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Jay Foxing

Know Your Quarry. Rabbit.

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Rabbit (ORYCTOLAGUS CUNICULUS).

 

The rabbits Latin name Oryctolagus Cuniculas means “burrowing little hare” but in fact the rabbit and the hare are quite different. The rabbit is generally smaller rarely exceeding 2kg (4Ib) in weight with the female a little smaller as opposed to the weight of a hare at 3.5kg (7.5Ib) making it fairly simple to distinguish even at distance. The rabbit hops along in a series of small leaps, one fore-paw slightly ahead of the other, while the hare lopes with long bounding strides. You can’t miss the flashing white underside of its tail (Scut) when it’s running at speed. Its familiar hopping gait with the bottom bobbing up and down is produced by the powerful, heavily muscled hind legs which are much longer then its front ones. At speed the rabbit’s hind legs land ahead of its forepaws. In muddy, snow or sandy ground, this leaves an easily recognisable track – two large prints side by side in the front (made by the hind legs) and a small round print behind (made by the two forepaws closer together).

 

rabbit-1.jpg

 

Rabbits were not known in the British Isles before about the 12th century. It’s thought they were introduced then from the continent as sport for noblemen and to provide a new source of food and fur. Originally kept in fenced enclosures they managed to escape and becoming the most successful colonizers of all time.

 

Rabbit’s fur is soft, thick, dense and very variable in colour. Seeing individuals with fur of any shade ranging between grayish-brown and sandy-yellow, the nape of the neck is usually reddish while the flanks are brown and the under parts white or grey. The distinctive tail or (Scut) has a white underside and brown or black on the topside. Young rabbits sometimes have a white star on their forehead, but rarely seen on adults. A few black (melanic) and some albino rabbits do exist. The black being more common, probably due to the albino being easier for predators to spot and being picked off at an early age. All rabbits moult their fur once a year, usually between late July and September- a neutral time when neither mating nor breeding takes place.

 

The rabbit is superbly equipped to detect potential danger. Its long ears can be turned into a variety of directions to catch the faintest sound. Large bulbous eyes spaced wide apart and angled on the sides of the head to see in an arc of over 180 degrees .And has an acute sense of smell assisted by two sensitive pads situated around the nostrils, these pads are covered by flaps of skin which can be retracted to increase sensitivity. Often you will see a rabbit sitting upright on its hind legs turning its head this way and that to catch scent, sight or sound of friend or foe.

 

Although one rabbit may look very much like another, each one is an individual and has to find its own place in the social ladder. At the top of this is the dominant buck that requires all of lesser status to move out of his way and vacate the best gracing and burrows. Next in line are older bucks and does who in turn dominate the weaker or younger rabbits. This system of dominance and subservience is called pecking order and exists to a lesser or greater degree throughout the animal kingdom. Being more important to animals which live together in large numbers to establish order in a community.

 

photo_twilight_rabbit_10-03-06.jpg

 

Rabbits live together in social groups. They dig burrows which form an extensive underground system of inter-connecting tunnels, nests, side galleries and entrance/ exit holes. Entrances are normally about 15cm (6in) in diameter and tunnels can reach as deep as 3m (10ft) below ground. A number of hidden bolt holes around a warren will serve as fast exits for when a warren is invaded by a predator. The tunnel systems are constantly enlarged and the warren can undermine a whole system of fields.

 

All rabbits establish strongly guarded territories which are sharply defined. The buck marks his territory by rubbing his chin along the ground and secreting a strong smelling, colourless substance from a gland under his jaw. An old bucks chin can go bald from constant “chinning”. The doe also does this but to a lesser degree as she is not so concerned with maintaining a territory. The dominant buck guards his territory using a display and threat tactic designed to intimidate. These tactics include squirting urine, scratching the ground and bounding towards rivals. If all threats are ignored the buck will attack. Aggressive encounters are generally bloodless, if however threat and display fail to resolve territorial conflict serious battles involving much kicking, biting, tearing of fur and screaming are not uncommon between rival bucks.

 

Rabbits display a more gentle nature when it comes to courtship. Sometimes the buck and the doe will sit licking each others forehead, ears and neck in a relaxed calm manner. Or they will play together in a game of chase, like a nuptial dance running round in small circles. Mating mainly happens at night when disturbance from predators and other rabbits are less.

