Genus: pentalagus, bunolagus, nesolagus, romerolagus, brachylagus, sylvilagus, oryctolagus, poelagus
Rabbits originated in Iberian peninsula, southern France and north-west of Africa. It is considered that rabbits are native to south-east of Europe, Spain in particular, and Roman legionnaires took them to Italy. From Italy they spread all over the world. Today rabbits can be found in all continents with the exception of Asia and Antarctic. In Russia rabbits appeared in the end of the 19th century. In 1850s in Australia a real invasion of wild rabbits brought from Europe almost led to a natural disaster. Since then rabbits have been considered to be a pest because they can destroy vast areas of vegetations including woodland. Rabbits are very common in warm climate, because the soil there is very good for digging holes and a lot of food is available. Rabbits prefer to dig holes on southern slopes of hills. From the functional point of view rabbits make holes for living in and for breeding. Dwelling holes consist of long tunnels with offshoots and a nest made of dry leaves. Burrows for breeding are shorter, it is just a shallow nest lined up with the female’s fur.
There are very many species of rabbits, so a lot of color variations exist too. Wild rabbits have gray or red coat and pet rabbits occur in a wide range of colors. Nevertheless, there are certain specific traits of rabbits. A rabbit has a compact body and a small rounded head with vertical ears which reach 70 mm in length. Like hares, rabbits have strong hind legs and short front legs. Its tail is about 55 mm long.
The rabbit’s incisors grow during its whole life, because they constantly grind against rough plant feed. Rabbits shed twice a year.
Wild rabbits weigh 1.5-2 kg, their length varies from 150 to 180 mm and their body length is around 400 mm. Pet rabbits can weigh up to 8 kg and more.
The rabbit’s personality changes when it becomes sexually mature. When rabbits are young, they are very playful and active, their attention swaps from one thing to another and it makes the training difficult.
At the age of 4-5 months rabbits become adults. During this period some of them can get aggressive. Starting from this moment, the true personality of a rabbit starts developing. Some of them are very gentle and affectionate, others are grumpy and aggressive. So only if you obtain an adult rabbit you will know what kind of character you will be dealing with. If the rabbit is aggressive, you will have to spray it, it often helps the matter.
Often the rabbit’s personality is influenced by vicinity of other pets (if it lives in a place where loud noises often occur, or close to bad-tempered cats or dogs, the rabbit’s personality might change for the worse). If the rabbit is not properly socialized, it can start avoiding interaction with people and become skittish. Anyway, the rabbit’s personality can be affected by mice treatment and proper care.
Any pet means a lot of responsibility and a rabbit is no exception. Rabbits are kept with different purposes: for fun or for meat or fur. Wild rabbits live in groups: 8-10 specimens in each, so it is not recommended to keep them alone in the captivity either. In farms it is not a problem, but if you keep a rabbit alone at home, it will need constant interaction with people and a lot of attention, otherwise it will get depressed. It is best to keep 2-3 rabbits, preferably females since males tend to fight.
Don’t restrict your pet with the cage, let it roam and jump outside. In farms there are special pens for that, and at home you can allow your rabbit run around the house. Regular cage size is 1 cubic meter. It mustn’t have wire bottom. Don’t forget a tray, a food bowl and a water bowl.
The ideal ambient temperature for a rabbit is 18-20 degrees. The air humidity has to be around 50%. You can put on the bottom some litter for rodents, wood cuttings and straw. Rabbits are neat animals and you can easily train them to use litter boxes. Rabbits love playing, so get for them some toys from a pet store.
Rabbits eat all the time, so if you have a pet rabbit, you always need to have food on stock for it. Their diet consists of plant feed. Wild rabbits normally eat whatever they can find near their burrows. In summer their menu contains various greens, bush leaves, vegetables from nearest fields (lettuce, cabbage, grain etc.) In winter they eat dried grass, hay, tree shoots and bark. They also eat their own feces.
Regarding pet rabbits, there are many recommendations regarding their diet in order for them to be healthy and fruitful. They need fiber, so their menu always has to contain fresh grass or hay. Rabbits love dandelions, plantain, clover, and of course, they require grain, seeds, oat cereals and bread, tree branches, hard vegetables and even some fruit which is a real treat for fluffy bunnies.
Pygmy rabbits are prone to obesity. Like all other rabbits, they breed very quickly. They tend to gnaw on furniture and other objects.
Nowadays many pet rabbits get sprayed. The opinions regarding the benefits of this procedure vary, but most breeders confirm its positive effect on the animals’ health. But if your pet rabbit is sprayed, it will need special diet and a lot of exercise, since neutered animals are prone to obesity and lethargy. Before taking a decision, consult your vet.
The most common diseases of pet rabbits are stomatitis, rhinitis, myxomatosis, stomach bloat, diarrhea, coccidiosis.