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UK Nature > Mammals > Orytolagus cuniculus
Scientific Name: Orytolagus cuniculus
Common Name: European Rabbit
Rabbits have brown-grey fur, pale bellies and long ears (but these are relatively short compared with those of a hare). The underside of the tail is white – this can be seen as the rabbit runs away from danger, and acts as a warning to others nearby. Rabbits are not native to Britain; the Normans brought them here in the 12th century for their, then much-prized, fur and meat.
Today, rabbits are among our commonest and most widespread mammals. They live in a system of burrows called a warren. They use regular trails between their burrows and feeding areas, which often become worn and conspicuous. You may see a pile of rabbit droppings in a prominent place – this is a communal latrine also used as a territory marker.
Rabbits are prolific breeders and populations can quickly increase in the right conditions. Diet consists of leaves and shoots of a range of vegetation, including crops. In winter, grass, bulbs and bark. As their diet is hard to digest, rabbits eat their food twice. After eating they produce soft droppings that still have high nutritional value; they eat these, and then produce hard pellets of waste material.
Can be seen at any time of the year, more often at dusk, night-time and early morning; can be seen on heaths, grassland, meadows, woodland and sometimes in suburban gardens.
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