Skip to main content

January 2023’s Animal Of The Month – Rabbits

By January 31, 2023 No Comments

January was a big month for rabbits! Not only were they our Animal of the Month, but also we saw the start of the Year of the Rabbit. While Year of the Rabbit doesn’t end until February 9, 2024, we have to bid the rabbit a fond farewell as our Animal of the Month on this last day of January. We hope you enjoyed following us on Twitter @ExoticPetVets as we celebrated rabbits all month long. If you missed any of our tweets, you can reference the following summary anytime. Did you know?:

  • While the domestic rabbits we know as pets come in different sizes, shapes and colours – they are all descendants of the wild European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus).
  • Hundreds of years of selective breeding of captive rabbits has created the wide variety of rabbit breeds we see today, including – but not limited to – the Holland Lop, Lionhead, Angora, Rex and Dutch.
  • The smallest rabbit breed in captivity is the Netherland dwarf, which grows to a length of between 12-19 inches (33-50 cms). Their average weight is only 2.5 lbs (1.1 kgs).
  • The largest rabbit breed is the Flemish giant, which can grow to over 2.5 feet (76 cms) in length and have an average weight of 15 lbs (6.8 kgs).
  • There is a legend that claims to pinpoint when rabbits were domesticated. But researchers have since debunked it.
  • The legend states French monks started domesticating rabbits in the year 600 A.D. after Pope Gregory proclaimed that rabbit fetuses were actually fish and could be eaten during Lent.
  • University of Oxford archaeologists looked into it and found that Pope Gregory never said such a thing and that the legend was born from a misinterpretation.
  • The archaeologists say scholars misinterpreted a 584 A.D. statement from St. Gregory of Tours who said a henchman named Roccolenus dropped dead after eating rabbits during Lent.
  • The archaeologists say the domestication of rabbits was actually a lengthy process and can’t be narrowed down to a specific date or event.
  • The 13th of January fell on a Friday this year and there is no shortage of rabbit-centred superstitions and legends from around the world.
  • One superstition in Britain and North America declares that if you say “rabbit, rabbit, rabbit” before anything else when you wake up on the first day of each month, you will have good luck for the month.
  • The Farmer’s Almanac says this superstition was apparently sparked in 1909 when the writer of British periodical “Notes And Queries” wrote that his daughters said “rabbits” on the first day of each month for good luck.
  • It’s unclear why the writer’s daughters started saying “rabbits” on the first of each month, but rabbits have long been associated with good luck.
  • When we featured rabbits as our Animal of the Month in January 2017, we tweeted about another rabbit-related superstition – the “lucky” rabbit’s foot. 
  • European rabbits were originally endemic to parts of Europe (the Iberian peninsula and small areas in France) and northwestern Africa.
  • Due to a combination of human activity and the rabbits’ ability to adapt to new environments, they are now found in the wild on every continent except Antarctica.
  • Feral rabbits are a huge problem in Australia, where they have wreaked havoc on native flora and fauna along with the agriculture industry.
  • There have been several methods that Australia has tried to eradicate its feral rabbit population, including the use of rabbit-specific pathogens.
  • The Australian government first released the myxoma virus into the wild in the 1950s. Myxoma causes a disease called myxomatosis, which only affects rabbits.
  • Many of the feral rabbits died of myxomatosis, but they eventually became immune to it. The Australian government then turned to Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV) in the 1990s.
  • RHDV killed most of the feral rabbits in Australia’s drier regions where flies are the main vector of disease.
  • But RHDV didn’t have the same effect on Australia’s feral rabbits living in cooler, rainier parts of the country. And now Australia’s feral rabbit population is developing immunity to RHDV.
  • Rabbits are herbivores, which means they only eat plant matter. In the wild, rabbits will eat grass, weeds, leaves, flowers, along with some fruits and vegetables.
  • When we featured rabbits as our very first Animal of the Month in January 2014, we tweeted about what rabbits in captivity need to eat in order to be healthy.
  • Rabbits are also coprophagous, meaning they eat their own droppings. While that may sound disgusting to us, it is necessary for them to maintain good health.
  • Some of the plant matter that rabbits eat can’t easily be digested and they lose out on some of the nutrients when it first passes through their digestive system.
  • In order to maximize their intake of nutrients rabbits have a digestive process called hindgut fermentation, which means they need to digest their food a second time.
  • We are all familiar with rabbit droppings that are hard, round, small and black. But rabbits produce a second type of dropping that is softer, stickier and only produced at night. These are called cecotropes (a.k.a. caecotrophs).
  • Rabbits will eat these cecotropes which will provide the needed nutrients when they are digested.
  • Hoppy New Year! The Year of the Rabbit officially started on January 22nd and it will end on February 9, 2024.
  • The Chinese zodiac is represented by 12 animals. The zodiac begins with the rat while the rabbit is fourth in the 12-year cycle. A legend called “The Great Race” says that the animals are placed in the zodiac according to how quickly they finished the race.
  • The Chinese zodiac also has five elements associated with the animals – wood, earth, fire, metal and water. So this particular year happens to be the year of the water rabbit. The last water rabbit year was in 1963.
  • According to the Chinese zodiac, the rabbit symbolizes peace, patience, prosperity and longevity. This year of the water rabbit is predicted to be a year of hope.
  • Those born in rabbit years are said to be calm, compassionate and peaceful people who are polite and avoid conflict as much as they can.
  • Most rabbit species in the wild live in warrens that they construct underground. Wild European rabbits are social and will live together in groups.
  • Did you know that a group of wild rabbits is not only called a colony, but can also be referred to as a fluffle?
  • A colony of rabbits living in the same warren can consist of up to 30 rabbits and they have a distinct social hierarchy which greatly reduces conflicts between males over potential mates.
  • Rabbit warrens are an elaborate system of tunnels and chambers where they spend most of their time, sheltered from the elements and predators.
  • Rabbits will also dig inconspicuous escape hatches called “bolt holes” within their warren tunnels as an added layer of protection from predators.
  • Rabbit warrens can vary in depth depending on soil conditions. They tend to dig deeper warrens in soft loose soil. More shallow warrens are constructed within harder clay-type soil.
  • Rabbits abound in folklore and pop culture around the world. And their warrens are even referenced in the popular English-language idiom “down the rabbit hole.”
  • Did you know that the term originated from Lewis Carroll’s novel “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” (a.k.a. “Alice in Wonderland”)? The very first chapter is titled “Down the Rabbit Hole.”
  • Lewis Carroll wrote “Alice in Wonderland” in 1865 and until recently “down the rabbit hole” was normally used in the context of accidentally ending up in a strange or complicated place.
  • However, the Internet age has not only significantly increased the idiom’s usage, but it has also altered its meaning to indicate falling into a state of extreme distraction by a subject.

This is the fourth time that we have featured rabbits as our Animal of the Month. Check out our blog posts from January 2014,  January 2017 and October 2020 to see what we tweeted about rabbits the first two times they were in the spotlight!

Leave a Reply