Fluffy and cute, rabbits are small mammals that make great pets to people of all ages and families with children. But, while pet rabbits live indoors with their owners or are kept in outdoor hutches, that’s not their natural habitat.
So, where do rabbits live? Originally from Europe and Africa, rabbits now live on every continent except Antarctica. Wild rabbits are most commonly found living in meadows, forests, grasslands, and deserts. Rabbits live in groups called colonies in underground burrows that consist of interconnected tunnels and living areas.
If you are eager to learn where exactly rabbits and hares live, keep on reading. In this article, we’ll explain what is the rabbit’s natural habitat and where you can find them.
Where Do Rabbits Live and Sleep?
Wild or domestic, rabbits and hares have evolved to survive in some pretty extreme conditions. So, it comes as no surprise that these small mammals now live all over the world.
But, these small critters are most commonly found in North America, Europe, and Asia.
Now that you know that rabbits can be found everywhere, let’s see what type of environment they choose to create their habitats.
Rabbits are social animals and they usually live in large groups, called colonies. Groups of wild rabbits live in burrows or rabbit holes that they create by tunneling into the ground.
These tunneling systems are called warrens and consist of several burrows that include rooms for nesting and sleeping. Wild rabbits generally pick grasslands, thickets, forests, woods, and meadows as ideal places for their underground warrens.
Being a prey animal, a wild rabbit will build a warren that has several entrances for easy access and quick escape. Rabbits like living underground, since burrows give them a sense of security and offer them protection against predators like foxes, coyotes, snakes, and owls.
However, some species of rabbits, including the cottontail rabbit, and the hispid rabbit don’t create underground burrows. Instead, they often build and hide their nests in plain view (source).
Cottontail rabbits build their nests in shallow depressions in the ground which they will line with grass or straw. They use thicker and dense foliage to camouflage their nests so they can’t be easily seen by predators.
While it may seem strange to us, rabbits like to live underground! In fact, the first three weeks of their lives are the only time a wild rabbit will spend living outside the main warren.
This is mainly because mother rabbits build a special nursery burrow for their babies outside the main warren. To keep their babies warm and cozy, mother rabbits will use twigs, grass, hay, and fur plucked from their chests to cover the nursery.
Whenever the mom rabbit has to leave her babies alone, she’ll cover the nursery burrow with dirt and twigs to keep the babies safe and hidden from predators.
To elude their numerous predators, wild rabbits mostly venture outside their burrows during dusk and dawn. The low light keeps them hidden from predators and allows them to look for food.
Being in constant danger is the most likely cause of a rabbit’s long ears and long hind legs. Having long hind limbs is an evolutionary adaptation that gives rabbits the ability to run at high speeds and escape the predators who want to eat them by coming back to their underground burrow.
Domesticated rabbits that are kept as pets generally live indoors with their human families. Most pet rabbits are kept in a cage and allowed to roam around the house for a few hours every day.
A cage should be large enough to allow your rabbit to move around, jump, and stretch freely without bumping its head. Use newspaper or straw to line the cage and practice good hygiene by cleaning the cage regularly.
Rabbits raised for meat, on the other hand, can live in outside hutches or keep inside a barn or a shed. Their cages or hutches should also be kept clean and lined with newspaper or straw that will provide insulation.
Make sure that your rabbits are kept in a well-ventilated room with natural light and that they are protected against harsh weather conditions. Your rabbits should also have access to fresh food and clean water at all times to stay happy and healthy.
Where Do Hares Live?
Unlike rabbits that live in underground burrows, hares live in simple nests above the ground. Hares prefer to lead a solitary life or live in pairs, so it’s highly unlikely that you’ll come across a group of hares living together.
Like rabbits, hares have also adapted to extreme conditions and can be found living everywhere from tundra to deserts.
Since hares build their nests above the ground, their young lack the protection offered by an underground burrow. However, unlike a baby rabbit that is born blind and hairless, baby hares are born fully furred and with open eyes, ready to fend for themselves soon after birth.
Do Rabbits Live in Holes in The Ground?
All rabbits, except cottontail rabbits, live in underground burrows or warrens. These elaborate tunnel systems are often found in meadows, deserts, grasslands, and forests and can be up to three meters deep (source).
Rabbit warrens can cover a large underground area and usually have many entrances that allow rabbits to enter and exit as they please. The inside of a warren looks like a maze and consists of many tunnels, nesting chambers, and living quarters.
Wild and domestic rabbits have evolved to survive in some pretty extreme conditions and live all over the world. From cold to hot climates, wild rabbits can be found in many environments and will dig their homes underground.
Unlike hares that built their nests in shallow depressions, rabbits dig burrows that can be three meters deep! So, the next time you go for a hike in the forest or a park, take a look around and you may find a rabbit hopping about.