Rabbits are fascinating creatures, not least because they seem at first blush to be so common. But, in fact, rabbits come in several dozen breeds and exhibit behavior that is surprising to anyone who hasn’t owned one.
The America Rabbit Breeders Association recognizes about 50 different breeds, though there are more types of rabbit. But, of course, as a professional association concerned with keeping things orderly, they have fairly strict standards. Snowshoe hares aren’t among them, for example. Hey wait, they argue, we’re interested in only domestic breeds. Fair enough. But do the rabbits know the difference?
But all those breeds have one thing in common that is something they are NOT: they’re not rodents. Though similar, rabbits are Lagomorphs. Sounds like something out of a science fiction book, doesn’t it? Rodents are Rodentia.
They have an interesting way of maturing, too. The average rabbit that is well cared for can live for about 10 years, whereas humans live for an average of 75 years. The like expectancy varies from breed to breed. Yet a human isn’t sexually mature at 3 3/4 years (75 divided by 20, which is 10 years/0.5 years), while a six-month-old rabbit is. They grow up fast, don’t they?
Their gestation lasts about a month, and it is true, they can have a lot of babies. Rabbit babies are called ‘kits’. But don’t confuse ‘kit’, as in rabbit baby, with ‘kit’ as in tool bag. They don’t like it when you try to pry beer bottles open with their teeth.
Unlike human teeth that shift but don’t lengthen after adulthood, rabbit teeth never stop growing. That’s not usually a problem since they like to gnaw on just about anything they can get their hands on. Or, more accurately, their teeth on. Oh, maybe that is a problem where you live?
But they’re not just mindless chewers. Rabbits are a lot smarter than some people think. They can be litter trained and even perform clever stunts. One Japanese man raised a rabbit called Oolon (after a type of tea). The rabbit could balance small objects on its head as it walked (or hopped) along. Quite a feat when you consider that most humans can’t do that, especially if they have to hop.
Rabbits can also be affectionate. Part of that head balancing ability may come from a rabbit’s tendency to tuck its head under an owner’s chin. Of course, you have to get along fairly well for a long time to get it to relax enough to do that. Rabbits are somewhat high strung. Or, maybe they’re just particular.
The stress they feel comes about whenever they sense danger. That is very easy for them to do since their eyes have almost a 360 view of what is around them. Set on the sides of the head, they get a peripheral view of almost 180 degrees on each side. But because of the arrangement, they do have about a 10 degree blind spot directly in front just below the nose.
So, if you stand in front of your rabbit and lecture them about something they did wrong, don’t assume they’re stupid or stubborn. They may just not be able to see you. Of course, with those ears they don’t have any excuse for not hearing. They may just be ignoring you. Rabbits are pretty smart critters, after all, and they know your boot was made for chewing even if you don’t.