The Life of the Rabbit (1945)

The rabbit is a fur coated warm-blooded
animal that is one of the rodents. It’s chief food is green plants, which are
gnawed with the front teeth. This pair of rodents, a doe and a buck, are eating grain. Rabbits many centuries ago were to be
found living only in the lands around the western Mediterranean, particularly
Spain. Later they spread further east in Europe and were introduced into the British Isles. From there they went to Australia and New Zealand. They’re also found in some islands off the west coast of North Africa. In England, rabbits
flourish in open woodland country, especially on well-drained soils. On sandy banks they make tunnels called burrows in the ground. Often several burrows are close together and form a warren. Rabbits are most active at
nightfall and early in the morning. They use runways through the tall grass and keep to these well-trodden paths. The rabbits can move very rapidly. The short four legs fall separately in a kind of skipping movement. The powerful long hind legs fall together in a jumping action. As a further protection against its
enemies, the rabbit’s coat, or pelt, has different colors which blend with the
surroundings. The rabbit may easily be overlooked against a background of long grass. It needs to use its sensitive nose, prominent eyes and long ears to detect its many enemies, like the polecat, which usually hunts the rabbit at night. When an enemy is around an adult rabbit gives a signal by showing the white underside
of its upturned tail as a warning to the younger animals. A buck often gives a
signal by stamping on the ground with its hind feet. In diagram the construction of the burrow can be shown. There are three or more entrances which
may be used as bolt holes if an enemy pursues into the burrow, like this stoat
after the rabbit. The nurseries are situated where they will be safest, and
the circular roots serve to foil the enemy. When a doe is about to give birth to a
new family she sets about making a new burrow. She digs out the soil with the strong
nails on her paws and throws it out with her forelegs. She gathers soft shoots, which
she will use with fur plucked from her own body to line the nest. In diagram this new burrow is very simple. The tunnels are about six inches wide with
the nursery at the inner end. The mother will produce the young rabbits which
will be born in the nursery. The reproductive organs of the female
rabbit (the doe) are situated on the lower side. Inside her body
the female rabbit has a pair of small ovaries on either side of the body, and a
pair of tubes, narrow above and broad below. In front of these is the bladder,
and behind that is the canal leading from the broad tubes to the outside of
the body. When the doe is about six months old she mates with a buck,
then tiny eggs or ova are set free from the two ovaries and travel to the
upper tubes. Here they are met by great numbers of small active male sperms, which have been introduced into the doe’s body by the buck. Only one sperm
will fuse with each egg and fertilize it. The fertilized eggs develop and
traveled down to the broad tubes, where they become attached and continue development. Each little embryo is made up of a ball of cells in which a hollow space appears. 30 days after mating the little rabbit about to be born looks like this. The cord, which has attached it to the mother’s body, will
come away with it at birth. Each one is protected by a sac containing fluid, and these sacs lying along the broad tubes travel towards the canal which leads to
the outside. When the rabbits are born, they are quite helpless and without hair. They feed on milk from their mother’s breasts. At this stage they need to be
kept away from the light, and well covered with the soft lining of the nest. During the first 10 days the rabbits
have grown rapidly, but they cannot yet see or hear. At 12 days they can use
their eyes and ears, the coat is developing and they move about in the nest. At two weeks old, they venture to the
front door of their home. They’re still growing very fast and are always on the lookout for food. All the little rabbits take milk from their mothers breasts at the same time. At three weeks old they go a little
further afield, and play in the sunshine. When they’re a month old they can find
their own food and begin to fend for themselves. They have very big appetites,
and spoil the pastures where sheep should graze, and do great damage to
crops and gardens. The rabbit after a meal pays particular attention to his toilet, and washes his face with his two front paws. They also love to bask in the
sun. The rabbits pelt is made up of a fine close undercoat, and coarser and
longer hairs, which give the general brown effect and make it so hard to find. The muzzle is continually in movement
and is very sensitive. The rabbit has a notch in the upper lip, wide nostrils, and long whiskers. The large blood vessels in the outer ear help the animal to get cool, as there are few hairs there to hold the heat It is also most useful for
catching sound vibrations. The prominent eyes of the side of the head give a wide
range of vision. The long whiskers are used to measure a gap through the reeds or dense vegetation. Rabbits enjoy sipping water but they are not good swimmers. the rabbit leaves his tracks behind in
the soft mud by the water’s edge. When this is covered by a thin mantle of snow
the footprints show up clearly. In winter time the rabbits live by
eating tree bark for food. They throw out the toughest fibers from either side of the mouth. They can reach a height of over two feet but cannot climb. In springtime they do great damage to the young saplings, often eating the leading buds. In this diagram the skull is shown. The chisel shaped front teeth, called
incisors, are used for gnawing. The nose bone is very prominent. The nerve to the
eye is in the center of the large orbit, and the ear is at the back of the skull. The back teeth are ridged and used in grinding the food. The rabbit’s jaws move
sideways when it grinds its food, like this one enjoying a dandelion, and this one destroying a young plant. But their favourite food is grain, and great damage is done to grain fields, especially in the dry seasons which favor the rearing
of large families. During one season from May to September, one doe mates with a buck called ‘A’, early in the spring. 30 days later, she has a litter of six young. The same doe may mate with a second buck, called ‘B’, and have another litter after
30 days. There may be a third meeting with another buck called ‘C’, and a third litter is born. The same doe may meet a fourth time with ‘D’ buck, and have a fourth litter in the autumn. Thus, one mother may have four families in one year. To protect their crops and young trees farmers and foresters fix wire netting above and below ground level. The rabbit has also natural enemies like the
weasel, the fox, and owls, which help to control the
numbers. But they’re gregarious animals and always on the lookout for danger. The young ones learn early to use their senses And when danger threatens they
scuttle down to the security of their underground home.

23 thoughts on “The Life of the Rabbit (1945)

  1. My Grandfather was known as Bunny Rumming as my ancestors were poor living in the Wiltshire countryside. So he was a master at catching rabbits, its the only meat they ate apart from poaching pheasant. My Grandfather told my Father, My Father told me i told my two Daughters and my seven Grandchildren for them hopefully to tell there Children this rhyme. A Rabbits a Rabbit,a Bunnies a Bunny, If you lift up its tail you see something funny.Not many Rumming left now as i had two Daughters.

  2. The rabbit is described as an inedible rodent . The rabbit was not a rodent nor was
    it inedible it was enjoyed by many as meat particularly after harvesting the wheat. Many young London evacuees in the country never ever realised what they ate.

  3. after ww2 i used to go to liverpool street station from croydon in a ex american army lorry to pick up hundreds of dead rabbits brought down from norfolk as meat was still on ration on the way back he used to stuff 3 rabbits up my jumper and drop me off near were we lived to take home to my mother

  4. Sorry but I've shot and killed thousands of them over the years but still have respect for them, I have them as pets my kids love them too, I breed them as a child but as I grew up I spent most of my childhood on farms and we had to do a lot of vermin control and that's what I did as a part of my job, I'm also gunsmith but did vermin control for my grandads farm and other farmers, as it's law for farmers to keep them under control on land they own and they do a lot of damage, but still always love watching them and all the other wildlife, I suppose what I'm trying to say is things like this has to be done but I get a lot of people saying that it wrong and I'm cruel and evil, it is what it is but that doesn't make me a monster and I can still love my wildlife, I also protect badgers and deer and fox I will not shoot what does not need to be shot, life is a somewhat strange balance between these types of things as it's in my blood and apart of my way of life as a vermin controller, just thought I'd try and get others to understand we not all just shooting for the sake of it, it's a fine line that some don't understand.

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