Rabbits are sociable animals and live in colonies in burrow systems known as warrens.

Overview

Picture of a RabbitDistribution: originally from north-western Africa, Spain and Portugal but now widespread across much of Europe. Also introduced to many countries and islands, including Australia, New Zealand and Chile.

Habitat: a wide variety, ranging from farmland to moorlands, woodlands and sand dunes.

Description: greyish-brown fur with orange at nape of neck (black rabbits are fairly common). Long ears (up to 7cm) but shorter than hares' and no black tips. Short tail, black on top and white underneath.

Size: Male (buck) 48cm (19in) long. Female (doe) smaller with narrower head.

Life-span: about 9 years. In the wild most rabbits live less than one year.

Food: mainly grasses, clovers and other green plants; also bark of trees.

Rabbits were brought to Britain by the Romans about 2,000 years ago.  Rabbit remains were found in an archaeological dig near Thetford, Norfolk in 2005.  These rabbits were bred for food and were kept in walled enclosures with deep foundations so that they could not escape into the wild and almost certainly the population died out when the Romans left. 

Rabbits first escaped into the wilds of Britain when they were reintroduced by the Normans, who kept them in large, enclosed warrens for their fur and meat. They have gnawing teeth and so used to be classed as rodents, but rabbits and hares have been re-classified into a group of their own, lagomorpha.

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