 

In the spring the pregnant doe starts to dig her first burrow and sets up the home she will need to raise her young. This burrow is also known as a stop. She digs this stop in the same manner as a dog digs, forepaws to excavate then throwing back the loose soil with her hind legs. The buck will help out with the excavations but will only spend a few minutes at it. He is more concerned with defending the nest and territory, guarding the doe against rival males. Does of higher rank build their nesting stop within the warren while the younger, weaker does dig theirs away from the main warren. The stop is lined with scraps of straw, leaves and moss. The doe will also pull fur from a pad on her chest to make the nest even softer. Any excavated soil is carefully replaced to conceal the entrance from possible predators. A chimney like aperture is retained, leading to the surface to allow air circulation.

 

The young are always born at night blind deaf and hairless and weigh a little over 50g (1.5oz) the doe leaves her young during the day only to return for a short period at night to suckle her young sealing the stop each time each time she leaves. Within seven days the young have doubled in weight, their fur grows and their teeth and fur become visible. They are suckled for up to a month as the doe is able to become pregnant again after only 12 hours of birth she must suckle and wean her young as quickly as possible.

 

A doe will only produce young as long as environmental conditions are favourable. She will conceive, but in times of food shortage or great over-crowding she will re-absorb the embryos completely. This extraordinary form of birth control is more prevalent among younger or weaker does. Each rabbit will eat 450g (1Ib) or more of greening every day, this diet including a very wide range of different plants –grasses, cereal crops and tree bark they establish clearly defined runways to and from their feeding areas, usual home ranges being 150-200m (165-220yds) with some individuals grazing distance of up to 400m (440yds) from the warren.

 

Grazing rabbits fill their stomachs during short periods of hurried feeding, then line up in cover to re-ingest or re eat their food rabbits do this by eating their fecal pellets or droppings this is necessary because grass is not very nutritious and must be thoroughly broken down to extract every bit of goodness. In case of deer, cattle and rabbits, its not enough for the food to pass once it must pass through twice so bacteria and proteins within the stomach have chance to break down the tough cellulose of grass. Deer and cattle do this by regurgitating and chewing the cud rabbits eat their poo! Don’t know what’s worse.

 

Rabbits have lots of predators from fox, stoat, weasel, badger, owls, hawks, eagle’s wild and domestic cats as well as dogs. It’s no wonder they have to well – “breed like rabbits” yet another fascinating creature a joy to watch as well as hunt.

 

Thanks for reading.

Jay.

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Guest Nicholas
Rabbit (ORYCTOLAGUS CUNICULUS).

 

The rabbits Latin name Oryctolagus Cuniculas means “burrowing little hare” but in fact the rabbit and the hare are quite different. The rabbit is generally smaller rarely exceeding 2kg (4Ib) in weight with the female a little smaller as opposed to the weight of a hare at 3.5kg (7.5Ib) making it fairly simple to distinguish even at distance. The rabbit hops along in a series of small leaps, one fore-paw slightly ahead of the other, while the hare lopes with long bounding strides. You can’t miss the flashing white underside of its tail (Scut) when it’s running at speed. Its familiar hopping gait with the bottom bobbing up and down is produced by the powerful, heavily muscled hind legs which are much longer then its front ones. At speed the rabbit’s hind legs land ahead of its forepaws. In muddy, snow or sandy ground, this leaves an easily recognisable track – two large prints side by side in the front (made by the hind legs) and a small round print behind (made by the two forepaws closer together).

 

rabbit-1.jpg

 

Rabbits were not known in the British Isles before about the 12th century. It’s thought they were introduced then from the continent as sport for noblemen and to provide a new source of food and fur. Originally kept in fenced enclosures they managed to escape and becoming the most successful colonizers of all time.

 

Rabbit’s fur is soft, thick, dense and very variable in colour. Seeing individuals with fur of any shade ranging between grayish-brown and sandy-yellow, the nape of the neck is usually reddish while the flanks are brown and the under parts white or grey. The distinctive tail or (Scut) has a white underside and brown or black on the topside. Young rabbits sometimes have a white star on their forehead, but rarely seen on adults. A few black (melanic) and some albino rabbits do exist. The black being more common, probably due to the albino being easier for predators to spot and being picked off at an early age. All rabbits moult their fur once a year, usually between late July and September- a neutral time when neither mating nor breeding takes place.

