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Rabbit History

A cottontail wandering in the wild

Photo by Nathan Anderson

Many people today care for or keep rabbits for different reasons. Some rabbit owners keep rabbits as pets, breeders, or food sources. But where did the original rabbits come from? Were they kept as pets before? It's good to know a brief history of rabbits as bunny owners, so in this blog, we'll talk about Rabbit History.

The Scientific Name of the Rabbit

Oryctolagus cuniculus is the scientific name of the rabbit. Rabbits come from the same family as hares and belong to Leporidae, meaning they are lagomorphs.

Where did rabbits come from originally?

All the bunnies or pet rabbits we see today came from European wild rabbits until they evolved a million years ago.

These European wild rabbits had the same genetic markers from one of two bloodlines. The two maternal lines originated when glaciers separated a colony of bunnies; one population went to the Iberian Peninsula and the other to Southern France.

What was the original purpose of rabbits?

There was no clear evidence of bunnies' interaction with humans until the Romans came in the 2nd century B.C. During these times, the Romans began making hutches for bunnies and started cuniculture, which means rabbit farming for meat and fur. Rabbits became food for high-status people and began transporting bunnies across Europe.

Back in the ancient Egyptian days, rabbits were considered one of the first mammals and were hunted for their meat and fur.

There was no clear distinction between wild and domesticated rabbits. It took people 2000 years before they even differentiated and clearly understood there were two types of bunnies, the domestic and the wild.

Pet Rabbits

When the distinction between pets and wild rabbits began, people in the Victorian era (19th Century) started keeping bunnies as pets. In these times, many breedings happened between bunnies, and some changes in their appearance were becoming more visible. There were changes in their fur, body shape, marking, and the length and texture of their coat.

People in the Victorian Era began breeding rabbits mainly for rabbit shows and competitions. In the 20th Century, more rabbit breeding happened in Europe until there were different breeds and appearances of bunnies present.

Disclaimer: We are not professional veterinarians or medical doctors. We created this blog based on our experiences with pet rabbits, volunteered hours in the rabbit shelter, extensive pet product research, and experienced peers. The purpose of this blog is to provide information about properly taking care of rabbits. Please know that it is still best to visit the vet regularly. For medical emergencies, contact a rabbit-savvy vet. Always observe your rabbits around new products or environmental changes.

Final Thoughts on Rabbit History

So that's how bunnies evolved several million years ago. It's amazing how other breeds emerged. Now, we have more breed options when we want to adopt pet rabbits.

Even though some people sometimes misunderstand rabbits, unlike cats and dogs, their situation is better now because many people love bunnies. Also, people have changed their attitude from not noticing cute bunnies to being a slave to a bunny. Bunnies are now the boss because bunny owners must do what their pet rabbits ask. Are we stating a fact? Only you know the answer.

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