Rabbits

With Easter coming our way I thought we’d all better brush up on our rabbit knowledge. They are much more than just cute, furry little hoppers.

By Espaby (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Rabbits are mammals. Many people mistakenly think they are rodents, but in fact, they are lagomorphs. Can you say lagomorph? A lagomorph is a mammal that has different teeth and genitalia than a rodent. Also, they are almost completely herbivorous (meaning they eat plants, but not other animals as rodents do). Rabbits do have one important characteristic in common with rodents though – their teeth grow throughout their whole entire lives. They have to chew, chew, chew on things to keep them from growing too long. They have 28 teeth and they LOVE to chew (keep this in mind if you think you want one for a pet!)

By Rubyk at en.wikipedia [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], from Wikimedia Commons

Rabbits are known for their reproduction, partly because they only stay pregnant for about a month before giving birth and can have anywhere from 1 to 15 kits (babies) in a litter. Even rabbits as young as 6 months old can have babies, so they typically have a lot of kits in a lifetime. Mama rabbits are called does, and daddies are called bucks, just like deer. Often large groups of rabbits live together in a warren, an extensive system of interconnected burrows under the ground. They live in many parts of the world, including North America, Europe, Japan, Southeast Asia, Sumatra, Africa, and South America.

Want one for a pet? Here are a few things you should know.  They actually tend to be pretty good pets.  They are pretty clean animals, and will even use a litter box if trained to.  They are quiet, though they do make little sounds kind of like the purrs of a cat.  They need hay to help their digestion and keep from getting fur balls (they can’t vomit!).  A pet rabbit can live as long as 10 years.  Typically they need a hutch or something secure, both to keep them from roaming into neighbor’s yards and gardens, and to protect them from potential predators.  They don’t have a lot of defensive moves!  In fact, predators can actually scare rabbits to death.

Want to eat rabbits? They are actually very healthy for you, with less cholesterol and fat than chicken, pork, or beef. They have all white meat. Although not as common to us as the other meats, they are bred as food and consumed all over the world much like chicken is.

The Easter Bunny has it’s roots in Germany where good children received colored eggs and gifts from the Easter Hare (in Europe it is still considered a hare, not a rabbit). The German immigrants to the United States brought the story along with them, and as good traditions do, it spread.

By Lesekreis (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Additional Layers

Library List:

  • Rabbits are often considered the tricksters in tales, and known for their cleverness.  Read Brer Rabbit, and other rabbit tales.  (Even Bugs Bunny was a trickster!)
  • Watership Down by Richard Adams (middle school age and up) is a very interesting look at both rabbits and people alike.  The rabbit warren of the story shows remarkable similarities to human communities, and it’s an insightful look into how people act.
  • Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit is a classic that every child should read.  Read it, and then plant lettuce, carrots, and radishes in a little garden plot.  Rabbit poop makes excellent garden fertilizer too.  You can also check out the Fun and Games section of The World of Peter Rabbit.
  • The Velveteen Rabbit and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane are two endearing stories about stuffed rabbits that go on adventures when they are less than cared for by their owners.

More From Layers of Learning

Check out our science page to learn about other animals, and our holidayopedia for lots more holiday learning and fun.  Then we’d love for you to come meet up with us on social media.  Karen and Michelle would love to hear from you.  We absolutely love meeting new web friends.  Hope to see you there!

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