The UK rabbit is actually correctly designated the European rabbit and was introduced into the UK by the Normans in the 12th century for food and fur. Nowadays it is regarded as a naturalised species. It is still sold in supermarkets, butchers and markets today. Its abundance has made it a pest species in many places and indeed it used to be classified as a rodent. Today it is classified as a member of the Leporidae family.
The male rabbit is called a buck and the female a doe. European rabbits can measure 40cm in length and weigh up to 2kg. Rabbits live in underground warrens and are primarily nocturnal animals eating a range of plants, grasses, cereal crops and root vegetables. In addition to being a prolific wild animal, rabbits are both farmed and domesticated within the UK. Largely, due to myxomatosis in the 1950s, the rabbit population declined by a staggering 99%. It recovered in the following decades but has again been on a significant decline in the last 20 years due to a new disease called Viral Hemorrhagic disease. A new strain, VHD2, is now also having an impact and it is estimated that the UK population has seen a 60% decline in the past 20 years.
There are some 60 species in the Leporidae family of rabbits and hares. There are more species within the wider genera. Rabbits breed all year round and can produce a litter of between 3-7 kittens per month. Young rabbits are weaned by 25 days and bucks are ready to mate at 4 months and does at 3 ½ months.
There is no closed shooting season for rabbits in the UK and there is no legal protection afforded to them.