The European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) will eat most things that grow, and in vast quantities: a single rabbit can eat enough grass to stuff a decent-sized pillow every day. They breed like – well – rabbits. A doe is usually either pregnant, lactating or both at once: she can produce 30 kits a year and they are all able to reproduce within six months of being born. Males tend to disperse to new colonies while females stay put to breed until the warren gets too crowded. Unless predation or disease intervenes, rabbit populations spiral.
Despite appearances, rabbits aren’t rodents, they are lagomorphs (‘hare-shapeds’), one of over 50 species that includes hares, pikas, jackrabbits and cottontails.
Lagomorphs’ special trick is to eat their food twice. Whereas a cow chews the cud, they eat their own droppings. Not the dry fibrous spheres we find scattered outside their burrows, but the contents of their large intestine, which look like bunches of shiny green grapes, and are full of bacteria that generate essential nutrients, such as B vitamins. Strictly speaking, despite their provenance, these are not faeces, but food. Coated with rubbery mucus to protect them from the digestive process, rabbits eat them directly from their bottoms.
Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen of them.
Theoretically, two rabbits starting a family could in 3 years have 33 million relatives.
90% of baby rabbits are eaten by predators - or shot by them. Rabbits hold the British record for the greatest number of mammals or birds killed by people in one place in one day– 6,943 in the grounds of Blenheim Palace in 1898. In Britain, there is a high correlation between the number of gamekeepers in a given area and the number of rabbits - the more gamekeepers, the more rabbits because the keepers shoot the predators that would normally eat the rabbits.
Rabbits were introduced into Australia by Thomas Austin, who brought 24 of them over from England in 1859, saying: 'The introduction of a few rabbits could do little harm and might provide a touch of home, in addition to a spot of hunting'. 40 years later they were everywhere. The Australians built vast fences to contain them, patrolled by riders on camels and bicycles but the rabbits got under them, through them (via holes and gates when they were left open) or even over them: recent research has shown that English rabbits have taught themselves to climb fences as efficiently.
Louis XVIII of France could smell a rabbit stew and know where in France the rabbit had been killed.
The English Spot rabbit is thought to have originated as a cross between Himalayan, Standard Chinchilla and New Zealand White. It is white in colour with a ‘butterfly nose’, a herringbone stripe and a number of spots down its side. The colourings can be blue, black, tortoiseshell, gold, lilac, grey or chocolate.
The rabbit is known in France as the Lapin Papillon Anglais (English Butterfly Rabbit) because of its butterfly nose. It gets its ‘English Spot’ name thanks to selective breeding that has given the breed clearly defined markings and especially spots.
English Spot rabbits are excellent mothers, and will foster young easily. It is not unusual to see English does raising other breeds as well as their own young. A litter of baby Spots will consist of only 50% who have the desired markings; 25% will be ‘selfs’ who are all one colour, while the other 25% will be partially marked - they have a little moustache-like marking and are called ‘Charlies’ after Charlie Chaplain.
To give you an idea of how fast we travelled - we left with two rabbits and when we arrived we still had only two.
The highest-ever jump by a rabbit measured three feet three inches.
In three years, two mating rabbits can theoretically produce 33 million relatives.
Sylvilagus palustris hefneri is a rabbit named after Hugh Hefner.
Bugs Bunny is not a rabbit but a hare.