Wild Rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus
Wild rabbits are so delightful and amazing survivalists. They were thought to have been brought to Britain in the 12th century for sport, food and fur. Escaping their rabbit enclosures they soon spread far and wide becoming the most successful colonisers.
Wherever grass grows rabbits will be found. Rabbits are very good at grazing right down to the grasses’ meristems. As rabbits crop the grass so close, they have changed the landscape. The South Downs of Sussex would be wooded if it was not for rabbits and sheep. There would not be a habitat for species such as the blue butterflies. Perhaps the whole British landscape would look quite different if rabbits were not introduced.
The rabbits Latin name means ‘burrowing little hare’ but although related to the hare, the rabbit is quite different.
Rabbits have a sophisticated social order and hierarchy. The dominant buck rabbit is in charge and he expects all other rabbits to make way for him. Older bucks and female doe rabbits are next in the rabbit pecking order. As the younger and weaker rabbits defer to the older bucks and does of greater warren status, they must dig and select nesting burrows in not such prime locations. These underlings are more prone to predator attack from foxes, stoats, weasels, ferrets, dogs, badgers and birds of prey.
The wonderful fictional book Watership Down by Richard Adams so beautifully portrays the trials and tribulations of the rabbits named Fiver, Bigwig and Hazel. Who does not shed a tear when hearing ‘Bright Eyes’ by Art Garfunkle who wrote the song for the Watership Down movie? Other rabbit fiction include my childhood favourite Little Grey Rabbit by Alison Uttley and of course The Tale of Benjamine Bunny and Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter.
I love rabbits and particularly baby rabbit bunnies called kittens or kits. Pet rabbits are affectionate and lovely animals that can be kept indoors.
Sadly wild rabbits suffer from a virus called myxomatosis where they die a cruel and lingering death. Although myxomatosis was thought to be carried by a bloodsucking rabbit flea it is commonly believed it was secretly introduced by humans.
As always I use Windsor and Newton Artist quality paints to ensure that I get the beautiful translucent colours of nature and a good quality watercolour paper such as Arches. Sable watercolour brushes always give the best results since they are natural, form a find point and hold much paint.
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