Domestic Rabbit

April 8, 2012 by staff 

Domestic Rabbit, A domestic rabbit, or more commonly known as simply the rabbit, is any of the several varieties of European rabbit that have been domesticated. Male rabbits are called bucks; females are called does. An older term for an adult rabbit is coney, while rabbit referred only to the young animals. More recently, the term kit or kitten has been used to refer to a young rabbit. A young hare is called a leveret; this term is sometimes informally applied to a young rabbit as well.

Phoenician sailors visiting the coast of Spain circa 1100s BC, mistaking the European rabbit for a species from their homeland (the rock hyrax Procavia capensis), gave it the name i-shepan-ham (land or island of hyraxes). A theory exists that a corruption of this name, used by the Romans, became the Latin name for Spain, Hispania – although this theory is somewhat controversial. In Rome rabbits were raised in large walled colonies.

Selective breeding of rabbits began in the Middle Ages, when they were first treated as domesticated farm animals. By the 16th century, several new breeds of different colors and sizes were being recorded.

In the 19th century, as animal fancy in general began to emerge, rabbit fanciers began to sponsor rabbit exhibitions and fairs in Western Europe and the United States. Breeds were created and modified for the added purpose of exhibition, a departure from the breeds that had been created solely for food, fur, or wool. The rabbit’s emergence as a household pet began during the Victorian era.

Domestic Rabbits have been popular in the United States since the late 1800s. What became known as the “Belgian Hare Boom”, began with the importation of the first Belgian Hares from England in 1888 and soon after the founding of the first rabbit club in America, the American Belgian Hare Association. From 1898 to 1901 many thousands of Belgian Hares were imported to America.Today the Belgian Hare is considered one of the rarest breeds with less than 200 in the United States as reported in a recent survey.

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