Oryctolagus cuniculus (rabbits)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Distribution Table
- Habitat List
- Biology and Ecology
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Pathway Causes
- Impact Summary
- Threatened Species
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Uses List
- Prevention and Control
- Links to Websites
- Principal Source
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Oryctolagus cuniculus (Linnaeus, 1758)
Preferred Common Name
Other Scientific Names
- Lepus cuniculus Linnaeus, 1758
International Common Names
- English: domestic rabbits; European rabbit; rabbit; rabbit
- French: lapin
Local Common Names
- Germany: Europäisches Wildkaninchen; kaninchen
DADIS local name
- Conill Eivissenc
- Conill Pages
- Local Rabbit
DADIS main name
- Baladi Black
- Baladi Red
- Baladi White
- Giza White
- Hulstlander konijn
- Klein Lotharinger
- Ned. Hangoordwerg
- Nederlandse Kleurdwerg
- Tho Noi
- Thrianta konijn
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
Native to southern Europe and North Africa, the rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) has been introduced to all continents, except Antarctica and Asia. In many countries, rabbits cause serious erosion of soils by overgrazing and burrowing, impacting on native species that depend on undamaged ecosystems.
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Metazoa
- Phylum: Chordata
- Subphylum: Vertebrata
- Class: Mammalia
- Order: Lagomorpha
- Family: Leporidae
- Genus: Oryctolagus
- Species: Oryctolagus cuniculus
DescriptionTop of page
Grey-brown fur and white-grey belly. Adults 1000-2000 g. Two pairs of upper incisors; the second smaller incisors are behind the first, a feature that distinguishes leporids from rodents. They are smaller than adult hares.
DistributionTop of page
The rabbit was originally confined to the Iberian Peninsula and was first transported around the Mediterranean by Phoenician traders. Rabbits were domesticated in French monasteries between AD 600 and 1000 and domestic rabbits probably reached Britain in the twelfth century (the young were considered a delicacy) and were later spread throughout the British Isles, and to other islands in the north-east Atlantic. Much later, rabbits were put ashore from ocean-going sailing ships in South Africa (from Holland) in 1654, Chile in the mid eighteenth century, the Falkland Is in 1764, New Zealand in 1777, and Australia in 1788 (Norbury and Reddiex, 2005). Rabbits have been introduced to over 800 islands so far for reasons ranging from a food source for shipwrecked sailors to a source of amusement for tourists. Introductions have varied in success from complete failure to populations so large that they destroy almost all vegetation on the island (Flux and Fullagar, 1992).
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|China||Present||CAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001|
|India||Present||CAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001|
|-Himachal Pradesh||Present||CAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001|
|-Meghalaya||Present||CAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001|
|-West Bengal||Present||CAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001|
|Iraq||Present||CAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001|
|Malaysia||Present||CAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001|
|Nepal||Present||CAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001|
|Vietnam||Present||CAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001|
|Crozet Islands||Present||Introduced||Between 1826 and1887||Invasive||ISSG, 2011|
|Egypt||Present||CAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001|
|Nigeria||Present||CAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001|
|Saint Helena||Present||Introduced||16th century, reintroduced in 1770||ISSG, 2011|
|Senegal||Present||CAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001|
|Seychelles||Restricted distribution||Introduced||Early 1900s.||Invasive||ISSG, 2011|
|Canada||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-British Columbia||Present||Introduced||Invasive||ISSG, 2011|
|USA||Present||CAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001|
|-Hawaii||Restricted distribution||Introduced||1903||ISSG, 2011|
|-Maryland||Present||CAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001|
|Falkland Islands||Present||Introduced||1764 or 1770 on Saunders Island||ISSG, 2011|
|Belgium||Present||CAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001|
|Czech Republic||Present||CAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001|
|France||Present||CAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001|
|Germany||Present||CAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001|
|Hungary||Present||CAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001|
|Italy||Present||CAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001|
|Poland||Present||CAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001|
|Portugal||Present||CAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001|
|-Azores||Present||CAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001|
|Romania||Present||CAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001|
|Slovakia||Present||CAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001|
|Spain||Present||CAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001|
|Switzerland||Present||CAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001|
|UK||Present||CAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001|
|-Western Australia||Present||CAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001|
|French Polynesia||Present||Introduced||ISSG, 2011|
|New Caledonia||Present||Introduced||1870||Invasive||ISSG, 2011|
|New Zealand||Restricted distribution||Introduced||Invasive||ISSG, 2011|
|Norfolk Island||Restricted distribution||Introduced||1830||Invasive||ISSG, 2011|
|Phoenix Islands||Present||Introduced||Invasive||ISSG, 2011|
HabitatTop of page
Desirable features of ideal rabbit habitat include an annual rainfall of <1000mm, a sunny aspect, light soil, and adequate cover close to feeding grounds kept closely grazed. Although rabbits can tolerate higher rainfall, they do so only on light soils and where other animals help to maintain a short sward. In wetter areas, rabbits favour dunelands, dry stony riverbeds, limestone hills with outcropping rocks, and sunny coastal slopes. They usually avoid cold and wet conditions, and are absent from alpine lands, unbroken scrub, and heavily built-up areas (Norbury and Reddiex, 2005). Although usually an animal of open country, in New Zealand rabbits have survived in low numbers on a few forested islands where the forest is low and not very dense (SPREP, 2000).
