A rabbit's fur is generally long and soft, brown or grey in colour and may have white underneath their short tail. The long ears of a rabbit are most likely an adaptation for detecting predators and helping them cool down. Wild rabbits are rather uniform in body proportions and stance. UK rabbits (Orytolgaus cuniculus) originated in Spain and South West France. The rabbit was brought to England during the Roman occupation in the 1st century AD and again during the 12th century AD by the Normans. They were bred in captivity in both warrens and cages for their meat and fur.
The rabbit population is estimated to be 40 million and they generally breed from 5 months old. They can produce litters of up to 7 young, often doing so 4 or 5 times a year due to the fact that a rabbit's gestation period is only 28 to 31 days. Hence the term "breeding like rabbits". New born rabbits are naked, blind and helpless at birth. Mothers are remarkably inattentive to their young and almost absentee parents, commonly nursing their young only once per day and for just a few minutes.
In the 1950s, myxomatosis virus, a haemorrhagic disease, was "accidentally" released into the wild and the rabbit population was decreased significantly. However, over time the surviving rabbits have repopulated so that they are once again a common animal of the British countryside. Rabbits are a serious agricultural pest for farmers and gardeners eating and damaging crops and plants. The main predators of adult rabbits are the stoat and fox while young rabbits are often taken by birds of prey and weasels.
The male (buck) and the female (doe) rabbits generally measure 40-50 cm in length and have ears that measure 8.5 cm long. They have compact bodies with long, powerful hind legs. The European rabbit occupies open landscapes such as fields, parks and gardens. Rabbits are abundant in grassland areas where the soil allows them to make extensive, well drained burrows, but also where there are hedges or woodland to give shelter and cover.
Rabbits are herbivores who feed by grazing on grass, leafy weeds, vegetable matter, cereal crops and gnaw tree bark. Rabbits are copraphages which means they eat their first soft droppings and redigest them to extract as much nutrition as possible. The hard dry droppings are the result of the second passage through the digestive tract.
Rabbits usually graze in the early morning and evening. The first half hour will be intensive feeding but will be more selective thereafter. If the environment is non-threatening the rabbit will remain out of the burrow for many hours grazing at intervals.
The European rabbit is the most social of the rabbit species, sometimes forming groups in warrens of up to 20 individuals. They construct extensive burrow systems, called warrens. Warren tunnels are often 1-2 metres long but may be longer. The nest at the end of the tunnel is lined with grasses and soft belly fur. They use regular trails, which they scent mark with faecal pellets. Rabbits are active throughout the year and are generally nocturnal and they are also relatively silent. Other than loud screams when frightened or caught by a predator, the only sound signal known for most species is a loud foot thump made to indicate alarm or aggression.
Scent has an important role in the communication systems of most rabbits. They use their well-developed glands throughout their body to rub them on fence posts trees and other objects to convey group identity, sex, age, social and reproductive status and mark territory. When in danger, rabbits tend to freeze and hide under cover. When chased by a predator, they engage in quick, irregular movement, as they attempt to evade or confuse their pursuer and bolt for the nearest hole.
Mother rabbits will often only visit their kittens once a day, to prevent predators from observing wherre their nests are. To overcome this lack of attention, rabbit milk is highly nutritious and among the richest of all mammals. The young grow very quickly and are weaned in about a month. Males (bucks) do not assist in rearing the kittens. The mother rabbit can become pregnant again 4 days after the birth of her kittens. Rabbits can live up to 9 years though most will not survive more than two years with the majority dying within the first few months.
Why control rabbits?
The Pest Act 1954 declared the UK as a Rabbit clearance area, land and property owners are required to control rabbit numbers on their land.
Seven to 10 rabbits can eat the same amount of food as one adult sheep, rabbits graze on crops, grassland and young trees.
Rabbits cause around 260 million pounds worth of damage every year.
Estimates place the rabbit population at 35 million to 40 million, growing 2 percent every year.
Rabbits cause millions of pounds of damage to agriculture each year.
In extreme conditions which are becoming more frequent such as a drought year, rabbits can remove too much vegetation which leads to soil erosion.
How Ace Mole Catching can help
We provide effective and humane solutions to your rabbit problems.
We will offer you a free, no obligation, survey and health and safety inspection providing recommendations
for the most cost-effective solution for your particular problem,
Solutions may include:
Rabbit proof netting
Traps (Live Catch)
Night Vision Shooting
Purse nets and ferrets