European Rabbit
Oryctolagus cuniculus

What Are They Like?

The European rabbit is one of the most highly adaptable mammals in the world. Originally from Southwest Europe, they have been introduced to nearly every continent in the world. European rabbits measure from 13.5-20 inches (34-50 centimeters) in length, and weigh between 2.25-5.5 pounds (1-2.5 kilograms). They have long, black-tipped ears, large hind legs and bushy tails. The rabbit's coat is grey-brown in color and with pale markings on the belly, under the tail and around the eyes.

Where Do They Live?

European rabbits are native to Spain and Portugal, but can be found all over the world. They prefer habitats with dry brushy areas and forests with soft grounds for digging burrows.

 
Did You Know?
European rabbits are the ancestors of all domestic rabbits.

How Are Babies Made?

European rabbits are well-known for their rapid reproduction abilities. They breed year round and can have as many as six litters per year. European rabbits have a short gestation period that lasts about 28 t0 33 days and will usually give birth to five or six young.

What Do They Eat?

European rabbits are herbivores and feed on grass, leaves, herbs, twigs, bark and roots. They are also known to invade gardens to feed on lettuce, cabbage, root vegetables and grains.

 
Did You Know?
European rabbits are known to re-ingest their feces in order to obtain extra nourishment from their food.

What Do They Do?

European rabbits are highly social animals that live in large colonies. They are known for digging complex burrows called warrens. These multi-chambered burrows will often have several entrances and emergency escape tunnels. The European rabbit spends most of the day in its burrow, and emerges at night to forage for food. Since they have a large number of natural predators, they are very cautious above ground and won't stray too far from their burrows.

How Concerned Should We Be?

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which keeps a "Red List" of species in danger worldwide, lists the European rabbit as "near threatened." The biggest threat facing these rabbits are two diseases, myxomatosis and Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease (RHD). These diseases both appeared in the 20th century and are directly responsible for a steep decline in population. Other threats that face the European rabbit are habitat loss and fragmentation caused by human development. Farmers often consider the rabbits pests and will hunt or poison them to prevent them from damaging crops. The drastic decline in population has also had negative consequences on predators, such as the Iberian lynx and Spanish imperial eagle, which rely on the rabbit as a source of food.

What's Being Done?
Portuguese National Authorities (ICNB) have classified the rabbit as Near Threatened in Portugal, Spanish authorities recently re-classified the rabbit as Vulnerable in Spain. In 2008, the European Rabbit was re-classified by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) as "Near Threatened" in its native range due to the extent of recent declines

 

Mammals of the World: European Rabbit

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