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Short description: Mammals of the family Leporidae
Temporal range: Late EoceneHolocene, 53–0 Ma
A small brown rabbit sat on the dirt in a forest. Its ears are small and alert and the tip of its nose, part of its chest and one of its feet are white.
European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus)
Scientific classificationEdit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Lagomorpha
Family: Leporidae

Rabbits, also known as bunnies or bunny rabbits, are small mammals in the family Leporidae (which also includes the hares), which is in the order Lagomorpha (which also includes the pikas). Oryctolagus cuniculus is the European rabbit, including its descendants, the world's 305 breeds[1] of domestic rabbit. Sylvilagus includes 13 wild rabbit species, among them the seven types of cottontail. The European rabbit, which has been introduced on every continent except Antarctica, is familiar throughout the world as a wild prey animal, a domesticated form of livestock and a pet. With its widespread effect on ecologies and cultures, in many areas of the world, the rabbit is a part of daily life – as food, clothing, a companion, and a source of artistic inspiration.

Although once considered rodents, lagomorphs like rabbits have been discovered to have diverged separately and earlier than their rodent cousins and have a number of traits rodents lack, like two extra incisors.

Terminology and etymology

A male rabbit is called a buck; a female is called a doe. An older term for an adult rabbit used until the 18th century is coney (derived ultimately from the Latin cuniculus), while rabbit once referred only to the young animals.[2] Another term for a young rabbit is bunny, though this term is often applied informally (particularly 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 group of rabbits is known as a colony or nest (or, occasionally, a warren, though this more commonly refers to where the rabbits live).[3] A group of baby rabbits produced from a single mating is referred to as a litter[4] and a group of domestic rabbits living together is sometimes called a herd.[5]

The word rabbit itself derives from the Middle English rabet, a borrowing from the Walloon robète, which was a diminutive of the French or Middle Dutch robbe.[6]


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.

Differences from hares

Main page: Biology:Hare
Johann Daniel Meyer (1748)
Johann Daniel Meyer (1748)

The term rabbit is typically used for all Leporidae species excluding the genus Lepus. Members of that genus are instead known as hares or jackrabbits.

Lepus species are precocial, born relatively mature and mobile with hair and good vision, while rabbit species are altricial, born hairless and blind. Hares & some rabbits live a relatively solitary life in a simple nest above the ground, while other rabbits live in social groups in burrows, which are grouped together to form warrens. Hares are generally larger than rabbits, with ears that are more elongated, and with hind legs that are larger and longer. Descendants of the European rabbit are commonly bred as livestock and kept as pets, whereas no hares have been domesticated – the breed called the Belgian hare is actually a domestic rabbit which has been selectively bred to resemble a hare.


Main page: Biology:Domestic rabbit

Rabbits have long been domesticated. The European rabbit has been widely kept as livestock, starting in ancient Rome. Selective breeding, which began in the Middle Ages, has generated a wide variety of rabbit breeds, of which many (since the early 19th century) are also kept as pets.[7] 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.


Wax models showing the development of the rabbit heart


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.[8] Another difference is that for rabbits, all of their teeth continue to grow, where as for most rodents, only their incisors continue to grow. 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. Recent DNA analysis and the discovery of a common ancestor has supported the view that they share a common lineage, so rabbits and rodents are now often grouped together in the superorder Glires.[9]


Skeleton of the rabbit

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 posture. Rabbits use their strong claws for digging and (along with their teeth) for defense.[10] Each front foot has four toes plus a dewclaw. Each hind foot has four toes (but no dewclaw).[11]

Melanistic coloring
Oryctologus cuniculus
European rabbit (wild)

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.[12]

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.[13]

Hind limb elements

This image comes from a specimen in the Pacific Lutheran University natural history collection. It displays all of the skeletal articulations of rabbit's hind limbs.

The anatomy of rabbits' hind limbs is structurally similar to that of other land mammals and contributes to their specialized form of locomotion. The bones of the hind limbs consist of long bones (the femur, tibia, fibula, and phalanges) as well as short bones (the tarsals). These bones are created through endochondral ossification during development. Like most land mammals, the round head of the femur articulates with the acetabulum of the os coxae. The femur articulates with the tibia, but not the fibula, which is fused to the tibia. The tibia and fibula articulate with the tarsals of the pes, commonly called the foot. The hind limbs of the rabbit are longer than the front limbs. This allows them to produce their hopping form of locomotion. Longer hind limbs are more capable of producing faster speeds. Hares, which have longer legs than cottontail rabbits, are able to move considerably faster.[14] Rabbits stay just on their toes when moving; this is called digitigrade locomotion. The hind feet have four long toes that allow for this and are webbed to prevent them from spreading when hopping.[15] Rabbits do not have paw pads on their feet like most other animals that use digitigrade locomotion. Instead, they have coarse compressed hair that offers protection.[16]


The rabbit's hind limb (lateral view) includes muscles involved in the quadriceps and hamstrings.

