Rabbit mice

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Rabbit mice
Cuvier rabbit mouse (Lagidium viscacia)

Cuvier rabbit mouse ( Lagidium viscacia )

Order : Rodents (Rodentia)
Subordination : Porcupine relatives (Hystricomorpha)
Partial order : Hystricognathi
without rank: Guinea Pig Relatives (Caviomorpha)
Family : Chinchillas (Chinchillidae)
Genre : Rabbit mice
Scientific name
Meyen , 1833

The rabbit mice or mountain viscachas ( Lagidium ) are a genus of rodents from the chinchillas family (Chinchillidae). A distinction is made between four species: the Peruvian rabbit mouse ( Lagidium peruanum ), the Cuvier rabbit mouse ( L. viscacia ), the southern rabbit mouse ( L. wolffsohni ) and Lagidium ahuacaense .


Outwardly, rabbit mice are reminiscent of rabbits with long tails. They reach a head body length of 30 to 45 centimeters, the tail length is 20 to 40 centimeters. The Peruvian rabbit mouse is the lightest species, reaching 0.9 to 1.6 kilograms, while the other two species can weigh up to 3 kilograms. Their fur is thick and soft, only rough on the top of the tail. The color of the fur varies depending on the altitude from dark gray to chocolate brown, many animals have a black stripe on the back. The tip of the tail can be colored black or red-brown. The ears are long and hairy. They have four toes on both front and rear legs.

distribution and habitat

Like all chinchillas, rabbit mice are native to South America. Their distribution area extends from southern Ecuador and central Peru through western Bolivia to southern Chile and southwest Argentina . Their habitat are dry, rocky mountain regions with little vegetation at heights of up to 5000 meters.

Way of life

Rabbit mice are more active during the day; natural caves and crevices serve as shelter. They are not good at digging and rarely do earthworks. When searching for food, they move quickly and skillfully, but do not move further than 70 meters from their shelter. They are herbivores that eat almost every type of plant, including lichens, mosses, and grasses. Sometimes they can also be seen sunbathing or grooming their fur.

Rabbit mice live in family groups that usually consist of two to five animals. Often they join together with other families to form larger associations that can comprise several hundred individuals. However, each family has their own shelter and their own rocks for sunbathing. They don't hibernate.


Rabbit mouse

The mating season is seasonal, but varies by habitat. It takes place in Peru from October to December and in Patagonia in May or June. After a gestation period of around 120 to 140 days, the female gives birth to a single young. This is hairy, has open eyes and can eat solid food on the first day of life. It is finally weaned after eight weeks and is sexually mature at one year. In the wild, rabbit mice rarely live to be more than three years old, but an animal in human care can reach 19 years.


Rabbit mice are hunted for their fur (→ Viscachafell ) as well as for their meat. In some regions, the populations have declined significantly, in other places (e.g. in northern Chile) they are still considered relatively common. The IUCN lists the Peruvian and the southern rabbit mouse as not endangered and the Cuvier rabbit mouse under “insufficient data available”, but these assessments date from 1994 and are out of date.

Systematics and types

Despite the name mountain viscachas, these animals are more closely related to the real chinchillas ( chinchilla ) that also live in rocky regions than to the viscachas that occur in grasslands . Together, these animals form the chinchillas (Chinchillidae) family.

There are four types:

  • The Peruvian rabbit mouse ( Lagidium peruanum ) is the smallest species. It lives in the central and southern regions of Peru and the extreme north of Chile.
  • The Cuvier rabbit mouse or actual mountain viscacha ( Lagidium viscacia ) is common in the extreme south of Peru, the west and south of Bolivia, northern and central Chile and western Argentina.
  • The southern rabbit mouse or southern mountain viscacha ( Lagidium wolffsohni ) occurs in Patagonia - southern Chile and southwestern Argentina.
  • The Ecuador mountain viscacha ( Lagidium ahuacaense ) was first discovered in 2005 by the German zoologist Florian A. Werner at Cerro El Ahuaca in the Loja province in Ecuador and scientifically described in 2009. So far only a few dozen specimens of this presumably endangered species have been identified.


  • Ronald M. Nowak: Walker's Mammals of the World. 2 volumes. 6th edition. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore MD et al. 1999, ISBN 0-8018-5789-9 .
  • Don E. Wilson , DeeAnn M. Reeder (Eds.): Mammal Species of the World. A taxonomic and geographic Reference. 2 volumes. 3. Edition. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore MD 2005, ISBN 0-8018-8221-4 .
  • Karim J. Ledesma, Florian A. Werner, Angel E. Spotorno, Luis H. Albuja: A new species of Mountain Viscacha (Chinchillidae: Lagidium Meyen) from the Ecuadorean Andes. In: Zootaxa . Vol. 2126, 2009, pp. 41-57.

Web links

Commons : Rabbit Mice  - Collection of images, videos and audio files