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Interesting facts about rabbits

  • Rabbits are members of the order Lagomorpha. Lagomorphs have six open-rooted incisors (three upper and three lower) compared with the four incisors of other rodents.
  • Rabbit digestion also differs from that of other rodents. Their gastrointestinal tract has a simple glandular stomach, a long intestinal tract, and a large caecum. The caecum is the site of bacterial synthesis of B vitamins.
  • About one-third of the normal faeces is composed of soft faeces called cecotrophs. Cecotrophs are consumed by the rabbit, usually at night. They are an important source of vitamin B, electrolytes, and nitrogen. The other two-thirds of faeces are hard fibrous pellets that are usually passed during the day.
  • In healthy rabbits, urine may sometimes have a red or orange discolouration. This is because of the presence of a porphyrin pigment or a food-related metabolite excreted in the urine.
  • The many recognised breeds of rabbits can be divided into three groups:
    • giant breeds, with an average body weight greater than 5 kilograms
    • medium breeds, with a weight range of 3.5–5 kilograms
    • small or dwarf breeds, whose weight is less than 3.5 kilograms.
  • Small-to-medium breeds are more suited to the classroom because housing for large breeds takes up more space and the rabbits are usually too heavy for small children to handle.
  • Long-haired varieties, such as the angora rabbit, need daily grooming.
  • Rabbits are social animals, and so you should house two of the same gender together. Male rabbits are best neutered to help stop them fighting.

Reproduction and development

  • Rabbits are prolific breeders. Depending on its size, a female rabbit (doe) may breed at four to eight months old. The males (bucks) reach puberty at six to ten months.
  • The does are induced ovulators, that is, the act of mating stimulates their ovaries to release eggs for fertilisation.
  • Gestation is usually thirty to thirty-three days, and litters average four to ten kits.
  • The kits are born with no fur and with eyes and ears closed. Their eyes open after seven to ten days. Kits leave the nest box at fifteen to twenty days, and they are weaned at four to six weeks old.
  • If you are breeding rabbits, you need a special nest box. Line it with straw. The doe will use fur from her abdomen to provide more soft insulating material.