Rabbits have muscled hind legs that allow for maximum force, maneuverability, and acceleration that is divided into three main parts: foot, thigh, and leg. The hind limbs of a rabbit are an exaggerated feature. They are much longer than the forelimbs, providing more force. Rabbits run on their toes to gain the optimal stride during locomotion. The force put out by the hind limbs is contributed by both the structural anatomy of the fusion tibia and fibula, and muscular features.[17] Bone formation and removal, from a cellular standpoint, is directly correlated to hind limb muscles. Action pressure from muscles creates force that is then distributed through the skeletal structures. Rabbits that generate less force, putting less stress on bones are more prone to osteoporosis due to bone rarefaction.[18] In rabbits, the more fibers in a muscle, the more resistant to fatigue. For example, hares have a greater resistance to fatigue than cottontails. The muscles of rabbit's hind limbs can be classified into four main categories: hamstrings, quadriceps, dorsiflexors, or plantar flexors. The quadriceps muscles are in charge of force production when jumping. Complementing these muscles are the hamstrings, which aid in short bursts of action. These muscles play off of one another in the same way as the plantar flexors and dorsiflexors, contributing to the generation and actions associated with force.[19]


Anatomy of mammalian ear
A Holland Lop resting with one ear up and one ear down. Some rabbits can adjust their ears to hear distant sounds.

Within the order lagomorphs, the ears are used to detect and avoid predators. In the family Leporidae, the ears are typically longer than they are wide. For example, in black tailed jack rabbits, their long ears cover a greater surface area relative to their body size that allow them to detect predators from far away. In contrast with cottontail rabbits, their ears are smaller and shorter, requiring that predators be closer before they can detect them and flee. Evolution has favored rabbits having shorter ears, so the larger surface area does not cause them to lose heat in more temperate regions. The opposite can be seen in rabbits that live in hotter climates; possessing longer ears with a larger surface area helps with dispersion of heat. Since sound travels less well in arid as opposed to cooler air, longer ears may aid the organism in detecting predators sooner rather than later, in warmer temperatures.[20][page needed] Rabbits are characterized by shorter ears than hares.[21][page needed] Rabbits' ears are an important structure to aid thermoregulation as well as in detecting predators due to the way the outer, middle, and inner ear muscles coordinate with one another. The ear muscles also aid in maintaining balance and movement when fleeing predators.[22]

Outer ear

The auricle, also known as the pinna, is a rabbit's outer ear.[23] The rabbit's pinnae represent a fair part of the body surface area. It is theorized that the ears aid in dispersion of heat at temperatures above 30 °C (86 °F), with rabbits in warmer climates having longer pinnae due to this. Another theory is that the ears function as shock absorbers that could aid and stabilize rabbits' vision when fleeing predators, but this has typically only been seen in hares.[24][page needed] The rest of the outer ear has bent canals that lead to the eardrum or tympanic membrane.[25]

Middle ear

The middle ear, separated by the outer eardrum in the back of the rabbit's skull, contains three bones: the hammer, anvil, and stirrup, collectively called ossicles, which act to decrease sound before it hits the inner ear; in general, the ossicles act as a barrier to the inner ear for sound energy.[25]

Inner ear

Inner ear fluid, called endolymph, receives the sound energy. After receiving the energy. The inner ear comprises two parts: the cochlea that uses sound waves from the ossicles, and the vestibular apparatus that manages the rabbit's position in regard to movement. Within the cochlea a basilar membrane contains sensory hair structures that send nerve signals to the brain, allowing it to recognize different sound frequencies. Within the vestibular apparatus three semicircular canals help detect angular motion.[25]


A palomino rabbit displaying her dewlap beside a month-old kit

A dewlap is a longitudinal flap of skin or similar flesh that hangs beneath the lower jaw or neck. It is a secondary sex characteristic in rabbits, caused by the presence of female sex hormones. They develop with puberty. A female rabbit who has been neutered before reaching sexual maturity will not develop a dewlap, and even if a doe is neutered after developing a dewlap, the dewlap will gradually disappear over several months. This also aligns with the results of injecting male rabbits with female sex hormones, specifically the ones from pregnant women's urine. The male rabbits developed dewlaps, which then gradually disappeared once administration had ceased.[26] (This is not the process of the rabbit test, a common way to test for human female pregnancy in the 20th century; the pregnancy test involved dissecting female rabbits after injection with urine to see if their ovaries had enlarged.)[27] While it is unclear exactly what function a dewlap performs, pregnant female rabbits will pluck fur from their dewlaps shortly before giving birth to line a nest for their young.[28]


The blood flow through the rabbit's large ears help with thermoregulation.