 

The rabbit is superbly equipped to detect potential danger. Its long ears can be turned into a variety of directions to catch the faintest sound. Large bulbous eyes spaced wide apart and angled on the sides of the head to see in an arc of over 180 degrees .And has an acute sense of smell assisted by two sensitive pads situated around the nostrils, these pads are covered by flaps of skin which can be retracted to increase sensitivity. Often you will see a rabbit sitting upright on its hind legs turning its head this way and that to catch scent, sight or sound of friend or foe.

 

Although one rabbit may look very much like another, each one is an individual and has to find its own place in the social ladder. At the top of this is the dominant buck that requires all of lesser status to move out of his way and vacate the best gracing and burrows. Next in line are older bucks and does who in turn dominate the weaker or younger rabbits. This system of dominance and subservience is called pecking order and exists to a lesser or greater degree throughout the animal kingdom. Being more important to animals which live together in large numbers to establish order in a community.

 

photo_twilight_rabbit_10-03-06.jpg

 

Rabbits live together in social groups. They dig burrows which form an extensive underground system of inter-connecting tunnels, nests, side galleries and entrance/ exit holes. Entrances are normally about 15cm (6in) in diameter and tunnels can reach as deep as 3m (10ft) below ground. A number of hidden bolt holes around a warren will serve as fast exits for when a warren is invaded by a predator. The tunnel systems are constantly enlarged and the warren can undermine a whole system of fields.

 

All rabbits establish strongly guarded territories which are sharply defined. The buck marks his territory by rubbing his chin along the ground and secreting a strong smelling, colourless substance from a gland under his jaw. An old bucks chin can go bald from constant “chinning”. The doe also does this but to a lesser degree as she is not so concerned with maintaining a territory. The dominant buck guards his territory using a display and threat tactic designed to intimidate. These tactics include squirting urine, scratching the ground and bounding towards rivals. If all threats are ignored the buck will attack. Aggressive encounters are generally bloodless, if however threat and display fail to resolve territorial conflict serious battles involving much kicking, biting, tearing of fur and screaming are not uncommon between rival bucks.

 

Rabbits display a more gentle nature when it comes to courtship. Sometimes the buck and the doe will sit licking each others forehead, ears and neck in a relaxed calm manner. Or they will play together in a game of chase, like a nuptial dance running round in small circles. Mating mainly happens at night when disturbance from predators and other rabbits are less.

 

In the spring the pregnant doe starts to dig her first burrow and sets up the home she will need to raise her young. This burrow is also known as a stop. She digs this stop in the same manner as a dog digs, forepaws to excavate then throwing back the loose soil with her hind legs. The buck will help out with the excavations but will only spend a few minutes at it. He is more concerned with defending the nest and territory, guarding the doe against rival males. Does of higher rank build their nesting stop within the warren while the younger, weaker does dig theirs away from the main warren. The stop is lined with scraps of straw, leaves and moss. The doe will also pull fur from a pad on her chest to make the nest even softer. Any excavated soil is carefully replaced to conceal the entrance from possible predators. A chimney like aperture is retained, leading to the surface to allow air circulation.

 

The young are always born at night blind deaf and hairless and weigh a little over 50g (1.5oz) the doe leaves her young during the day only to return for a short period at night to suckle her young sealing the stop each time each time she leaves. Within seven days the young have doubled in weight, their fur grows and their teeth and fur become visible. They are suckled for up to a month as the doe is able to become pregnant again after only 12 hours of birth she must suckle and wean her young as quickly as possible.

 

A doe will only produce young as long as environmental conditions are favourable. She will conceive, but in times of food shortage or great over-crowding she will re-absorb the embryos completely. This extraordinary form of birth control is more prevalent among younger or weaker does. Each rabbit will eat 450g (1Ib) or more of greening every day, this diet including a very wide range of different plants –grasses, cereal crops and tree bark they establish clearly defined runways to and from their feeding areas, usual home ranges being 150-200m (165-220yds) with some individuals grazing distance of up to 400m (440yds) from the warren.

