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Rabbit

Rabbit
Scientific classification
Kingdom:Animalia
Phylum:Chordata
Class:Mammalia
Order:Lagomorpha
Family:Leporidae
Table of contents
1 Diet

Appearance

Rabbits are small mammals, and come in a wide variety of colors and sizes. They can range in weight from approximately six to 28 pounds, and from 12 inches to several feet in length. Although wild rabbits tend to be agouti in color, rabbits have as much color variation among themselves as other household pets. Their fur is prized for its softness, and even today Angora rabbits are raised for their long soft fur, which is often spun into yarn.

Rabbits have 8 sharp incisors[?] (4 on top, 4 on bottom) similar to those of rodents (which have only 2 each, top and bottom), long ears, large hind legs, and short fluffy tails. Rabbits move by hopping, using their long and powerful hind legs. To facilitate quick movement, rabbit hind feet have a thick padding of fur to dampen the shock of rapid hopping. Their toes are long, and are webbed to keep themselves from spreading apart as they jump.

Rabbits have teeth that grow continuously throughout their lives. In the middle-size breeds, the teeth grow approximately five inches per year for the upper incisors and about eight inches per year for the lower incisors. The teeth abrade away against one another, giving the teeth a constantly sharp edge.

Diet The typical diet for a pet rabbit should consist of water, hay, pellets, fresh vegetables, and cecal pellets. Anything else, including fruit and other treats should be given only in very limited quantities, as it may cause obesity in your rabbit.

Pellets should be less than a couple months old to insure freshness, and should consist of a minimum of 18% fiber, low protein (14-15%), and less than 1% calcium. Depending on the amount of vegetables available, an adult rabbit should be given between 1/4 and 1/2 cup of pellets per 6 pounds body weight daily. Pre-adolescent and adolescent rabbits (7 months and younger) can be given as much pellets as they can consume, although additional vegetables are preferable to additional pellets. An older rabbit (over six years) can be given more pellets if they are having difficulty maintaining a steady body weight.

Pellets were originally designed for rabbit breeders for the purpose of providing as many calories and vitamins as inexpensively as possible. This is optimal when the rabbits are being bred for food or for experimentation, but the long-term effects of a pellet-based diet on rabbits are quite negative, resulting in an obese, unhappy, and unhealthy rabbit.

Vegetables are essential to the health of rabbits. At least two cups of three different vegetables per 6 lbs. of body weight should be fed to your rabbit daily. A wide variety of vegetables will result in the healthiest rabbit; preferably a combination of dark green vegetables and a root vegetables. Stay away from beans or rhubarb, as they can cause your rabbit to become sick. Additionally, it is wise to select vegetables that are high in Vitamin A.

To ensure that your rabbit can tolerate a specific vegetable, add one vegetable at a time to its diet. If the rabbit starts to act lethargic, or exhibit diarrhea or loose stools, then discontinue use of the new vegetable immediately. Below is a table of vegetables considered healthy for a rabbit:

Alfalfa, radish & clover sprouts
Artichoke (Jerusalem)
Arugula
Basil
Beet greens (tops)†
Bok choy
Broccoli (mostly leaves/stems)†
Brussel sprouts
Caraway
Carrots & carrot tops†
Celery
Chard
Chives
Cilantro
Clover
Collard greens†
Cucumber
Dandelion greens and flowers (beware pesticides)†
Dill
Endive†
Escarole
Fennel
Green peppers
Kale†‡
Lemon Balm
Lilac
Marigold
Marjoram
Mint
Mustard greens†
Parsley†
Pea pods†
Peppermint leaves
Raddichio
Radish (tops)
Raspberry leaves
Romaine lettuce (no iceberg)†
Sage
Savory
Spinach†‡
Watercress†
Wheat grass
Zucchini
† = Contains Vitamin A. ‡ = Contains goitrogens[?] and/or oxalates[?], and may be toxic over long periods of time.

Hay is essential for the health of all rabbits for a variety of reasons. A steady supply of hay will help prevent hairballs and other digestive tract problems in rabbits. Additionally, it provides a number of necessary vitamins and minerals at a low calorie cost. Rabbits should be provided with a constant, unlimited supply of hay for their consumption. Rabbits enjoy chewing on hay, and always having hay available for your rabbit may reduce its tendency to chew on other items in your house. It is also a good idea to provide hay in your rabbit's litterbox, as rabbits enjoying munching on food while they are defecating.

Not all hay is created equal, however. Timothy hay[?] and other grass hays are considered the healthiest to provide your rabbit. As a persistently high blood calcium level can prove harmful to your rabbit, hays such as alfalfa and clover hay should be avoided. Alfalfa is also relatively high in calories, and a constant diet of it can cause obesity in rabbits.

