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Happy Year of the Rabbit! How much do you know about our furry friends? Rabbits are an ancient source of folklore; in some Asian countries, they see a rabbit in the Moon, not a man in the Moon! Enjoy these rascally rabbit facts—and take a fun quiz matching rabbit tails to story tales!
Where Do Rabbits Come From?
Sure, rabbits have been around for thousands of years, but they were originally found only in Africa and Europe—and especially in Spain, where there was an early overabundance of the animal!
Get this: Spain’s name comes from the Latin word Hispania, which means “the land of rabbits!”
Until about 400 years ago, rabbits were kept for food and fur. Then people started to keep them as pets, too.
Wild rabbits live in forests, thickets, meadows, prairies, and deserts, usually underground in clusters of burrows, called warrens, where they sleep. The warrens are dug by the does and also help to protect rabbits from their enemies. Rabbits are prey to numerous predators, such as foxes, hawks, owls, wolves, and even raccoons.
Also, rabbits usually give birth at night!
Twitchy Noses and Long Ears
To escape danger, rabbits use their keen sense of smell! They can twitch their nose up to 150 times per minute to smell out dangerous predators that they can’t yet see or hear.
What about those long rabbit ears? Rabbits also have excellent hearing because of these long, flexible ears which are their best defense. They can detect even the slightest sounds.
Rabbit eyesight is also excellent. They can see in the dark and long distances really well which helps with predator defence. Sometimes they sleep with their eyes open!
Hopping and Thumping
Rabbits’ hind legs, which are longer than their front legs, help them to hop up to 15 feet—and communicate. Fur padding on the bottoms of their hind feet helps to reduce the shock of landing after a leap.
When a rabbit is alarmed, it will warn other rabbits of the danger by thumping its hind feet. If a rabbit feels safe, it may lie on its stomach with its legs outstretched. If it screams or grinds its teeth loudly, it may be in pain, but quiet grinding usually signals contentment, much like a cat’s purr.
What Do Rabbits Eat?
Rabbits have sharp front teeth called incisors, plus peg teeth, which are additional incisors behind the front teeth. Peg teeth are used mainly for grabbing and cutting food.
Being herbivores, rabbits feast on plants for food, usually preferring their sprouts and stems. They like clover, dandelions, and other weeds, as well as brussels sprouts, celery, grass, hay, herbs, oats, peppers, and, of course, carrots.
In the winter, when food is in short supply, rabbits nibble on tender tree bark. After eating in the morning, rabbits produce mushy, partly digested droppings, which they eat. This provides them with extra nutrients.
Rabbits Versus Hares
Many people think that hares and rabbits are the same, but they are not. Hares are larger than rabbits and have longer legs and ears. When hare kits are born, they have a lot of fur and their eyes are open. When rabbit kits are born, they have no hair and their eyes and ears are sealed shut.
Confused? Here’s more news: Jackrabbits are hares and the Belgian hare is a rabbit!
Man—er, Rabbit—in the Moon?
Many countries have a tale about what images appear in the full Moon. In Japan, people see a rabbit making mochi (a sticky rice cake) with a big wooden hammer.
Rabbit Quiz: Tails With Tales!
Rabbits have been featured in MANY childhood stories. Match each rabbit in the first list with the clue to its story in this second list. (Answers end of this page!)
1. Brer Rabbit
2. Peter Cottontail
3. Peter Rabbit
5. Uncle Wiggily
6. Velveteen Rabbit Match to:
a. rabbit gentleman
b. “creetur” known to Uncle Remus
c. gift to a boy at Christmas
d. friend to Jimmy Skunk, Johnny Chuck, Hooty Owl, and others
e. was chased out of Mr. McGregor’s garden
f. friend of Flower and the wobbly-legged fawn, Bambi
If someone wishes you “rabbit, rabbit, white rabbit” first thing in the morning on the first day of the month, say “thank you”. A common superstition holds that receiving this greeting bestows good luck for the rest of the month. The exact origin of the tradition is unknown, but it can be traced to 1420 in England.
Names for the Rabbit Family
A male rabbit is called a buck.
A female rabbit is called a doe.
Baby rabbits are called kits. When they are born, they weigh about 1 ounce.
Any rabbit can be called a bunny. (It’s like calling a cat a kitty.)
A group of rabbits is called a herd.
A group of baby rabbits is called a litter, or nest.
So, what about those rabbits in the garden? They sure love your garden goodies! We’re not trying to be mean but there are steps you can take if you like some carrots for yourself. See how to keep rabbits out of the garden.