Rabbits are adorable little mammals most easily recognized by their long ears and short fluffy tails. Boasting distinct characteristics and mild demeanors, rabbits are said to make excellent pets. With over 30 different types of breeds worldwide, rabbits are undoubtedly some of the most common household pets after dogs and cats. Something interesting to note is that rabbits are not classified as rodents. On the contrary, they are known as lagomorphs.
What Is The Difference Between a Rabbit, Bunny and Hare?
Before venturing any further, it is important to know the difference between a rabbit, bunny and hare. To simplify things, rabbits and bunnies are the same thing. Bunny is just a term commonly used to describe a young rabbit and more often than not, an adult rabbit of a smaller breed. The big difference that you should know is between a rabbit and a hare. Although both originate from the Leporidae family, they are two different species of mammals. One simple way to tell the difference between the two is to note their sizes. Hares are significantly larger than rabbits. Although both have long ears and powerful hind legs, hares tend to have exposed nesting sites whereas rabbits live in secure nests underground. Additionally, hares are born with fur and with their eyes open whereas baby rabbits are born blind and without fur. Rabbits are commonly kept as pets whereas hares tend to fall under the ‘wild animal’ category.
What Are Some Important Facts About Rabbits?
Like all other creatures in the world, there are numerous interesting facts about rabbits that many people do not know about. These facts are important especially if you or someone you know is interested in adopting and keeping a rabbit as a pet. Here are some of the main things to keep in mind.
1. Lifespan & Size
Although this will generally vary according to the breed, rabbits have an average lifespan of between eight to 10 years. Because of their long life, pet owners have reported that it is not uncommon to spend up to $5000 in total throughout the duration of the rabbit’s life. This figure includes vet visits, food, and other necessities such as a hutch, cleaning products, vitamins, toys and other items. Hence it is important to know what you are getting yourself into before heading to the store for a pet bunny. When it comes to size, this also varies according to the breed. Although most rabbits do not grow larger than the size of a cat, species such as the jackrabbit, checkered giant, French giant and giant chinchilla can grow to the size of dog. An example is Darius, the world’s largest rabbit. Weighing in at 50 pounds and standing at 4 feet 3 inches, Darius hails from the United Kingdom and is insured for a whopping $1.6 million.
2. Physical Characteristics
These adorable creatures are best known for their furry tails and long ears. Depending on the breed, rabbit ears are on average four inches long. Rabbits also have very strong hind legs that allow them to leap and jump great distances and heights. In general, rabbits can jump up to one meter in height and three meters far. Additionally, rabbits also have an excellent sense of smell, sight and sound. Incredible 360 degree vision gives them the ability to detect predators from all directions, even from behind. That coupled with their lighting speed make them difficult prey, both for predators and those within the agricultural industry who view wild rabbits as pests.
If you decide to keep a rabbit as a pet, you have to know that its diet is very important. Besides high quality pellets, you should try your best to mimic the diet of wild rabbits. These include but are not limited to dry and fresh grasses and leafy plants, tree barks, twigs and sprouts, seeds and fruits. Generally, your pet bunny should be fed a diet that is high in vitamins A, D, calcium and protein. This is achieved through generous feedings of grass hay. Not only does hay promote healthy teeth, it is also good for your rabbit’s digestive tract. Feed your bunny approximately one cup of greens for every two pounds of your rabbit’s body weight once a day. Endives, spring greens, watercress, lettuce and kale are good options. You can also feed your rabbit broccoli and cauliflower, although keep in mind that because these vegetables have a higher starch and sugar content, should only be fed to your pet once in a while. Fruits like apples, cherries, peaches, plums, mangoes, kiwis, bananas, melons and pineapple should also be fed to your bunny in moderation. Remember to remove the seeds before offering them to your pet. When introducing your rabbit to something new, go slowly to allow its digestive tract to get used to the new foods. Try to space the introduction of new foods to three days at a time.
4. Social Life
In the wild, these territorial creatures live in organized social groups. Similarly, domestic rabbits are affectionate and very social, so it is recommended that you keep a minimum of two rabbits as pets. Like people, rabbits need companionship to thrive. They enjoy grooming each other and communicate through low humming and various other types of vocalizations. A sign of a happy rabbit is plenty of running, jumping, and the repetitive flicking of its feet.
Like other creatures, rabbits possess quirky habits that pet owners should address to keep their bunnies happy and healthy. For one, these animals love digging, so if your rabbit is kept mostly in hutch, provide it with digging substitutes like a sand or earth pit. A good option is to let it run around in an enclosed grassy patch ever so often. Rabbits also love hiding places. When preparing your pet’s hutch, ensure that you offer it a little enclosure where it can go to hide every time it feels stressed or threatened. A cardboard or plastic box will suffice. Additionally because rabbits are physical and active creatures, you should imitate their natural environment closely by providing them with simple tunnels, platforms and toys. This will give them the chance to exercise and stay healthy.
Not surprisingly, female rabbits can start reproducing as young as four months of age. Male rabbits can start reproducing once they are seven months old. As the gestation period only takes 30 days, female rabbits are capable of birthing multiple times a year with litters that range between four and 12 babies at a time. It is important to neuter your rabbits before bringing them home if you do no want little surprises every couple of months.
Rabbits play an important role in mythology and culture. For example, the rabbit is one of the 12 animals honored by the Chinese zodiac. They are said to represent compassion, stability, creativity and sensitivity. Rabbits are also the poster child of Easter although there are many conflicting reasons why this is so. Many say it is because rabbits symbolize fertility and rebirth. Although this has yet to be proven, pop culture dictates that carrying a rabbit’s foot will bring the person great luck and wealth.
It is said that over 70% of the world’s wild rabbits live in North America. However, domestic bunnies can be found in homes all around the world. From Malaysia to France, rabbits have become a common household pet. When setting up a rabbit cage or hutch at home, it is important to remember these tips. First, choose a cage that is a minimum of six times longer than the rabbit’s adult size. It is best to pick something made out of wire as it offers the rabbit plenty of fresh air flow and is easier to clean than enclosed cages. Line the cage with hay or rabbit-safe bedding and remember to stay away from newspapers as too much are toxic to rabbits. Contrary to popular belief, rabbits need a litter box even if its cage already has a built-in urine guard. This is because bunnies can catch infections from walking round in their feces so a small box lined with nontoxic litter placed at a corner of the cage is ideal. Remember to also place a comfortable piece of cloth at the other end of the cage to act as bedding. A towel or old tee shirt will work just fine. Finally, remember to add toys, platforms and a simple shelter in the hutch.