Your adorable domesticated pet rabbit might have a cozy life indoors with you, but many rabbits all over the planet reside on their own in the wild. From European rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) to the many varieties of cottontail rabbits (genus Sylvilagus) out there and beyond, rabbits occupy a diverse array of settings.
Whether you're from the United States or the United Kingdom, there's a good chance that you live near wild rabbits. They're fixtures on all continents, excluding only Antarctica. They are especially prevalent in North America, and roughly 50 percent of all of the existing species inhabit the continent. Many also live throughout Europe. European rabbits originally lived mostly in southwestern Europe and northern Africa, but currently are an international fixture. They aren't seen in Asia, however -- although Asia has a fair share of its own wild rabbit residents.
When it come to living environment, wild rabbits have many different areas covered. They set up camp in a broad assortment of habitats, including woodlands, agricultural sites, sand dunes, deserts, mountains, shrublands, forests, grasslands, marshes and rainforests. It isn't even uncommon for wild rabbits to occupy the frigid landscapes of tundras. On the whole, rabbits can successfully survive in the majority of climates.
Life Close to Humans
Wild rabbits are often fond of living on the outskirts of wide and airy spaces. Cottontail rabbits specifically are frequently found in these kinds of habitats. This preferred habitat type results in them living in close proximity to humans in suburban locales, whether in gardens or city parks. This often leads to rabbits developing reputations as nuisances; the furry little guys frequently munch on everything from agricultural crops to plants in backyards. As far as crops go, many rabbits enjoy strawberries, lettuce, peas, carrots, blackberries and beets, for starters.
If you ever see a cute, long-eared creature in a field, don't assume that it's necessarily a rabbit. Hares are near kin to rabbits and are similarly common around the planet. However, there are some key differences between the two groups. Although cottontail rabbits often live on their own, rabbits in general tend to be much more companionable and social than hares. Rabbits frequently reside in sizable social units with many others. Hares, on the other hand, favor solitude in their lifestyles. Another prominent difference is that hares don't spend time in burrows -- a major rabbit pastime. Rabbits are highly turf-oriented critters with sophisticated social systems.
- Young Peoples Trust for the Environment: Rabbit
- The Humane Society of the United States: What to Do About Wild Rabbits
- British Wildlife Centre: Rabbit - Oryctolagus cuniculus
- Animal Planet: Introduction to Rabbits and Hares
- MassAudubon: Cottontail Rabbits
- University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web: Oryctolagus cuniculus
- Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Rabbit Factfile
- North Dakota State University Extension Service: Rabbit Control for Gardeners
- International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species: Oryctolagus cuniculus