Treats are unhealthy in large quantities for rabbits, just as they are for humans. Most treats sold in pet stores are filled with sugar and high calorie carbohydrates. These should be avoided; the vitamins they claim to provide aren't needed, since the vegetables will provide all the vitamins your rabbit needs. In addition, they contain high quantities of sugar and other simple carbohydrates which will make your rabbit obese. If you are determined to feed your rabbit treats, the best treat to provide them with is fruit. Below are some acceptable fruits:

Apple (no stem or seeds)
Banana†
Blackberry
Blueberries
Cantaloupe
Grapes†
Honeydew
Orange (including peel)
Papaya
Peach
Pear
Pineapple
Plums
Raspberries
Strawberries
Tomato
Watermelon
† = Use very sparingly, as rabbits will eat only these, and ignore their other food.

Cecal pellets are mostly digested food that rabbits defecate and subsequently reingest; a process known as Coprophagia. Usually a rabbit will eat the pellets straight from their anus, and as such, many people do not know of this aspect of a rabbit's diet. They are often referred to as "night pellets" or "night droppings", since the rabbits tend to eat them a few hours after their evening meal.

Cecal pellets are soft, smelly, clumpy feces, and are a rabbit's only supply of Vitamin B12. Due to the design of the rabbit's digestive system, they cannot extract some vitamins and minerals directly from their food. At the end of their digestive system is an area called the cecum where cellulose and other plant fibers are broken down and ferment. After they have been broken down and passed, a rabbit's digestive system can finally extract the vitamins from them.

Occasionally, your rabbit may leave these pellets lying about their cage; while smelly, this behavior is harmless. If their cecal pellets are consistantly wet and runny, this may indicate either too little fiber, or too many starches in their diet. This probably means that they need to be fed additional hay.

Reproduction

Rabbits are famed for their reproductive capabilities. Although certainly not the strongest, fastest, or smartest of the mammals, they have carved out a strong ecological niche through their impressive ability to multiply quickly. This prolificness lead to the term, "multiply like rabbits".

Rabbits have a very high success rate for impregnation, due to the fact that female rabbits ovulate at the time of copulation. The gestation cycle for a rabbit averages 31 days, although it can vary anywhere between 29 and 35 days. Litter sizes generally range between two and 12 rabbits.

Rabbits have many names they are known by. In the US (particularly), they are commonly referred to as bunny. Young rabbits are known by the names bunny, kit, or kitten. "Rabbit" itself used to be the word applied to the young, with the adult being called a cony or coney (pronounced cunny). This term fell out of useage owing to the taboo value of a homonym, and "rabbit" became common usage for both the young and the adult, with "bunny" entering into use later. A male rabbit is called a buck, and a female rabbit is called a doe. A group of rabbits is known as a herd.

Unless being bred for food, it is highly recommended that you get your rabbit either spayed[?] or neutered. Female rabbits in particular face about an 80% change of contracting some form of reproductive cancer (ovarian, uterine or mammarian[?]) at approximately two years of age. Spaying your female rabbit will nearly eliminate this risk. Futhermore, spaying and neutering will make your rabbit less prone to destructive behavior (such as spraying, chewing, and digging.) In addition to being less destructive, they will be calmer and will generally make better companions. As a bonus, altering your rabbit will help reduce the severe problem of domestic rabbit overpopulation.

Species

Notable species include the European rabbit, Oryctolagus cuniculus, which has been domesticated and through selective breeding has produced a wide range of breeds of pet rabbits. The wild form is well-known for digging networks of burrows[?] called warrens. The American genus Sylvilagus comprises thirteen cottontail species.

Taxonomy

Unlike hares, they are born blind and furless, in a furlined nest, and totally dependent upon their mother. They were classified as Rodentia until 1912, when they were moved to the Lagomorpha order.

Rabbits share the family Leporidae, together with the related hares. Their order, Lagomorpha, in addition to containing hares, also contains pikas.

Rabbits and people

Rabbits are popular pets. They are an example of an animal which is both petted and eaten by the same culture. Snares or shotguns are usually employed when catching rabbits for food. Dogs are often employed in rabbit hunting. Rabbits are often raised for meat called cuniculture. Rabbit pelts are a widely used fur for clothing.

Because of their appetites, and the rate at which they breed, wild rabbit depredation can prove problematic for agriculture. Gassing, barriers (fences), shooting, snaring and ferreting have been used to control rabbit populations, as has the disease myxomatosis.

Rabbits in culture and literature

Rabbits are often used as a symbol of fertility. It is possibly as a consequence of this that they have been associated with Easter. The species' roles as a prey animal also lends itself as a symbol of innocence as an animal that seems to wish harm on no one. It is also common folklore archetype of the trickster who uses his cunning to outwit his enemies. The most common example of this is Brer Rabbit and by extension, the cartoon character Bugs Bunny also typifies this image. There is a rabbit among the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac. Rabbits have appeared in a host of works of film and literature, notably the White Rabbit in Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland; in the popular novel Watership Down; and as Rabbit feet are considered lucky, and fake rabbit feet are often sold as cheap trinkets.

External Links

http://www.rabbit.org - House Rabbit Society[?]


See also: cuniculture, Easter Bunny, hare, Rabbit invasion in Australia



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