The European rabbit or common rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) is a species of rabbit native to southwestern Europe (Spain and Portugal) and northwest Africa (Morocco and Algeria). It is listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN red list, because the designation is based only on the population in its native range, which is declining due to "disease, habitat loss and human-induced mortality" (Smith and Boyer 2008). Its decline in its native range has caused subsequent decline of its highly dependent predators, the Iberian lynx and the Spanish Imperial eagle. However, O. cuniculus is also known as an invasive species because it has been widely introduced to countries on all continents with the exception of Antarctica and sub-Saharan Africa, often with devastating effects on local biodiversity, environments and ecosystems. Australia has the most problems with European rabbits, due to the lack of natural predators there.
The European rabbit is well known for digging networks of burrows, called warrens, where it spends most of its time when not feeding. Unlike the related hares (Lepus spp.), rabbits are altricial, the young being born blind and furless, in a fur-lined nest in the warren, and they are totally dependent upon their mother. Much of the modern research into wild rabbit behaviour was carried out in the 1960s by two research centres. One was the naturalist Ronald Lockley, who maintained a number of large enclosures for wild rabbit colonies, with observation facilities, in Orielton, Pembrokeshire. Apart from publishing a number of scientific papers, he popularised his finding in a book The Private Life of the Rabbit, which is credited by Richard Adams as having played a key role in his gaining "a knowledge of rabbits and their ways" that was espoused in the novel Watership Down. The other group was the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Australia, where Mykytowycz and Myers performed numerous studies of the social behaviour of wild rabbits. Since the onset of Myxomatosis, which is a disease caused by the Myxoma virus and the decline of the significance of the rabbit as an agricultural pest, few large-scale studies have been performed and many aspects of rabbit behaviour are still poorly understood (Wikipedia 16 October 2013).
A domestic rabbit (more commonly known as simply the rabbit) is any of the several varieties of European rabbit that have been domesticated. Male rabbits are called bucks; females are called does. An older term for an adult rabbit is coney, while rabbit referred only to the young animals. More recently, the term kit or kitten has been used to refer to a young rabbit. A young hare is called a leveret; this term is sometimes informally applied to a young rabbit as well (Wikipedia 21 October 2013).
Smith, A.T. & Boyer, A.F. 2008. Oryctolagus cuniculus. In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.1.
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- Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, 16 October, 2013. European Rabbit. Retrieved October 22, 2013 from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=European_rabbit&oldid=577499455
- Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, 21 October, 2013. Domestic Rabbit. Retrieved October 22, 2013 from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Domestic_rabbit&oldid=578143322