• European Rabbit / Brown hare

    Oryctolagus cuniculus / Lepus europaeus


Rabbits and hares are members of the family Leporidae in the order Lagomorpha.

They are staples of the great British countryside, but neither rabbits nor hares are original native species. Rabbits were brought over by the Normans a thousand years ago, and hares were introduced by the Romans. Both species are now considered naturalised and can be found throughout the UK.

Rabbits are one of the world’s most recognised species and have been a constant fixture of our childhood stories. Famous characters, such as Bugs Bunny, Peter Rabbit, and Rabbit from Winnie the Pooh, have provided us great entertainment, over the years.

Did you know:

Although hares and rabbits look similar, they are, in fact, separate species. Hares are bigger than rabbits, have longer ears, and are less social than bunnies.

A female rabbit is called a doe and a male rabbit is called a buck.

A rabbit's teeth never stop growing.

European Rabbit facts

Length: 40cm

Weight: 1.2kg-2kg

Diet: exclusively herbivorous,

Average Lifespan: 3 years

When to see them: All year round

UK population: 37 million!

UK conservation status: Introduced, but naturalised species.

Rabbit Behaviour

Rabbits can be active at any time of the day, but their peak activity is usually around dusk and dawn. They live in large social groups, most commonly known as a colony, and their intricate underground warrens or burrows have multiple chambers, entrances and exits.

Rabbits typically give birth after 5-6 weeks, having a litter between 3-7 young. Breeding usually occurs between February and August. The young, known as kits, are born blind, deaf, and almost hairless; they can open their eyes after 10 days and are weaned at around 25 days.

Brown Hare facts

Length: 50-70cm

Weight: 2-5kg

Diet: exclusively herbivorous.

Average Lifespan: 2-4 years

When to see them: All year round

UK population: less than 800,000

UK conservation status: Introduced, but naturalised species.

Hare Behaviour

Hares can most commonly be found on open farmland, grassland habitats and at woodland edges. Unlike rabbits, hares do not dig burrows, but instead find refuge in 'forms', shallow depressions in the ground or grass. During the breeding season, males and females can be seen fighting or "boxing", and using their strong hind legs to rear up, or run across fields, often in a zigzag pattern.

Breeding takes place between February and September, with the gestation period lasting 41-42 days. A female can rear 3 to 4 litters a year, each of 2 to 4 young. The young are known as leverets, and in contrast with rabbit kits, they are born fully furred, with their eyes open and are left above ground in the forms. Once a day, for the first four weeks of their lives, the leverets gather at sunset to be fed by the female, but otherwise they receive no parental care. This avoids attracting predators to the young at a stage when they are most vulnerable.

How you can help

There are a number of simple ways you can help rabbits and hares.

> Rabbits and hares like long grass and meadows to hide in; allow some wild grasses and flowers to grow in areas of your garden.

>As both species favour farmland and arable fields, farmers can improve cover and grazing conditions by maintaining and creating hedgerows and small woodlands.

> Use areas with the natural ingredients of wild bird mix, like pollen and nectar, and grass areas to create cover and food for hares.

> Hares need quiet, undisturbed cover for raising leverets.

> Rabbits often like to graze on roadsides; slow down at dawn and dusk to avoid road collisions.

Frequently Asked Rabbit and Hare Questions

If the rabbit or hare is approachable, using a thick towel, pick the animal up and place it in a secure carrier or box, and contact your nearest wildlife rescue. If out of hours take the animal to your nearest vet. All vets have a duty of care to admit wildlife at no cost to members of the public.

Hares and baby hares, known as leverets, live above ground, they do not nest in burrows or warrens. The parents will also leave the leveret for long periods of time. If the leveret looks un-injured and is in a crouched, scared position, it is likely its parents are close by.

If the leveret seems lethargic or has visible injuries, please place it into a warm box or carrier and contact your local wildlife rescue.

If you have found a domestic rabbit, it is likely to be someone's pet, and thus may be microchipped. Take the animal to your nearest vet, where they will be able to scan it for a microchip and possibly locate its owner.

The rabbit is most likely suffering from Myxomatosis, a viral disease that causes swelling to their eyes, nose and anogenital area.

It is highly contagious to other rabbits, and so please place the animal into a box and contact a local rescue or vet, but do not take the patient into the hospital area before speaking to a professional.

Rabbits are incredibly difficult to hand rear and should always be reared by an experienced professional.

They will also exhibit wild rabbit behaviours, unlike those of a friendlier domesticated rabbit species. Rabbits can become easily stressed in a captive environment and, as a social species, will need to be reared with other kits.

If the kits are uninjured and wriggling around, cover the nest back over and monitor for mum's return. This could take a couple of hours. If no parent returns, place the kits into a warm box and contact your nearest wildlife rescue.

Adopt a Rabbit

By adopting a rabbit with the Wildlife Aid Foundation, you will be providing vital funds to support the rescue and rehab of injured, sick and orphaned animals. For just £3 per month, your kind adoption will help provide the expert care, treatment and food they require before they are safely returned to the wild – where they belong.

And that's not all. As a rabbit adopter, not only will you be providing invaluable care and helping countless animals, but you will also receive an exclusive rabbit adoption pack, including cuddly toy, species brochure, certificate of adoption, photo, annual updates and more.