Thermoregulation is the process that an organism uses to maintain an optimal body temperature independent of external conditions.[29] This process is carried out by the pinnae, which takes up most of the rabbit's body surface and contain a vascular network and arteriovenous shunts.[30] In a rabbit, the optimal body temperature is around 38.5–40.0 °C (101.3–104.0 °F).[31] If their body temperature exceeds or does not meet this optimal temperature, the rabbit must return to homeostasis. Homeostasis of body temperature is maintained by the use of their large, highly vascularized ears that are able to change the amount of blood flow that passes through the ears.

Respiratory system

Ventral view of dissected rabbit lungs with key structures labeled.

The rabbit's nasal cavity lies dorsal to the oral cavity, and the two compartments are separated by the hard and soft palate.[32] The nasal cavity itself is separated into a left and right side by a cartilage barrier, and it is covered in fine hairs that trap dust before it can enter the respiratory tract.[32][33][page needed] As the rabbit breathes, air flows in through the nostrils along the alar folds. From there, the air moves into the nasal cavity, also known as the nasopharynx, down through the trachea, through the larynx, and into the lungs.[33][page needed][34] The larynx functions as the rabbit's voice box, which enables it to produce a wide variety of sounds.[33][page needed] The trachea is a long tube embedded with cartilaginous rings that prevent the tube from collapsing as air moves in and out of the lungs. The trachea then splits into a left and right bronchus, which meet the lungs at a structure called the hilum. From there, the bronchi split into progressively more narrow and numerous branches. The bronchi branch into bronchioles, into respiratory bronchioles, and ultimately terminate at the alveolar ducts. The branching that is typically found in rabbit lungs is a clear example of monopodial branching, in which smaller branches divide out laterally from a larger central branch.[35]

The structure of the rabbit's nasal and oral cavities necessitates breathing through the nose. This is due to the fact that the epiglottis is fixed to the backmost portion of the soft palate.[34] Within the oral cavity, a layer of tissue sits over the opening of the glottis, which blocks airflow from the oral cavity to the trachea.[32] The epiglottis functions to prevent the rabbit from aspirating on its food. Further, the presence of a soft and hard palate allow the rabbit to breathe through its nose while it feeds.[33][page needed]

Monopodial branching as seen in dissected rabbit lungs.

Rabbits' lungs are divided into four lobes: the cranial, middle, caudal, and accessory lobes. The right lung is made up of all four lobes, while the left lung only has two: the cranial and caudal lobes.[35] To provide space for the heart, the left cranial lobe of the lungs is significantly smaller than that of the right.[32] The diaphragm is a muscular structure that lies caudal to the lungs and contracts to facilitate respiration.[32][34]


Rabbits are herbivores that feed by grazing on grass and hay, and other leafy plants. They do not naturally eat carrots or lettuce, contrary to common belief.[36] Consequently, 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 cecotropes or "night droppings"[37] and are immediately eaten (a behaviour known as cecotrophy). 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.[38]

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.[39] In this time, the rabbit will also excrete many hard fecal pellets, being waste pellets that will not be reingested. If the environment is relatively non-threatening, the rabbit will remain outdoors for many hours, grazing at intervals. The rabbit will reingest its soft, partially digested pellets in a process known as cecotrophy; this is rarely observed, since the pellets are reingested as they are produced.[40]

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 or form and are not reingested. Soft pellets are usually produced several hours after grazing, after the hard pellets have all been excreted. They are made up of micro-organisms and undigested plant cell walls, among other necessary nutrients.[40]

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.[41] 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.[42]

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.[12] This process serves the same purpose in the rabbit as rumination does in cattle and sheep.[43]

Dissected image of the male rabbit reproductive system with key structures labeled

Because rabbits cannot vomit,[44] if buildup occurs within the intestines (due often to a diet with insufficient fibre),[45] intestinal blockage can occur.[46]


