photo: Shai Ben Ami
photo: Jerusalem Biblical Zoo archive
Thousands of years ago, man began domesticating wild animals for his own use. Domestication is a long process during which humans cultivate desirable traits in animals (like high milk production, quality meat, fine wool, the ability to carry heavy loads, guard livestock, and so forth), and modify those traits to the extent that sometimes, a domesticated animal is completely different from the wild animal that it was bred from.
The domestication of different animal species occurred in different places in the world, and was done by different cultures. Domestic sheep species were cultivated from wild sheep in central Asia. The chicken was bred from the wild fowl of southeast Asia, the donkey was apparently bred from the onager and the African wild ass, which are from east Africa, the alpaca was domesticated in South America, and the rabbit was domesticated in Europe. The domesticated rabbit reached Israel and the rest of the world as a pet and a farm animal through Europe. However, rabbits multiply quickly, and in certain parts of the world, like Australia, rabbits escaped captivity and began to spread in the wild in great numbers. This wsa highly detrimental to agriculture and the ecosystem. Controlling the rabbit population has been a difficult and drawn-out process. So don’t release rabbits into the wild in Israel! They aren’t part of our ecosystem.
In Israel, the hare, mentioned in biblical sources as both an arnevet or an arnav, can be found naturally. Its ears and hind legs are longer than those of a rabbit. Hyraxes have very short ears and legs, and they live on rocks or in trees. The hyrax isn’t even related to the rabbit. They are more closely related to the elephant! A rabbit isn’t a hare, or a hyrax!
Name: European rabbit
Scientific Name: Oryctolagus cuniculus
Global Conservation Status: Near threatened. Domesticated.
In Israel: -
At the Zoo: many in the Children’s Zoo.
In the Bible: -
Habitat and Distribution: south-west Europe and north-west Africa. The European rabbit is an invasive species that is present on all continents, except Antarctica.
Body Structure: Length – 30-50 cm. Weight – 1-2.5 kg. Wild specimens are reddish-brown with a white tail.
Diet: Herbivore In the wild, the European rabbit feeds on grass, leaves and vegetables.
Social Structure: The European rabbit is a social animal that lives in small groups.
Activity cycle: Nocturnal. The European rabbit is very rarely active in the daytime.
Threats in the wild: Hunting