The European Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) is a species of rabbit native to southern Europe. European Rabbits are small, gray-brown mammals ranging from 13 to 18 in (34 to 45 cm) long, and are approximately 3 to 5 pounds (1.3-2.2 kg) in weight. They have four sharp incisors (two on top, two on bottom) that grow continuously throughout their life. They also have two peg teeth on the top behind the incisors. Rabbits have long ears, large hind legs, and short, fluffy tails. Rabbits move by hopping, using their long and powerful hind legs. To facilitate quick movement, a rabbit’s hind feet have a thick padding of fur to dampen the shock of rapid hopping. Their toes are long, and are webbed to keep from spreading apart as the animal jumps.
Rabbits are known by many names. Young rabbits are known by the names bunny, kit, or kitten. A male rabbit is called a buck, and a female rabbit is called a doe. A group of rabbits is known as a herd.
European Rabbits are well known for digging networks of burrows called warrens. The young are born blind and furless and totally dependent upon the mother.
European Rabbits as an exotic pest
European Rabbits have been introduced as an exotic species into a number of environments. Locations include the British Isles, Laysan Island (1903) and Lisianski Island in the Hawaiian Islands. They are also found in the Macquarie Island, Smith Island, San Juan Islands (around 1900) later spreading to the other San Juan Islands like Australia and New Zealand.
Twenty-four European Rabbits were introduced to Australia in 1859. They soon spread throughout the country due to the lack of natural predators.
The only rabbit to be domesticated is the European Rabbit. These rabbits have been extensively domesticated for food or as a pet. They were first widely kept in ancient Rome and were refined into a wider variety of breeds during the Middle Ages.
Domesticated rabbits have mostly been bred to be much larger than wild rabbits. Selective breeding has produced a wide range of breeds that are kept as pets and food animals across the world. They have as much color variation among themselves as other household pets. Their fur is prized for its softness. In the middle-size breeds, the teeth grow approximately 5 in (125 mm) per year for the upper incisors and about 8 in (200 mm) per year for the lower incisors. The teeth eat away against one another, giving the teeth a constantly sharp edge.
Rabbits are widely kept as pets in Western nations. Many people find them to be rewarding house pets. Like many other small animals, they are widely considered to be “disposable pets. Rabbits purchased on a whim for young children often meet this fate. This happens most often during the Easter season. House rabbits are the third most commonly surrendered animals at United States animal shelters.
In general, spaying or neutering (altering) pet rabbits is strongly recommended. Spaying females prevents certain forms of cancer of the reproductive organs. Altered rabbits of either sex will be less destructive, calmer, easier to litter train, and will generally make better companions.