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Rabbits – a small group of mammals, numbering about a dozen species. The closest relatives of rabbits are rabbits, with whom they share the common family leporidae. Other related species are the pikas. All these animals make up a detachment lagomorphs. Thus rabbits are not rodents, as many believe.
Rabbits medium-sized animals, body length of an average of 30-50 cm, the weight of 0.5-2 kg. Outwardly, they are very similar to birds – long-eared, with a well developed strong limbs, especially the rear, with a short tail. The eyes of rabbits are located on the sides of the head and the angle of view they are very wide. Interestingly, the rear sight of these animals developed better than the front. This gives rabbits as victims who are forced to flee constantly. The structure of the digestive tract in rabbits in a very peculiar. The food is processed mainly in the large intestine, because of the abundance of rabbits in the feed crude fiber nutrients are extracted not completely, so the rabbits sometimes eat their own droppings. The fur of these animals heterogeneous quality: in some species it is very soft and silky, at others more rigid. Coloring rabbits the same as that of the birds – a patronizing predominance of gray and brown hues. An outside observer at first glance it is difficult to distinguish a rabbit from a hare, but there is a difference. In rabbits, hares ears noticeably shorter (for example, the European rabbit only 6-7 cm), round profile head, while at the birds face more elongated. There is a difference in lifestyle.
The natural center of diversity of the species of rabbits is the New World, where they live on both continents – North and South America. Outside of this zone found only one species – the European rabbit, which originally lived in southern Europe. However, this type was introduced in different countries of the world and now the European rabbits are found in Africa, Australia, on many oceanic islands.
In general, all kinds of heat-loving animals and rabbits live in tropical, subtropical and southern temperate zone. Favorite places rabbits habitat are bushland, meadows with inclusions of woody vegetation, at least semi-desert. Rabbits sedentary animals, and in contrast to the birds they have permanent homes – holes. Rabbits can burrow own or occupy abandoned asylum other animals.
Occasionally they can make open nests in secluded bush. Another specific feature is that rabbits often settle colonies (rabbits live alone).
These animals are active day and night, but the night out of the hole more often, which is associated with great danger from predators, hunting in the afternoon. During feeding the rabbits do not go away from the hole, constantly looking around, standing column. At the slightest threat they immediately hide in a hole. In this regard, less hardy than the rabbits and hares inferior to them in running speed (20-25 km / h). However, to catch the rabbit is still not an easy task, while running they skillfully maneuvering between the bushes and make sharp turns.
Rabbits eat plants, preferring grassy grasses. Rabbits are quite voracious creatures as rabbits 4-5 per day eat as much food as eating adult sheep. Where rabbits density is high, they are under the net to play off the vegetation.
In the northern parts of the range rabbits begin to breed in the spring, the southern species breed all year round. The marriage ritual in rabbits occurs not as rapidly as in birds, though their male rivals evicted from their site, but are not satisfied with the fierce fighting.
Rabbits – polygamous animals, that is, each male can mate with several females. Pregnancy lasts for about a month. The female brings in a hole 3-5 (sometimes up to 10) rabbits. Unlike rabbits hares are born stunted – naked and blind, and in need of constant care mother. The mother feeds them milk about a month, after which the young begin to eat grass and settle in a separate hole next to the adults.
For rabbits characterized by high fertility, soon after the resettlement of young female mates with a male again. Thus, for the year it is able to bring offspring 3-7 times and give birth to a total of 15-35 rabbits. Puberty comes early as 5-7 months. This inherent fertility of rabbits is not accidental. The fact that the natural mortality in these animals is also very high. Newborn rabbits are often killed in burrows during incessant rains, a sharp cold snap. Rabbits are often sick, their main pest is myxomatosis. This viral disease is festering eyes and numerous tumors in the head and genitals. The mortality rate among infected rabbits reaches 95%. The natural life span too small 5-7 (rarely up to 10) years.
In nature, rabbits have many enemies. They hunt coyotes, foxes, wolves, cougars, bobcats, weasels, owls, eagles.
People also extract these animals. Usually hunt rabbits with a gun, often with the help of hunting dogs. Rabbit meat is tender, tasty and digestible. European rabbit as a popular game was introduced to many parts of the world, but this ill-conceived acclimatization led to an environmental disaster. The fact that in the wild rabbits live under constant pressure from predators. Introduced on the new land, rabbits are not met there and its natural enemies have multiplied in incredible quantities. So popular game has become a competitor to livestock. On many islands rabbits do not only destroy native vegetation, but also pushed the local kind of small animals. The apotheosis was the thoughtless acclimatization rabbits in Australia in the late nineteenth century. There’s a couple of decades, rabbits spread across the continent, pushed many species of local fauna (including larger animals such as kangaroos), steel impede natural forest regeneration. Rabbits Invasion literally devastated the country. giant hedge, crossed almost the entire continent has been built to deal with their resettlement. But the rabbits were able to penetrate, and through it. It helps neither massive year-round hunting or baiting dogs or imported late fox – natural enemies of rabbits. The only salvation has appeared myxomatosis virus, artificially spread in the population. He greatly thinned the ranks of the army of rabbit, but some animals have developed immunity to even this terrible mora. Now the number of rabbits in Australia is relatively low, but the complete destruction of the animals on the continent achieve the impossible. However, the European long-domesticated rabbits and gave rise to a wide variety (meat, meat and selfish, duvets and decorative) rocks.