In honour of the day, let's talk about the Easter bunny, or rather the creature the Easter bunny is based on. It is based on rabbits, with the vast majority of domestic rabbits being subspecies of the European Rabbit.So live, hop into their lives and learn about some adorable little mammals.
Image by Alexis Lours
It is common for rabbits to be mistakenly considered rodents. However, there are some marked differences. Due to these differences, which we will get into in a few seconds, rabbits are placed in their own order called Lagomorpha, which means "Hare Form" in Greek.
Some major differences between lagomorphs and rodents include the fact that lagomorphs have four incisor teeth, one pair in front of the other, whereas rodents only have two incisors. Lagomorphs are also primarily herbivorous, whereas rodents are notoriously omnivorous. Additionally, lagomorphs lack paw pads; instead, the underside of their feet is covered in fur.
Lagomorphs also have one rare trait in that the females are larger than the males. This simple trait is exceptionally rare in terrestrial mammals.
In terms of the wild European rabbit, they measure about 40 cm (16 inches) in length and weigh about 1.2–2 kg (2.6–4.4 lbs). Their fur colour can have extreme variation, but is generally a soft brown. Interestingly, melanistic or black individuals are more common where terrestrial predators are rare or not present. Albino individuals, however, are always rare.
Image by Charles J. Sharp
Females have a gestation period of about a month. They are altricial, which means that the young are born blind, deaf, and furless. They are completely dependent on their mother for the first few weeks of their lives. Their eyes open on day 11, and they get full control of their ears around day 13.
The buck and does then reach maturity at an age of about 3–5 months. There have been reports of European rabbits getting pregnant while still nursing their previous litter.
European rabbits live in warrens that contain 2–10 individuals. Both genders have their own hierarchies, with the dominant buck having access to more females for breeding. In contrast, the dominant females have access to the better nesting sites and feeding grounds.
Numerous species hunt rabbits, including foxes, badgers, dingoes (in Australia), lynx, stoats, and weasels. They are also hunted by raptors like eagles, hawks, and owls. As a defensive strategy, they are incredibly fast runners. Does, or females, are highly protective of their young and have been known to fight off predators like stoats and weasels who wish to attack their young. As a population, the speed with which they breed is a great strategy for continuing their population in the face of having so many predators.