Diagram of the male rabbit reproductive system with main components labeled

The adult male reproductive system forms the same as most mammals with the seminiferous tubular compartment containing the Sertoli cells and an adluminal compartment that contains the Leydig cells.[47] The Leydig cells produce testosterone, which maintains libido[47] and creates secondary sex characteristics such as the genital tubercle and penis. The Sertoli cells triggers the production of Anti-Müllerian duct hormone, which absorbs the Müllerian duct. In an adult male rabbit, the sheath of the penis is cylinder-like and can be extruded as early as two months of age.[48] The scrotal sacs lay lateral to the penis and contain epididymal fat pads which protect the testes. Between 10 and 14 weeks, the testes descend and are able to retract into the pelvic cavity to thermoregulate.[48] Furthermore, the secondary sex characteristics, such as the testes, are complex and secrete many compounds. These compounds include fructose, citric acid, minerals, and a uniquely high amount of catalase.[47]

Diagram of the female rabbit reproductive system with main components labeled.

The adult female reproductive tract is bipartite, which prevents an embryo from translocating between uteri.[49] The two uterine horns communicate to two cervixes and forms one vaginal canal. Along with being bipartite, the female rabbit does not go through an estrus cycle, which causes mating induced ovulation.[48]

The average female rabbit becomes sexually mature at three to eight months of age and can conceive at any time of the year for the duration of her life. Egg and sperm production can begin to decline after three years.[47] During mating, the male rabbit will mount the female rabbit from behind and insert his penis into the female and make rapid pelvic hip thrusts. The encounter lasts only 20–40 seconds and after, the male will throw himself backwards off the female.[50]

The rabbit gestation period is short and ranges from 28 to 36 days with an average period of 31 days. A longer gestation period will generally yield a smaller litter while shorter gestation periods will give birth to a larger litter. The size of a single litter can range from four to 12 kits allowing a female to deliver up to 60 new kits a year. After birth, the female can become pregnant again as early as the next day.[48]

After mating, in some species, hormonal changes will cause the doe to begin to dig a burrow for her nest about a week before giving birth. Between three days and a few hours before giving birth another series of hormonal changes will cause her to prepare the nest structure. The doe will first gather grass for a structure, and an elevation in prolactin shortly before birth will cause her fur to shed that the doe will then use to line the nest, providing insulation for the newborn kits.[51]

The mortality rates of embryos are high in rabbits and can be due to infection, trauma, poor nutrition and environmental stress so a high fertility rate is necessary to counter this.[48]


Rabbits may appear to be crepuscular, but their natural inclination is toward nocturnal activity.[52] In 2011, the average sleep time of a rabbit in captivity was calculated at 8.4 hours per day.[53] 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.[54]

Diseases and immunity

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 disease", a form of calicivirus)[55] 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.[56][57] Domesticated rabbits with a diet lacking in high fiber sources, such as hay and grass, are susceptible to potentially lethal gastrointestinal stasis.[58] Rabbits and hares are almost never found to be infected with rabies and have not been known to transmit rabies to humans.[59]

Encephalitozoon cuniculi, a microsporidial parasite, is capable of infecting many mammals, including rabbits. [60]

Rabbit immunity has significantly diverged from other tetrapods in the manner it employs immunoglobulin light chains.[61][62] In one case McCartney-Francis et al., 1984 discover a unique additional disulfide bond between Cys 80 in Vκ and Cys 171 in Cκ.[61][62] They suggest that this may serve to stabilise rabbit antibodies.[61][62] Meanwhile IGKC1 shows high amino acid divergence between domesticated types and ferals derived from them.[62] This can be as high as 40%.[62]

Rabbit hemorrhagic disease (RHD) is caused by strains of rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV) including type 2 (RHDV2).[63] RHDV2 was detected for the first time in Washington state, US in May 2022 and then in August once in Washington and twice in Oregon.[64] Since then, it has spread to many states in the US.


Rabbit kits one hour after birth

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.[65] 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.[66] The doe (mother) is aware that she gives off scent which can attract predators, so she will stay away from the nest to avoid putting the kits (babies) in danger, returning the nest only a few times a day to feed the kits.[67]

Rabbits survive predation by burrowing (some species), hopping away in a zig-zag motion, and, if captured, delivering powerful kicks with their hind legs. Their strong teeth allow them to bite to escape a struggle.[68] The longest-lived rabbit on record, a domesticated European rabbit living in Tasmania, died at age 18.[69] The lifespan of wild rabbits is much shorter; the average longevity of an eastern cottontail, for instance, is less than one year.[70]

Habitat and range

Domestic rabbit photographed at Alligator Bay, Beauvoir, France.