 

Grazing rabbits fill their stomachs during short periods of hurried feeding, then line up in cover to re-ingest or re eat their food rabbits do this by eating their fecal pellets or droppings this is necessary because grass is not very nutritious and must be thoroughly broken down to extract every bit of goodness. In case of deer, cattle and rabbits, its not enough for the food to pass once it must pass through twice so bacteria and proteins within the stomach have chance to break down the tough cellulose of grass. Deer and cattle do this by regurgitating and chewing the cud rabbits eat their poo! Don’t know what’s worse.

 

Rabbits have lots of predators from fox, stoat, weasel, badger, owls, hawks, eagle’s wild and domestic cats as well as dogs. It’s no wonder they have to well – “breed like rabbits” yet another fascinating creature a joy to watch as well as hunt.

 

Thanks for reading.

Jay.

 

 

All very interesting. . . . . .However please inlighten us as to a means of attracting said BEAST. Of late there appears to be a shortage of rabbits on the sites in staffordshire and Shropshire, Which i now shoot One of which seems totally void of rabbits. . . . . . .Does anyone know whether repopulating with domestic Black rabbits has ever worked, Is it even legeal!!!Someone must know or have tried the above! More infomation please.

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Guest pigglesnitch
All very interesting. . . . . .However please inlighten us as to a means of attracting said BEAST. Of late there appears to be a shortage of rabbits on the sites in staffordshire and Shropshire, Which i now shoot One of which seems totally void of rabbits. . . . . . .Does anyone know whether repopulating with domestic Black rabbits has ever worked, Is it even legeal!!!Someone must know or have tried the above! More infomation please.

 

 

RE- populating land with rabbits? are you crazy.

Landowners are duty bound to control rabbits on their land, and you are seriously considering re populating an area, just to enhance your shooting?

 

i would tread very carefully as you may start to get very unpopular with the local farmers

and in very serious trouble with DEFRA

 

I wouldn't If I were you.

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Really good write up IMHO.

 

However, there is always an however, I thought rabbits were introduced by the Romans along with nettles. The rabbits were for food and the nettles to discourage natives attacking Roman forts. But nettle soup is a good starter with rabbit to follow.

 

Anybody got any good rabbit recipes?

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and before you say why shoot so many, the land owner was going to pay to have them gassed, I have permission to shoot on said land, and no meat was wasted dave.

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I shoot on about 800 acres of good farm land in Essex and Hertford in the last 2 year there is a lack of rabbits and even fox in the areas , land is only shot by my self and a mate is this the same for every in these areas.

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I shoot on about 800 acres of good farm land in Essex and Hertford in the last 2 year there is a lack of rabbits and even fox in the areas , land is only shot by my self and a mate is this the same for every one. in these areas.

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I think its up and down, depending on how much you shoot on one area its so easy to over shoot your land, and if theirs a decline in rabbits their will be a decline in foxes to a certain extent the rabbits above were shot in Cheshire and one that night they were shot I could have shot many more but I run out of ammo dave.

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Hi Dave,

We don't over shoot the ground , just think the rabbit pop has just declined in the South East .

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its weird isn't it, it was the same up here a couple of years ago not to mention myx,y outbreaks and now we have all this flooding it must take a toll on the wildlife something to think about anyway keep them barrels cool 1 sakonut ,

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I shoot in Essex/Herts on and around the border, loads of Rabbits where I shoot.

 

Had 20-30 a night before. Not overrun but still a good night.

 

 

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A great read, thanks Jay.

 

I've noticed a decline in rabbit population around some of the areas I shoot in North Wales. I think some of the farmers have been a bit too keen to eradicate. Other areas are still plentiful however.

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All very interesting. . . . . .However please inlighten us as to a means of attracting said BEAST. Of late there appears to be a shortage of rabbits on the sites in staffordshire and Shropshire, Which i now shoot One of which seems totally void of rabbits. . . . . . .Does anyone know whether repopulating with domestic Black rabbits has ever worked, Is it even legeal!!!Someone must know or have tried the above! More infomation please.

Attracting rabbits is similar to attracting foxes. To attract a fox you hide behind a tree and make a sound like a rabbit. To attract a rabbit hide behind a tree and make a sound like a head of lettuce.

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I think parts of Essex have been hit by the vhd over the last couple of years. Certainly some of my shoots have been decimated and they are not over shot.

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