All about wild rabbits!

Around 1.8 million to 10,000 years ago, the European wild rabbit lived all over Europe. However, after the last ice age, which was 20,000 years ago, the European rabbit was left only on the Iberian Peninsula, in some areas of France and in northwest Africa. The species now exists all over the world, except in Asia and Antarctica, humans have mainly been responsible for the later spread of the species

.

Social groupings

In the wild, European rabbits often live in large groups, that consist of a dominant male and multiple females and subordinate males. There are typically multiple subgroups within the colony, which consist of 1 to 8 males and 1 to 12 females. The males occupy territories that they defend from one another whilst the females stay in specific areas, they do not defend these areas from other rabbits. The dominant male will regularly patrol their territory and require submission from males and females within the territory. Whilst there are frequent aggressive encounters between male’s serious injuries are rare as there is always space to retreat in the wild. The dominant male will also seek out and interrupt all aggressive and sexual encounters, which also reduces the risk of injuries.

Individuals or groups of rabbits typically leave the warren to graze at dawn and dusk, as they are a crepuscular species. When groups of rabbits are outside of the warren together, they take turns checking for predators, which they do by stopping feeding and standing up on their hind legs and raising their ears. The larger the group of rabbits that are outside the warren together then the less time any one rabbit spends checking for predators.

Diet

European rabbits search for food within a home range, the size of which depends on the availability of food, age, status, and group size. The rabbits’ diet mainly consists of grass and herbs; however, they will also eat fruit, roots, leaves and bark.

Rabbits feed in two ways: 1. Plants are chewed and swallowed and 2. Cecotropes are taken directly from the anus and eaten. Cecotropes are full of nutrients that the rabbit needs so this is an important part of their diet.

Senses and communication

European rabbits have an excellent sense of smell and can hear even very low-volume sounds. Their ears can be rotated independently, allowing them to identify the direction from which a predator is approaching. They also have close to a 360-degree field of vision, apart from a small blind spot directly in front of their nose.

Rabbits have a range of auditory communications, most of which are low volume. Purring, clicking and quiet tooth grinding generally indicate contentment. While loud tooth grinding, grunting and growling are threat behaviours. Rabbits may also loudly grind their teeth when they are in pain. Thumping behaviour is an alarm signal and in cases of extreme distress or fright a rabbit can also scream.

Since rabbits have an excellent sense of smell, they also communicate using scent marking. Males scent mark by urine spraying, they will spray lower-ranking males and females in estrus as part of courtship behaviour. The European rabbit often marks their territory by rubbing their chins against objects as they have scent glands located under the chin and they also mark their territory with their feaces.