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FACT SHEET - The Wild Rabbit

The European Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus)

  • The male is called a buck and the female a doe and young are called kits

  • Length - 40 – 45 centimetres and have ears that measure 8.5 centimetres long

  • Breeding habits - Doe rabbit's can breed at a few months old and can do so 4 or 5 times a year , producing up to 7 kits at a time.

  • A gestation period of only 28 - 31 days

  • Lifespan of 9 years, but in reality many don't make it past their first year

  • Commonly live in groups of up to 20, but can also be solitary in close proximity to another group

The European rabbit(Oryctolagus cuniculus) originating from Spain and South-West France. The first rabbits were brought to UK shores around the 12th century AD by the Normans and kept in captivity and used as a source of meat and fur.

Normans 1066 - 1164

Did you know?

All breeds of domestic rabbit originate from the European.

Many escaped into the wild and eventually become so common that farming them was no longer economic. The key to the rabbit's success is its diet that consists of many different green plants, various kinds of grasses and flowers, and so adaptable they do live in most terrain, as long as they can dig holes into the ground to build their home territory of interconnecting tunnels called a warren.

A typical Rabbit warren

Did you know?

Only the doe digs the warren and builds a new burrow when building a nest to give birth.

In the 1950s, the disease myxomatosis was introduced to curb their numbers and the rabbit almost became extinct, however, it is once again a common animal of the British countryside although numbers have declined in recent years.

The success the rabbit achieves does come with some major downfalls such as it being a target prey animal for many of the UK predators from foxes, birds of prey and stoats etc.; meaning the rabbit never ventures far from its bolt hole which you can usually tell by the shorter vegetation in the surrounding area of the warren.

A Red Fox

Did you know?

Males (bucks) do not assist in rearing the kittens. The mother rabbit is able to become pregnant again 4 days after the birth of her kittens. Rabbits have an average life span of up to 9 years.

The Rabbit is a social animal living together in groups, the dominant male and female hold the prime territory within the warren that they fiercely defend, and usually have a better success rate when breeding. The doe can give birth to 20 kits during the year with their offspring maturing to breed at only a few months old, hence the phrase ' breeding like a rabbit'. The rabbits that live outside this area of the dominant pair live together in relative harmony.

Wild Rabbit kits

Did you know?

Rabbits are mainly nocturnal. Much of the day is spent underground, resting and passing soft, dark droppings which are eaten to extract more nourishment from them. The rabbits then produce hard, pellet-like droppings above ground. This keeps living areas free of droppings.

Rabbit super powers.


Rabbit kits are born naked, blind and helpless. Mothers are remarkably inattentive to their young and are almost absentee parents, only nursing their young only once per day and for only just a few minutes.

To to compensate for the lack of nursing, the milk of rabbits is highly nutritious and among the richest of all mammals.

The young grow rapidly and most are weaned in about a month.

Over half of the young conceived die before they are born and are reabsorbed back into the mother's body.

Rabbits have evolved special threat detection adaptions like excellent hearing with its long front facing ears, excellent sight with an amazing field of view including over head, it also spends most of its life silent and within the entrance of its burrow.

#information #wildRabbit #factsheet

©2017 by Yorkshire Animal Welfare Society.