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Atlas der Säugetiere Nordrhein-Westfalens

AG Säugetierkunde in NRW

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European rabbit

Rote Liste NRW: V Vorwarnliste

Oryctolagus cuniculus




Foto: J. J. Harrison
The European Rabbit resembles the European Hare with its grey colour and shape, but European Rabbits are only half the size of the European Hare, and they have significantly shorter ears. Folded forward, the ear does not reach the tip of the nose, and in the European Hare, the ears clearly reach beyond the nose. Other differences are in the social structure, the developmental stage of the juveniles at birth and the resting places. European hares are solitary animals. European Rabbits live in colonies with a hierarchy and territorial behaviour. The young of the European Hare are born already with hair and full sight; European Rabbits enter the world naked and blind. The European Hare uses surface depressions as resting places; the European Rabbit constructs widespread burrow systems.

Originally, the European Rabbit occurred only in North Africa, Spain, and possibly also in Southern France after the ice age. During the Middle Ages, the species was introduced over an extensive area, especially in the vicinity of monasteries. While the animals had difficulties to form sustainable large colonies in continental climates (extreme temperature difference between summer and winter), they were able to form large populations in the Atlantic, more moderate climates. Thus, in the Federal Republic, the centres of distribution of the species lie in NRW and Baden-Wuerttemberg. Since the beginning of the 1990s, the populations collapsed on a large scale due to epidemic diseases (Myxomatosis and rabbit haemorrhagic disease). Meanwhile populations have recovered in large parts of the country, especially in parks, allotment gardens and in cemeteries. In NRW, the main distribution is in the lowlands; the low mountain ranges are less densely populated. European Rabbits prefer light soils that are excellent for burrowing, areas with a low depth of the groundwater table and pure coniferous forests are avoided.


Holger Meinig


Meinig H (2023): Wildkaninchen (Oryctolagus cuniculus).In: AG Säugetierkunde NRW — Online-Atlas of the mammals of North Rhine-Westphalia. Downloaded from saeugeratlas-nrw.lwl.org on 2023/03/27



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