A rabbit warren is a community of rabbits that have holes and burrows underground. These tunnels are all interconnected with each other.
While many people think that all wild rabbits live this way, it isn't true. Wild rabbits that are native to North America rarely dig their own burrows. Usually they will make a nest in some dense shrubbery or use a discarded hole or den that they find.
European wild rabbits are known for their warrens. The book, Watership Down, by Richard Adams, tells the tale of one such warren. Our domestic rabbits come from European rabbits, so when they are let loose and start living wild, they will dig burrows and tunnels.
In the late 19th century, European rabbits were introduced to the San Juan Islands in Washington State. There were no native predators, so the rabbits flourished. One tunnel system measured at American Camp on one of the islands measured around 300 feet with over 56 entrances. Too many of these can alter the way water is absorbed into the soil. Sometimes they will collapse due to erosion by wind or rain.
The average rabbit warren has about 9 entrances into what covers 1/5 of an acre. Underground, the tunnels may measure from 295 to 492 feet in total length. Large side chambers are used communally by younger rabbits, while smaller side chambers are used by does with litters. Intersections in the tunnels may measure about 10 inches by 15 inches. A full warren may take 10 to 15 years to dig.
European wild rabbits have been raised domestically for centuries. Unlike native North American rabbits, that prefer forested and shrubby areas, the European wild rabbit prefers prairies and grasslands that make it easier for them to dig their burrows.
Some rabbit breeders want to raise their rabbits more naturally and try a contained area on the ground. It doesn't work out too well for many who try this. There is no way to control injuries and territorial disputes. In order to contain the warren, barriers must be placed deep into the earth on all sides and across the bottom.
More litters are lost, and pedigree record keeping is impossible. Warrens are run by a dominant buck, who decides who to breed with, who gets access to the food, and so on. The dominant doe in the rabbit warren may kill the litters of lesser does or harass them so they don't get to eat. Disease is more prevalent in these contained systems, while in the wild work pretty well.
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