With Easter fast approaching my timing is spot on for writing about cute little bunnies like this. This photo was taken a couple of weeks ago when I discovered that “Peter Rabbit” and his two siblings had taken refuge under our front deck.
Unfortunately for this trio I wasn’t the only one observing their comings and goings.
Not long after the rabbits first appeared our neighbour’s cat started making regular visits. Every afternoon like clockwork he would saunter across to find a good vantage point from where he could check out the young rabbits. After about ten days his visits ceased therefore I assumed his mission had been successfully completed.
I’m told he likes young rabbits but probably doesn’t have the speed to catch the bigger adult rabbits which is a pity. Our neighbour was concerned that we would view their cat as a nuisance but to the contrary I’m always pleased to see him as I have no liking for rabbits, be they cute or otherwise.
They’re fine in a stew … really!
Over the years I’ve shot hundreds but that’s no longer possible as our lifestyle block is in a semi built up area. Some months ago I made a humane cage trap for catching rabbits but to every ones amusement I’ve only caught hedgehogs and birds.
Strangely rabbits don’t cause too many problem in the garden as there is always plenty of fresh new grass to feed on but they ruin our lawn with their continual digging.
Rabbits were brought to New Zealand as early as the 1830s for food and sport. Their introduction proved to be disastrous as their numbers quickly grew to plague proportions and has cost the country many millions of dollars in control costs and lost production. Rabbits are still a major threat to New Zealand’s farming industry.
Some quick fire rabbit facts.
- Common name – European rabbit.
- Scientific name – Oryctolagus cuniculus.
- From the Leporidae family.
- Worldwide there are over 50 species of rabbit.
- Rabbits are herbivores – eats grasses and plants etc. (eg my lettuces)
- Rabbits are nocturnal and spend most of their time underground venturing out at twilight to feed which can continue for most of the night.
- They are capable of living above ground.
- Females are called does, males are known as bucks.
- Young are born blind with no fur.
- Rabbits are prolific breeders, a single female can produce as many as 50 offspring in a year.
- As many as 7 litters can be produced in one year with a gestation period of 28 to 30 days.
- Newly born rabbits are called kittens.
- Does are able to conceive within 12 hours of giving birth, hence the expression “breeding like rabbits”.
- A group of baby rabbits is known as a kindle.
- Litters range in size from 3 to 7.
- In ideal conditions rabbits can breed all year round however the main breeding season is spring to early summer.
- Sexual maturity is reached at about 3 to 4 months.
- Rabbits can breed at 5 months of age.
- Life expectancy is approximately 18 months with mortality usually due to disease or predators (that includes me!)
- 10 rabbits can eat as much as one ewe (sheep).
- Annual production losses due to rabbits have been estimated at $50 million.
In 1900 6.5 million rabbit carcasses were exported from New Zealand to the United Kingdom. Rabbit skins peaked at 20 million in 1924. By 1946 there were 100 rabbits boards throughout New Zealand involved in their control. These boards were disbanded in 1989.
Today individual farmers are responsible for controlling rabbits, the costs involved can be in the hundreds of thousand of dollars.
Many urban New Zealanders have an image of rabbits as cute cuddly bunnies snacking on carrots in a back lawn hutch. This is far from reality, just talk to any farmer from central Otago or come check out our back lawn.
Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen. John Steinbeck