Rabbits were once thought to be a member of the rodent family(rodentia) because of their teeth and gnawing habits. However, rabbits also have two incisor teeth in the upper jaw. They are now placed in the order Lagomorphs ,family Leporidae and are herbivores.
There are approximately fifty species of rabbits and hares. They make their habitat almost everywhere, adapting to the climates, with Antarctica being an exception.
Endearing to many because of their cuddly and furry appearance, these creatures weigh between two to ten pounds, and are from twelve to twenty pounds average.
Their large round eyes sit slightly high allowing them to see almost three hundred and sixty degrees. There is, however, one small area around the nose that is a blind spot.
The rabbits outer ear, called the pinna, is usually long and upright, though not nearly as long as the hare's. There are exceptions such as the Netherland dwarf rabbit which has ears that resemble a kitten's. The English lop rabbit has very long floppy looking ears. Rabbits have excellent hearing and can move each ear independently to monitor sound.
Rabbits live in warrens (groups) . They make their burrows in dry land, forests, grasslands. They often favor open areas so they can watch for predators. They are most active from dusk until dawn. There is always one rabbit in the group that is on guard to warn the group when sighting a bird of prey and other dangers.
The rabbits are quite territorial and mark with urine and feces. They make clicking and grunting noises, and sometimes shriek.
An adult female rabbit (called a doe) mates with a male rabbit (called a buck), and after about thirty-one days has an average of six or seven young (called kittens or kits) in each litter. The doe will breed prolifically having anywhere from three to eight litters annually.
The young kits are born without fur and blind. They will themselves reach maturity in about six months and begin breeding.
Rabbits, being herbivores ,(plant eaters) eat vegetation, hay grasses, and with their strong incisors gnaw on harder plants ,such as tree bark. The gnawing keeps their front teeth filed down, as they are continuously growing. As food goes through the rabbit's digestive system, it passes through only partly digested. They eat their droppings to obtain more nutrients.
The lifespan of rabbits is an average of about nine or ten years. This is mainly for pet rabbits. Rarely do rabbits in the wild live that long , because they fall victim to predators such as wolves, foxes, coyotes, weasels, and birds of prey. In addition, hunters kill rabbits for sport and food.
Some rabbits are killed because they are pests, eating in gardens and gnawing on yard plants and bushes. Rabbits also carry diseases such as tick fever, and may contract rabies.
Domesticated rabbits are popular pets and can be very affectionate. Those desiring to get a pet rabbit should be forewarned that they are curious creatures and chew on everything including electric cords!