September 23rd is International Rabbit Day! It’s the day to celebrate all things rabbit-y. But just what is a rabbit, and how is it different from, say, a hare? Well, both rabbits and hares are members of the family Leporidae. Members of this family are characterized by their long hind legs specialized for hopping, leaping, and running. They are also known for their long ears which provide them with excellent hearing.
But what separates the two types of Leporids? Though they are similar in many ways, there are several distinctions between the two, with regards to their appearance, diet, behavior and more. Rabbits are usually smaller and more compact than hares. Hares often have longer legs and ears, and those ears typically have black markings. Rabbits live in underground tunnels, in groups called colonies, while hares are more solitary and create nests in shallow areas above ground. Rabbits eat soft vegetables, while hares prefer harder twigs and barks.
The differences are even evident from the very moment they are born. Baby rabbits (bunnies) come into the world blind and hairless. Hare babies (leverets), meanwhile, are born with a full coat of fur and functioning eyes. But perhaps the most important difference between hares and rabbits is that rabbits have been domesticated by humans and are often kept as pets.
Rabbits were first domesticated around 1400 years ago, by a group of monks in France. In addition to being kept as pets, some rabbits are also used like sheep, for their wool. These selectively bred rabbits have coats of long, soft fur that can be spun into wool. Breeds used for this purpose include the Angora rabbit, and the comically named American Fuzzy and Jersey Wooly rabbits.
The rabbit as a pet became popular in Western culture during the 1800s. Though they are often given as pets during the Easter holiday, this is not a wise practice. Rabbits can be difficult pets to care for, especially for young children. They can be fragile and easily frightened, and while they do form bonds with their owners, they are not as immediately friendly and loyal as dogs and cats. So, before you decide to get a rabbit as a pet, be sure that you’re prepared for the responsibilities.
Of course, you could always get one of our Safari Ltd® figures. They’ve got all the lifelike detail of a rabbit, and you never need to feed them or clean their cages! The Safari Farm Rabbit is an excellent representation of the European rabbit species, and for a larger toy there are two options to choose from in our Incredible Creatures® collection. The Eastern Cottontail Rabbit Baby figure is a life-sized scale figure of a juvenile rabbit, while the White Bunny figure is about half as big as the real deal. We’ve also got a figure of the rabbit’s cousin, the Arctic Hare, in the Wild Safari® North American Wildlife collection. Each of these figures includes all the expertly sculpted and hand-painted detail that Safari Ltd® is known for.
Bernie’s Bonus Fun Fact: According to Japanese folklore, rabbits live on the moon and make mochi, which is a popular Japanese snack of flavored sticky rice.