Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Apple #17: Rabbits

I just finished reading Rabbit, Run by John Updike. The book has nothing to do with rabbits, but I thought they'd make a good topic for today.

A whole pile of cuteness -- bunnies, I mean.
(Photo by Yvette/Why68 on Flickr)

  • Rabbit's milk is very rich in nutrients, so mother rabbits need to nurse their young for only a few minutes a day. So if you see baby rabbits by themselves, the mother rabbit is probably going to come back in the evening.
  • Rabbits are classified as crepuscular animals, which means they feed either at dawn or dusk.
  • Rabbit babies are born naked, with closed eyes. Hares, on the other hand, are born with fur and their eyes open.
  • Rabbits are good swimmers. Cottontails especially are known to evade predators by jumping into lakes or streams and swimming away.
  • During mating, the male snowshoe rabbit fights other male rabbits with his large teeth.
  • Both rabbits and hares bear between four and eight litters per year. The mother rabbit may have three to eight babies per litter. Considering that a rabbit reaches sexual maturity in 6 months and may live to be as old as 10 years, one rabbit could have as many as 640 babies in its lifetime.
This is one enormous rabbit.  The guy holding him is his breeder, and they live in Germany.
(Photo from Ahmed Sajjad's blog)

  • Rabbits were first brought to Britain by the Romans. They were more recently introduced in South America, Australia, and other Oceanic islands. The rabbit population in New Zealand multiplied from an original 7 rabbits brought to the island in 1860.
  • In Australia, rabbits were breeding so rapidly and destroying crops to the point that the country decided to try to control (reduce) its rabbit population. They introduced a virus called myxoma in the 1950's, which killed over 90% of the rabbits. The disease also spread to Europe and decimated rabbit populations there as well. However, the remaining rabbits developed a resistance to the disease and at the same time, the virus evolved into a less virulent form. Rabbit populations have since swelled once again.
  • Most rabbits and hares live on tree bark, herbs, vegetable, and grass. Some rabbits occasionally eat mice and carrion.
  • This is from infoplease.com: "When feeding on green herbage, rabbits, like hares, excrete soft pellets which they reingest; the waste products of the redigested food are excreted as dry pellets."
  • Because of this feeding practice, wild rabbits are often infected with a disease called tularemia. This disease can be passed to humans through bites or by ticks. If you are infected, you first get a high fever and start throwing up or having awful diarrhea. Then you develop lesions at the site of infection (mouth, eyes, arms), and then your lymph nodes swell up and start releasing pus and draining. It's treatable with antibiotics, but the mortality rate from this disease is 6%. So, to be safe, don't pick up those wild bunnies living under your bushes!

As incredibly cute as a wild bunny might look, it's safer for you and the bunny if you don't pick it up. With domesticated bunnies, though, bring on the bunny love!
(Photo from gone on SodaHead)

Incidentally, when I searched on "rabbits" on Encyclopedia Britannica online, John Updike's name came up as one of the results.

Encarta's entry on Rabbits and Hares
Infoplease's entries on rabbits
and tularemia
Graig Farm Organics (with wild rabbit recipes)
Australia and New Zealand Rabbit Calcivirus Disease Program
Buckeye House Rabbit Society

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