Thursday, 9 July 2015

Day 249 - Beautiful Bouncing Bunnies!

Hey everyone Day 249 and today we`re looking at a lovely little mammal, one that can be seen most times you go out into the countryside, in fields or by the sides of the road.  Sadly they are often seen in a flattened state too because they dart across the road and don`t always look to see if anything is coming first :-(  I`m talking about rabbits, wild ones, not pet ones.  So here are the facts:

The Bunny/Rabbit.
I have more I just can't find them in the masses of files!

  • Rabbits are prolific breeders, which means they have lots and lots of babies in their lifetime and start having babies at a very young age.
  • Courtship is not a very romantic affair, it lasts less than a minute!  The male chooses the female, they lick, sniff and mate - and hey presto!
  • A female can have more than 20 babies a year and they can start having their own babies at only a few months old!
  • A male can mate with many females at a time but plays no part at all in their upbringing.
  • They breed for around 9 months of every year, starting in January / February up to October with the most babies being produced over the summer months.
  • However, all these babies are balanced by the fact that the survival rate is not great, which is why we are never really over-run by rabbits.  The main reasons for their high mortality rate are they are a tasty meal for many predators including corvids, raptors, foxes, badgers, etc., road traffic accidents, trapping, hunting and shooting, and disease such as myxomatosis.   
  • Over half of all baby rabbits conceived die before they are even born.  Of those that are born the pregnancy will have lasted around one month and the number of babies (kits) in each litter can be between 3 and 12.  Some rabbits can have a litter a month though this is not the norm.
  • The babies are born deaf, blind and furless and the mother only visits them a few times a day to feed them her milk, then she seals them back into their nest to keep them warm and safe.
  • Sadly most adult rabbits don`t make it past a year old.
  • They make deep underground burrows in woods, forests, farmland, cliffs, etc., and live in colonies in a complex network of burrows called a warren.  It can be 3 metres deep covering a large area and having many entrances.
  • The warren has a number of connected `rooms` such as their living quarters, nesting area, bolt runs and emergency exits!  A female will make a separate nest to have her babies in, lined with grass and bits of her own fur to keep the babies warm.
  • In each colony of rabbits there will be dominant and subordinate bucks (males) and does (females).  Dominant males will mark their territory with scent.
  • Wild rabbits are mostly nocturnal and spend most of their days underground.  They have an unusual habit of laying soft droppings which they then eat to get out as much nourishment as possible from them, and then go up on the grassland and leave the little hard pellets that we often see.
  • When we see rabbits in the day time it is usually because it is a warm day and the area is quiet and they feel reasonably safe.  They never stray far from their warren so they can dive back underground if disturbed or scared.
  • They have fantastic eyesight and have excellent peripheral vision of almost 360 degrees, including being able to see above them.  If they sense danger they thump a back paw on the ground and scoot off, showing their little white tail which also acts as an alert for the other rabbits.  They sometimes sit up onto their back legs to make them taller, and then freeze completely while they are assessing the danger, which is why there is a saying someone is like a rabbit caught in headlights if they freeze when they are scared.
  • Rabbits try to escape danger by zig-zagging away to try and throw off predators and are very good at changing direction quickly.
  • Their back legs are very strong and they can leap great distances to get them out of danger - up to one metre high and three metres long!
  • Adult rabbits can be between 8 and 20 inches long, and can weigh between 1 and 4 pounds.   They are usually grey/brown however sometimes you see black rabbits - two theories for this are that they are a particular breed which escaped into the wild, although they are all over the country they are quite rare and not seen very often, the other theory is that they have an excess of melanin which makes them completely black, in the same way you can get leucistic or albino birds and mammals.
  • They are sociable and enjoy each other`s company and like to groom each other.  They communicate with each other sometimes vocally with different levels of humming and physically by running round each other which is a sign of affection.
  • Pet rabbits should be kept as (neutered) pairs because they do need the companionship of another rabbit in order to be happy.
  • Rabbits are seen as symbols of fertility and rebirth which is why they are associated with Easter.  They are one of the 12 Chinese signs of the zodiac and represent kindness, sensitivity, compassion and tenderness.
  • There is a lovely term that is used about rabbits when they are happy, they "binky" which means they they run, jump in the air, twist round and flick their back feet.  I`ve never seen this happen but it would be lovely to see!

Hope you enjoyed.


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