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Featured Jack Rabbit Article
Let Me Introduce You To The Domesticated Bunny Rabbit
by Andrea Austin,
We see them in pet shops, in zoos, on television shows, in magic tricks, even in our own backyards—rabbits really are some of the most ubiquitous creatures in existence. They are also some of the most beloved, with attractive qualities such as luxurious soft fur and a relatively long lifespan (5-10 or 15 years), as far as family pets go.
While rabbits may not be quite as popular as cats and dogs, they are terrific as pets and often much easier to take care of. If you are thinking of buying or adopting a pet rabbit for you and your family, you are in very good company—there are nearly 15 million pet rabbits kept in the United States. But you might be wondering exactly what to feed your new buddy or how to litter-box train him or her. Most of us know to walk dogs and to give cats scratching posts, but what sort of exercise should you enable your rabbit to do?
Let’s begin with the basics: some background information on rabbits.
Where Do They Come From?
The animals we generally call rabbits are actually subdivided into two large categories. The first are domesticated rabbits, known in the scientific community as Oryctolagus cuniculus forma domestica; and the second are wild rabbits, otherwise known as Oryctolagus cuniculus. They originally come from the Western hemisphere, but by now they have spread far and wide, existing in most parts of the world.
Rabbits as we know them have a few close relatives. Hares or jack rabbits in the American West and cottontails of North and South America are both in the same animal order, but they are different from the tame creatures we bring into our homes.
While most of us today recognize rabbits as pets, they have actually been used as a food source for much of human history. The Romans were apparently the first to raise wild rabbits and hare in open-air hutches, as food sources. Later, in the Middle Ages, French monks started raising the first tame rabbits. Gradually, the monks began to separate the rabbits by patterns (such as spotted) and colors of fur (such as white), creating varieties that exist to this day.
Because rabbits propagate quickly (as has been fodder for countless jokes), they also made valuable provisions for explorers who were trekking around the world on boats. On board, the sailors had no fresh food other than what they brought with them. Bringing live rabbits created an ever-ready food supply, a good alternate to only consuming old, salted meats.
As the rabbits were carried far and wide on ships and through other means, the global population of rabbits expanded exponentially. Some of the rabbits were introduced into the wild on purpose, and others somehow managed to escape and run off into the brush. But too much of a good thing is not always wise. In many parts of the world, especially those where there were few predatory animals, the rabbit population grew and grew—so much that it began to cause ecological problems and headaches from the human inhabitants.
Their Place in the Animal World
As you now know, rabbits have long been bred for meat, as well as for their fur. But in the 19th century, people began breeding beautiful rabbits simply for people to keep as pets. Since then, they have grown rapidly in popularity among animal lovers, both young and old. Though there are plenty of people who consider rabbits a good source of nutrition, and still others of us (though the number is thankfully decreasing) who think of rabbits in terms of fur coats and fur hats, the number who keep rabbits simply because they love the little creatures continues to grow.
by Andrea Austin
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