over the Continent of Europe, the Middle East and Africa, the traveller
will find domestic rabbits being kept as pets, or as a source of
food. Country cottages often have as many as six to twelve hutches
arranged along the outside wall. It was, and is, the job of the
younger members of the family to go out and cut grass to feed these
rabbits which, in due course, ended up on the family's dinner table.
Such families are continuing a tradition popularised by the Romans
2000 years ago.
rabbits originally occupied Spain and South-Western France. The
Romans are believed to have transported them all over their Empire,
including Britain, as a much appreciated source of gourmet food.
Marcus Terrentius Varro (116-27 B.C.) wrote that they brought rabbits
from Spain to Britain where they were reared in Ceporaria. Rabbit
embryos, known as laurices were a highly esteemed delicacy by Roman
gourmets, especially during times of fasting!
Britain, there is today little, or no tradition of eating rabbits,
a food associated in the mind of older generations with war-time
rationing. Rabbits suffering horribly from myxomatosis during the
1960s and 1970s further depressing the perception of wild rabbits
in the public eye. Continental supermarkets display rabbits, whole
and jointed, as a matter of course, and it provides a cheap, tasty
tend now to see rabbits as attractive pets such as the examples
on display here.
Europe, pet shops are full of a very distinctive and charming no
little animal called a lion rabbit. They are small, have sleek coats,
a lion-like ruff round the neck and tufts on their long ears. I
am very taken by them, especially as they're not too expensive,
at around £20 each. I have seen photos in many continental animal
magazines and I wondered why we didn't have them in this country.
So l seized my opportunity to ask one of the top European experts
on domestic rabbits, our very own Meg Brown, who lives at Cardross,
near Helensburgh. She said: "Funnily enough, two ladies in England
imported some not long ago. "These little lion rabbits have never
been accepted as a breed in the show world in Europe, even though
they are widely available. "However, I've seen one and it looked
really cute - no wonder it's so popular. I'm interested in all breeds
because I'm just putting the finishing touches to my latest book
Rabbitopedia, produced by Ring Press Ltd, London, which follows
on the heels of Dogopedia and Catopedia. "It will be published in
Britain and America in the autumn of 1999."
who has travelled through the quieter parts of the Borders in the
spring/summer of 1999 and 2000 cannot fail to have been impressed
by the numbers of wild rabbits. " Plague proportions " are
often over-used words, but it is fairly accurate in this context,
especially as another mild winter has resulted in wild rabbits breeding
as early as February. Farmers reckon that six rabbits eat as much
as one sheep and in rural Scotland the damage costs an individual
farmer as much as £10,000 a year and Scottish agriculture some £3
million a year.
are an Adult's Pet
the year, many youngsters will have acquired a rabbit. Let us sincerely
hope the novelty is not wearing thin already. Rabbits are interesting,
much maligned creatures. All parents reading this must realise they
are not really a child's pet, but an adult's. PO
Box 346, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, or call Scottish Coordinator, Alison
Semeonoff on 0141-357-3819.
A rabbit left on its own in a cage all day soon becomes bored and
irritable yet, given freedom, it's amazing how their personalities
flourish and develop.
By body language and behaviour, rabbits will tell you what they
want and how they are enjoying life.
They can easily be house trained and many people do keep them as
an adult's pet indoors as the British House Rabbit Association
will testify. Contact them at:
if the pet does belong to your children, you must ensure it is:
to the vet regularly and is preferably neutered,
its claws kept short and blunted,
properly fed and
not otherwise neglected.
a baby rabbit is called
is a linguistic question rather than a biological one, and there
seems to be no easy answer, I'm afraid. Some people use the term
'kitten', at least one dictionery applies the term 'rack'.
Part of the problem is that, historically, the noun rabbit was actually
the term for the baby, the adult being called a cony.
We tend to call them 'baby rabbits'!
Pet Rabbits Reap Benefits
the right treatment and conditions, rabbits can be just as much
fun as any other pets. Rabbits are extremely alert and interesting
creatures with definite personalities when kept properly in an enriched
in a hutch, over-fed and with little exercise, would make most creatures
must be handled regularly and sympathetically and their claws must
be kept short. If you buy a rabbit, ask your vet to neuter it when
it is six months old. In the male, this reduces most of the aggression
that some show on maturing. It also stops adult males from spraying
their cage and owners with urine. Owners, especially young children,
find this quite distressing, yet it is a normal part of male rabbit
behaviour to mark his territory.
should also be neutered. If you don't breed from a female rabbit
they become cantankerous, sometimes viciously resenting any interference
with their hutch.
relatively high cost of this neutering, especially when compared
with the low purchase price of the rabbit, may put some people off.
However, the benefits more than outweigh the disadvantages.
happy, docile pet you are left with will provide years of trouble-free
fun, compared with the misery inflicted by an aggressive male or
of the rabbits handed in at Animal Welfare Centres are so aggressive
that they can hardly be handled by an adult, never mind a fairly
young child, which somehow defeats the whole purpose of owning a
rabbit in the first place.
has become more obvious to me how much suffering can be caused to
two creatures - rabbits and pet snakes - because they are both virtually
Unlike Cavies ( Guinea Pigs ), the most a pet rabbit can utter is
a grunt of annoyance or a scream when seriously frightened.
A Cavy, on the other hand, is positively talkative by comparison,
with a whole range of squeaks.
If a pet rabbit is distressed - bored, no water, wanting to be let
out of its hutch - what can it do?
These intelligent animals seek attention by rattling their water
bottles, others scratch vigorously at the door or wire front.
just sit there with a strange look in their eyes - their eyes appear
Contact the British House Rabbit Association, PO Box 346,
Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE99 1SA. The Scottish co-ordinator is Alison
Semeonoff, Tel: 0141-357 3819.
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and stories. There is a slight bias to UK and European matters,
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chatting to people who keep rabbits, seek or give help and advice!
of Scotland Rabbit Club
details on the West of Scotland Rabbit Club and its shows can be
obtained from :
Susan Anderson, 10 Lomond Drive, Bishopbriggs, Glasgow G64 3BZ. Tel: