Down The Rabbit Hole
Ah, Spring…a time when you can’t enter a store without being bombarded by rabbit-themed goods. But have you ever taken the time to pause and wonder, “what exactly is a rabbit?” If not, then here’s your chance!
You might think that rabbits are rodents—related to mice, squirrels, and other small, furry mammals—but you’d be wrong. They actually belong to their own order, called Lagomorphia, which encompasses all rabbits and hares, along with their equally adorable cousin, the pika.
Here in San Diego County, you can find three different species of native lagomorphs: desert cottontails, brush rabbits, and black-tailed jackrabbits. Desert cottontails are the most common, and can be recognized by the bright white underside of their tail (hence their name). Brush rabbits look similar to cottontails, but are generally smaller and lack the white tail coloration. And black-tailed jackrabbits, despite their name, aren’t even rabbits at all—they’re actually hares. So what’s the difference?
Rabbits and hares differ in both their appearance and behavior. Hares tend to be larger and leaner, making them exceptionally fast (except, of course, when racing tortoises). They also have disproportionately large ears, which help them both to hear predators and regulate their body temperature in warm climates. While rabbits are known for being social creatures that live together in family groups and care for their young, hares prefer to live alone and subscribe to a more hands-off parenting style. And while rabbits enjoy eating soft vegetation like grass (or your garden veggies), hares prefer a woodier diet of twigs and bark.
So, now that you’re a burgeoning lagomorph expert, we ‘hop’ you’ll take some time this spring to enjoy not just the stuffed and carved rabbits of the retail world, but also the native rabbits (and hares!) of the natural world.