Habitat ListTop of page
|Terrestrial – Managed||Cultivated / agricultural land||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Managed forests, plantations and orchards||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Disturbed areas||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Urban / peri-urban areas||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-natural||Natural forests||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Natural grasslands||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Scrub / shrublands||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
Biology and EcologyTop of page
Rabbits eat grass and other herbaceous vegetation. They need a diet of less than 40% fibre, 10-20% protein for maintenance, and 14% protein for reproduction. They can be very selective in their choice of food, practise coprophagy, and ferment food in the hind gut.
Placental. Sexual. Rabbits have an endogenous reproductive cycle mainly modulated by day length and nutrition.
18-30 young per female adult per year. Females as young as 3 months can breed.
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
Introduction pathways to new locations
Acclimatisation societies: In the 19th and early 20th century, Acclimatisation Societies in Australia and New Zealand brought rabbits from Great Britain in an attempt to transplant the mother country to the new colonial frontier.
Other: If put ashore for shipwrecked people they usually died out, but they persisted on some islands.
Ship: Sailing ships in the 18th and 19th century sometimes carried live rabbits for food.
Local dispersal methods
Natural dispersal (local):
Pathway CausesTop of page
Impact SummaryTop of page
ImpactTop of page
Threatened SpeciesTop of page
|Threatened Species||Conservation Status||Where Threatened||Mechanism||References||Notes|
|Telespiza cantans (Laysan finch)||VU (IUCN red list: Vulnerable) VU (IUCN red list: Vulnerable); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered species||Hawaii||Pest and disease transmission||US Fish and Wildlife Service, 1984|
|Urocyon littoralis catalinae (Santa Catalina Island fox)||USA ESA listing as threatened species USA ESA listing as threatened species||California||Ecosystem change / habitat alteration||US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2004|
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page Impact outcomes
- Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
- Negatively impacts agriculture
- Threat to/ loss of native species
- Competition - monopolizing resources
- Pest and disease transmission
UsesTop of page
Valuable to humans as a domestic and game animal, rabbits were often released onto islands in the past as a food source for marooned sailors (Berman, 2002).
Uses ListTop of page
- Game animal
Human food and beverage
Prevention and ControlTop of page
Management options include fencing, warren ripping, baiting, fumigating and biological control with myxomatosis, rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus and fleas as vectors (Moseby et al. 2005; Richardson et al. 2007). Rabbits have been eradicated from a number of islands including Enderby Island (710 ha) in the Auckland Islands group (NZ), Phillip Island (190 ha) in the Norfolk Island group and Round Island (151 ha), Mauritius. Both the Enderby Island and Round Island campaigns used brodifacoum as Talon 20P® baits. Merton (1987) gives details of the Round Island operation including bait preference and acceptance trials, and tolerance of reptiles to the anti-coagulant poison used. Details of the successful operation on Enderby and Rose Islands are available in Torr (2002).
Preventative measures: Risk Assessment models for assessing the risk that exotic vertebrates could establish in Australia have been further explored by the Western Australia Department of Agriculture & Food (DAFWA) to confirm that they reasonably predict public safety, establishment and pest risks across a full range of exotic species and risk levels
The Risk assessment for the European Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), has been assigned a VPC Threat Category of EXTREME.
Mammals and birds were assessed for the pest risk they pose if introduced to Australia, by calculating Vertebrate Pests Committee (VPC) Threat Categories. These categories incorporate risk of establishing populations in the wild, risk of causing public harm, and risk of becoming a pest (eg causing agricultural damage, competing with native fauna, etc). The 7-factor Australian Bird and Mammal Model was used for these assessments.
Physical: Shooting of rabbits is an inefficient method of control but unlike poisoning it does not kill predators of rabbits such as cats. Where rabbits are present with other grazing animals, removal of the latter will often result in the growth of rank vegetation unsuitable for rabbits; this can be used as a method of partial rabbit control.
Chemical: In New Zealand, poisoning has most often been carried out with compound 1080 added to carrots or oats and spread from the air. On small islands, acute poisons such as phosphorus, cyanide, strychnine and compound 1080 are all likely to kill non-target species. Second-generation anti-coagulant poisons such as brodifacoum have been used successfully against rabbits although precautions are often necessary to protect non-target species (Flux 1993).
Biological: In 1998, a virus, rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD, formerly called RCD), was introduced to New Zealand illegally. In some areas it has killed many rabbits, but whether it will continue to be effective in the long-term is doubtful. Myxomatosis, a contagious and often lethal disease specific to rabbits is sometimes suggested for rabbit control. This not only requires flea or mosquito vectors but causes considerable suffering to the animals affected. Furthermore, eradication by such means is unlikely. Atkinson (SPREP 2000) does not recommend use of either RHD or myxomatosis on Pacific islands. Flux (1993) examined the relative effectiveness of various methods of rabbit control using a sample of 607 islands distributed throughout the world. The main finding was that competition from hares was twice as effective at clearing rabbits off islands as predation by cats or from myxomatosis.
BibliographyTop of page
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ReferencesTop of page
US Fish and Wildlife Service, 1984. Recovery Plan for the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Passerines. In: Recovery Plan for the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Passerines : US Fish and Wildlife Service.66 pp.
US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2004. Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Listing the San Miguel Island Fox, Santa Rosa Island Fox, Santa Cruz Island Fox, and Santa Catalina Island Fox as Endangered. In: Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Listing the San Miguel Island Fox, Santa Rosa Island Fox, Santa Cruz Island Fox, and Santa Catalina Island Fox as Endangered : US Fish and Wildlife Service.19 pp.
ContributorsTop of page
- Reviewed by: David Berman, Department of Natural Resources, Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia.
- Last Modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Distribution MapsTop of page
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