Natural and Life History of Carpenter St. Croix Valley Nature Center’s Abbey the Rabbit
Description: There are over 50 breeds of domestic rabbit. The largest breeds weigh over 20 pounds and include the Flemish Giant. The smallest breeds weigh less than a pound including the Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit. Carpenter Nature Center’s rabbit is likely a ‘Rex’. This breed is known for its soft fur. Through selective breeding ‘Rex’ rabbits do not grow long guard hairs. Rabbits have four sharp incisors (teeth) that grow throughout their life. Rabbits move by hopping, using their long and powerful hind legs. A rabbit’s hind feet have a thick padding of fur to dampen the shock of rapid hopping. Rabbits have short fluffy tails. Rabbits are not rodents, they are lagomorphs and are related to hares & pikas.
Vocalizations: Rabbits thump their feet when they are frightened or angry. They grunt when they are aggressive, sniff when they are annoyed and will make a shrill scream when they are afraid or are in pain. They may even grind their teeth when they are contented.
Habitat & History: Rabbits are gregarious, social animals, that live in medium-sized colonies known as warrens. Rabbits are active around dawn and dusk. Domestic rabbits are descendants of European Rabbits. The last Ice Age confined the species to the Iberian Peninsula and small areas of France and northwest Africa. Due to human action and the adaptability of this species, European rabbits can be found in many areas around the world.
Diet: Rabbits are mixed-feeders, both grazing and browsing. Grass is their primary food source. Domestic rabbits need a healthy mix of pellets, water, fresh vegetables and hay.
Breeding & Lifespan: Rabbit burrows are excavated primarily by the female. A rabbit can have 1-14 kits in a litter. A well cared for domestic rabbit will live to be 9-12 years old.
Conservation Status: In some areas of the world, including Australia, rabbits are an introduced species that wreck havoc on local ecosystems. Yet there are also many endangered wild rabbit species around the world. The Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit of Washington State no longer exists in the wild. Their decline was likely caused by loss of habitat and disease.
All about Abbey: Carpenter Nature Center’s rabbit is named Abbey. She was a pet donated by her owner because he felt she would be a great addition to our education program, she enjoys attention from people and had a great personality. Abbey has become an integral part of many of CNC’s programs and a favorite part of many children’s visits to CNC.