Wild rabbits in the United States are only distantly related to the domestic rabbit, which is descended from European rabbits. In fact, there are many types around the world.
Most sport a similar colored coat that helps them hide from predators. It is a mixture of brown, black and white hairs known as agouti. The following are just a few of those that inhabit our world.
The Marsh Rabbit (Sylvilagus palustris) lives in the southeastern region of the USA. They are medium sized with short, round ears and small feet. Marsh rabbits are a dark brown to reddish brown with a dark belly. Unlike other wild rabbits, even the underside of their tails are dark. They have thin fur.
Like many other rabbits, they have induced ovulation and a gestation period of 28 to 32 days. They are known for small litters that only nurse about two weeks. The babies' eyes open at 4 to 5 days of age and the rabbits are on their own by 15 days of age.
The Pygmy rabbit (Brachylagus idahoensis) lives in the western United States. They are very small (often less than a pound) and their fur varies from brown to a dark gray. White outlines their very short, round ears. They have dense fur and females are a little larger than the males.
Gestation is 27 to 30 days. They usually produce 6 babies per litter. Pygmy rabbits dig burrows, unlike any other North American rabbit species. They range according to the availability of their food sources. Pygmy rabbits eat sagebrush and other foliage. There are also many vocal noises they make.
Also known as the domestic rabbit or Old World rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), this rabbit originated in France and Spain. They were domesticated in Europe, where several breeds were developed through specialized breeding programs.
Wild European rabbits were taken by sailors and dropped off on islands and other ports of call to provide a ready food source for anyone who got marooned. The European Rabbit now lives wild in many areas of the world. This species of wild rabbits digs burrows in fields and forests. The wild version of this species tops out at just over 5 pounds.
The Brush Rabbit (Sylvilagus bachmani) ranges through Oregon and California. They live in dense, brushy areas. They mature at about 2 pounds and are agouti colored. Gestation lasts about 27 days, producing 2 to 4 babies.
They are most active just after sunset and remain active until early in the morning. They can sit absolutely still for long periods of time to avoid detection by predators. They eat grass, leaves, wild roses and blackberries. They are sometimes pests to crops and landscaping.
The Swamp Rabbit (Sylvilagus aquaticus) lives in the central US and around the Gulf coast. They prefer floodplains, marshes and swamps. They are the largest of the cottontail rabbits, growing between 5 and 6 pounds. Babies are born with their fur and their eyes open within the first week. Gestation lasts from 35 to 40 days. Litters range from 1 to 6 kits. Nests are made above ground in grass or inside stumps and logs.
Tres Marias Cottontail
The Tres Marias Cottontail (Sylvilagus graysoni) lives on the Tres Marias Islands west of Mexico. They live in burrows made by other animals, under brush piles or within dense shrubbery. They can grow almost to 6 pounds. Very little is known about this species of wild rabbits.
The Tapeti (Sylvilagus brasiliensis) ranges from southern Mexico to northern Argentina. They like forests. The tapeti only grows to around 2 pounds. Gestation is 42 to 45 days and babies are born furred with eyes open. They are mature enough to leave the nest by 18 days of age.
The Volcano Rabbit (Romerolagus diazi) is only found in the center of the Mexican volcanic belt. Their fur is more yellow than some of the other wild rabbits and they live in tall grasses in pine forests in the upper levels of the volcanic ranges. Babies are born with fur and closed eyes.
Hispid Hare, One of the Rarest Animals in the World
The Hispid Hare (Caprolagus hispidus) lives in the foothills of the Himalayan mountains. They are very rare and live in grassy areas. Hispids have short, broad ears and small eyes. They grow to 5.5 pounds. Very little is known about them.
Black Tailed Jackrabbit
The Black Tailed Jackrabbit (Lepus californicus) lives in the southwestern US, but ranges as far as Missouri and Washington State. They live in desert scrubland, farmland and prairies. These rabbits eat vegetation like sagebrush, juniper, and mesquite. They reach almost 7 pounds at maturity. Babies are born with fur and open eyes.
Cottontail Rabbits are a wild species native to North America. This species is a bit stocky in build with large hind feet, long ears and a fluffy white tail that has given the rabbit its name.
Snowshoe Rabbits aren't really rabbits; they are hares. They are found throughout the northern regions of North America. They are called snowshoe rabbits because they have large hind feet to make it easier for them to run on snow. They are also called varying hares because in the summer they have a brown coat and in winter they have a white coat. This change of color allows them to hide easily, no matter what the season.
Many people find wild baby rabbits after they have been weaned by their mothers and are on their own. Yes, they look very tiny and vulnerable, but the truth is they are ready to face the world. Catching these baby bunnies and giving them cow's milk or vegetables from the refrigerator is a sure way to make them sick. It may even be fatal.
Wild Baby Rabbits
While wild rabbits can survive on what we feed domestic rabbits, they don't have access to hay, pellets and fruits and vegetables out in the wild every day. In their world, they must survive on whatever they can find.
What Do Wild Rabbits Eat?
Many people may discourage you from feeding wild rabbits. If you are attracting adult wild rabbits to your yard, you may end up with more damage to your landscaping than you think. Once the rabbits find a place with lots of treats they like, they'll spread the word and you may be overrun before you know it.
Feeding Wild Rabbits
Why do some people consider raising wild rabbits? Sometimes, people stumble across abandoned nests of wild rabbits. Perhaps the mother became dinner for a coyote or a dog, or perhaps the nest has been disturbed by the lawn mower or other landscaping tool. Often, people find the nest and just assume the mother is missing because they don't see her. Mother rabbits only spend a few minutes a day with their young feeding them. The rest of the time the nest remains hidden and the mother tries not to attract attention to it.
Raising Wild Rabbits
Wild rabbits live in many different environments. There are many different species all over the world. They have adapted to the various regions quite well.
Where Do Wild Rabbits Live?
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.
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