European rabbit

Oryctolagus cuniculus

TAXONOMY

Oryctolagus cuniculus (Linneaus, 1758), Germany. OTHER COMMON NAMES

French: Lapin de garenne; German: Wildkaninchen; Spanish: Conejo europeo.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Body length 14-20 in (35-50 cm), weight 3.3-6.6 lb (1,500-3,000 g). The fur is brown with light and black tips, tail white below.

DISTRIBUTION

Original distribution in the Iberian Peninsula and northwest Africa, but introduced 2,000 years ago to the rest of Europe. Later introductions also to Australia, New Zealand, South America, and several islands all over the world.

HABITAT

In Europe, found in well-drained areas where it is easy to dig dens such as riverbanks. But in introduced areas, it shows great adaptability and inhabits anything from deserts to sub-alpine valleys, including gardens and parks.

BEHAVIOR

It digs complex burrows for protection against predators and for reproduction. Scent marking is common in social communication, with dominant males being most active.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Grass, herbs, roots, bark, and cultivated plants.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Gestation length is about 30 days and they produce five to seven litters per year with a mean size of five to six. It forms highly social groups with one to four males and one to nine females; promiscuous mating.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Many introduced populations have reached pest proportions. Important game animal in many areas, and domestic breeds are used in laboratory research and as pet animals. ♦

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