rabbit, name for herbivorous mammals of the family Leporidae, which also includes the hare and the pika. Rabbits and hares have large front teeth, short tails, and large hind legs and feet adapted for running or jumping. In most, the length of the ears is considerably greater than the width. Although usage varies, the term rabbit generally refers to small, running animals, with relatively short ears and legs, which give birth to blind, naked young, while hare refers to larger, hopping forms, with longer ears and legs, whose young are born furred and open-eyed. Rabbits are chiefly nocturnal, although they are sometimes seen in the daytime. They have acute senses of smell and hearing. They feed on a wide variety of vegetation and are responsible in many areas for the stunted nature of the ground cover. When feeding on green herbage, rabbits, like hares, excrete soft pellets which they reingest; the waste products of the redigested food are excreted as dry pellets. Wild rabbits are frequently infected with tularemia, which is dangerous to humans.
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The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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