Rabbit habitats include meadows, woods, forests, grasslands, deserts and wetlands.[71] While some rabbits live solitary lives, others live in groups, and the best known species, the European rabbit, lives in burrows, or rabbit holes. A group of burrows is called a warren.[71]

More than half the world's rabbit population resides in North America.[71] 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.[12] A recent study found that "the (so-called) Chinese rabbits were introduced from Europe. Genetic diversity in Chinese rabbits was very low."[72]

Rabbits have been launched into space orbit.[73]

Environmental problems

Impact of rabbit-proof fence, Cobar, New South Wales, 1905

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 (fumigation of warrens),[74] 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.[75][76]

Rabbits are known to be able to catch fire and spread wildfires, but the efficiency and relevance of this method has been doubted by forest experts who contend that a rabbit on fire could move some meters.[77][78] Knowledge on fire-spreading rabbits is based on anecdotes as there is no known scientific investigation on the subject.[78]

As food and clothing

Main page: Biology:Cuniculture

In some areas, wild rabbits and hares are hunted for their meat, a lean source of high quality protein.[79] 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.[80] Approximately 1.2 billion rabbits are slaughtered each year for meat worldwide.[81] In 1994, the countries with the highest consumption per capita of rabbit meat were Malta with 8.89 kg (19.6 lb), Italy with 5.71 kg (12.6 lb), and Cyprus with 4.37 kg (9.6 lb), falling to 0.03 kg (0.07 lb) in Japan. The figure for the United States was 0.14 kg (0.31 lb) per capita. The largest producers of rabbit meat in 1994 were China, Russia, Italy, France, and Spain.[82] Rabbit meat was once a common commodity in Sydney, 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".[83] 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.[80] 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.[84] Hunters are at higher risk for tularemia because of the potential for inhaling the bacteria during the skinning process.

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.[85] Production industries have developed domesticated rabbit breeds (such as the well-known Angora rabbit) to efficiently fill these needs.


Binkies in rabbits are characterized by a sudden kick with their hind legs, shaking their head sideways (usually mid-air), and running around rapidly; usually called zooming. Another term is half binky, which is characterized by a shorter span sharp flick of its head, both types of binkies indicate happiness or excitement. All of which typically only last for around a second. A rabbit might do quick rapid multiple binkies in one session. It's thought to be a practice run in case they need to escape from danger.[86] Such behavior commonly occurs in domesticated rabbits living in a comfortable environment, e.g. in home.[87]

Rabbits mostly use full-body actions, like flopping to communicate emotion to other rabbits and humans. Rabbit displaying flopping in front of other rabbits can be meant as a non-aggressive insult.[88][89] Rabbits commonly smell the ground first, then tilt their head to the side with a subtle jerky movement in order to lie down to its side, which exposes their belly.

They may thump their hind feet on the ground to signal other rabbits that they're feeling threatened or that potential dangers are near their territory. Some domesticated rabbits might thump to get their owner's attention. Not all rabbits thump.[90]

Both sexes of rabbits often rub their chin to objects or people with their scent gland located under the chin. This is the rabbit's way of marking their territory or possessions for other rabbits to recognize by depositing scent gland secretions, similar to what cats and dogs do. It might also serve as a reminder for the rabbit to return and investigate the object later, helping them navigate in the dark and to help them in their recollection of where they have been. Rabbits who have bonded will respect each other's smell that indicates territorial border.[91][92]

In art, literature, and culture

Main page: Social: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 with few defenses evokes vulnerability and innocence, and in folklore and modern children's stories, rabbits often appear as sympathetic characters, able to connect easily with youth of all kinds (for example, the Velveteen Rabbit, or Thumper in Bambi).

With its reputation as a prolific breeder, the rabbit juxtaposes sexuality with innocence, as in the Playboy Bunny. The rabbit (as a swift prey animal) is also known for its speed, agility, and endurance, symbolized (for example) by the marketing icons the Energizer Bunny and the Duracell Bunny.


The rabbit often appears in folklore as the trickster archetype, 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 Ometochtli or Two Rabbit, represented fertility, parties, and drunkenness.
  • In Central Africa, the common hare (Kalulu), is "inevitably described" as a trickster figure.[93]
  • 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 is that the ancient Vietnamese word for "rabbit" (mao) sounds like the Chinese word for "cat" (卯, mao).[94]
  • 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.

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.

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.[95]

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 aside 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.[96]

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.[97]

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.[98]

See also



  1. This genus is a hare, not a rabbit


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Further reading

External links

Wikidata ☰ Q9394 entry