European Rabbit

(Oryctolagus cuniculus)




Facts about this animal

The European rabbit is one of the smaller leporid species. Head-body length ranges from 34-45.5 cm, tail length from 4-8 cm, hind foot length from 6.5-7 cm, and the body weight from 1.3 to 2.2 kg.


The European rabbit has relatively short ears with an indistinct black rim only at the tip. Like all lagomorphs, it has four sharp incisor teeth (two in the upper, two in the lower jaw) that grow continuously throughout its life, and, in the upper jaw, two peg teeth behind the incisors. The hind feet are large, the soles with a thick padding of fur, with long, webbed toes.


The fur is soft; the upper parts grey-brown in colour, usually lighter around the eyes. The under parts are paler grey. The upper side of the short, fluffy tail is dark grey-brown, the sides and under side are white. European rabbits are social and territorial animals, living in groups of usually six to ten adults of both sexes and their offspring in large, complex burrow systems called warrens. They are most active at dawn and dusk.


Dominant males may have a harem of several females, whereas lower-status individuals often form monogamous pairs. European rabbits may reproduce all year-round, but most breeding activity takes place in the first half of the year. After a pregnancy of about 30-31 days, on average a litter of 5 to 6 young are born, which are naked and blind at birth (“Nesthocker”). The female visits the nest for only a few minutes each day to nurse her offspring. The young are weaned at four weeks of age, and attain sexual maturity at about eight months. The females experience postpartum estrus and thus may have several litters per year, though spontaneous abortions and resorption of embryos are common.


European rabbits are mixed-feeders, grazing and browsing on grass, herbs, and branches and leaves of wooden plants.

Did you know?
That rabbits are extremely prolific creatures, and spread rapidly under suitable conditions? In 1859 24 rabbits were introduced to Australia. Within ten years of introduction, they had multiplied so much that two million could be shot or trapped annually without having any noticeable effect on the population.


Name (Scientific) Oryctolagus cuniculus
Name (English) European Rabbit
Name (French) Lapin de garenne
Name (German) Wildkaninchen
Name (Spanish) Conejo común
Local names Croatian: Patuljasti kunic
Czech: Králík divoký
Danish: Vildkanin
Dutch: Konijn
Hungarian: Üregi nyúl
Italian: Coniglio selvatico
Polish: Królik europejski
Portuguese: Coelho-europeu
Rumansh: Cunigl selvadi
Turkish: Avrupa ada tavsani
CITES Status Not listed
CMS Status Not listed



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Range Originally Southern Europe (Iberian Peninsula and France). Due to translocations now widely distributed in Europe. Introduced populations in other world regions, e.g. in the United States, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand.
Habitat Dunes, thickets, forests, meadows, gardens, parks, gravel pits, railway embankments etc.
Wild population Unknown, but declining (Red List IUCN 2011)
Zoo population The figures for Oryctolagus cuniculus reported to ISIS may include domestic rabbits. European rabbits are relatively rarely kept.

In the Zoo

European Rabbit


How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Note 79 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


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Why do zoos keep this animal

Zoos keep the European rabbits for educational reasons because it is the ancestor of the domestic rabbit and for comparing it with the brown hare. The two species have completely different lifestyles and reproduction patterns.