Behavior Essentials: The European Rabbit

Key Points

  • Rabbits are prey species.
  • Wild rabbits live in underground burrows or warrens.
  • Rabbits use latrines.
  • Rabbits are crepuscular.
  • Rabbits are voracious eaters.
  • Rabbits practice coprophagy and cecotrophy.
  • Rabbits are highly social.
  • Rabbits are territorial.
  • Rabbits employ a host of non-verbal communication cues.
  • Although considered relatively silent animals, rabbits can emit a range of sounds.
  • Negative sexual behaviors peak during adolescence.
  • Neutering improves the pet quality of the domestic rabbit.
  • Adult rabbits are calmer and more predictable.

Although rabbits can make wonderful household companions, real-life rabbits are complex animals that share few similarities with the images that are prevalent in popular culture. Domesticated since the early 16th century, the pet European rabbit retains many of the behavioral characteristics of its wild ancestor. The wide spectrum of behaviors possible in house rabbits are generally not observed, or possible, in rabbits confined to a hutch or small cage. House rabbits thrive when they are provided mental stimulation and adequate space for exercise . . .

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