The Year of the Rabbit

Happy Chinese New Year!

Today, February 3rd, 2011, is the start of the Year of the Rabbit, also called Xin Mao. By the Chinese calendar, it is also the year 4708.

In honor of the Year of the Rabbit, this week we highlight The Rabbit (1898), by James Edmund Harting, and present some interesting facts gleaned from this work regarding our furry friends.

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Did you Know:

Rabbits derived their names from the burrows they form.

The name rabbit, anciently
“rabbet,” was originally applied only to the young, and the adults were refered to as “Coney.”

The main structural differences between a rabbit and a hare are
apparent in the skull and the length of the ears and hind limbs, which are much shorter in the rabbit than in the hare.

A rabbit seeks safety by hiding in a burrow, whereas a hare seeks safety in flight. The length of the hind legs of the hare give it the advantage in flight, while the shorter limbs of the rabbit are useful for throwing out soil when burrowing and thumping the ground to sound an alarm to those underground in a burrow.

The white under-surface of the tail on a rabbit is used to give an alarm to other rabbits as a sort of “white flag” when danger is near.

Rabbit young are born underground and are blind, whereas the young of hares are born above ground with eyes open.

Wild rabbits begin to reproduce at six months, and have half a dozen litters in a year. The period of gestation is twenty-eight days and there are generally five to seven young in a litter.

The average weight of a wild rabbit is 3-3 1/2 pounds.

Take a look at our book of the week for more fascinating facts about the rabbit, and don’t forget to have a little celebration for the Chinese New Year and the Year of the Rabbit!

This week’s book of the week, The Rabbit (1898), by James Edmund Harting, was contributed by the American Museum of Natural History.

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Grace Costantino served as the Outreach and Communication Manager for the Biodiversity Heritage Library from 2014 to 2021. In this capacity, she developed and managed BHL's communication strategy, oversaw social media initiatives, and engaged with the public to excite audiences about the wealth of biodiversity heritage available in BHL. Prior to her role as Outreach and Communication Manager, Grace served as the Digital Collections Librarian for Smithsonian Libraries and as the Program Manager for BHL.