial
Wardang Island (Australia) 1938
Gemüsestilleben mit Häschen
by Johann Georg Seitz (1870)
A dwarf house rabbit (9 months old) visiting the outdoors
with harness & leash
A house rabbit sharing an apple
Two house rabbits
in their litter box
Peaux de Lapin
"Rabbit skins"
by Edme Bouchardon (1737)

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