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The wild rabbit is one of the species known as the rabbit.

When rabbits are called several genera and species from the family of rabbits (Leporidae); they belong to the mammals . However, the rabbits are not a systematic group (taxon), because besides the wild and domestic rabbits some other not closely related species are called rabbits.


Latin cuniculus (ancient Greek κόνικλος kóniklos )> ancient French . conin > Middle Low German kanin , rabbits (ostmitteldeutsch caninichen )> Rabbit

Rabbit comes from the old French conin from (Latin) cuniculus , which means "rabbit", but also "underground passage, tunnel" (rabbits dig passages in the ground and build underground burrows). The Greek Polybios called the rabbit in the middle of the second century BC. As kuniklos .

The origin of the term cuniculus itself is very controversial. The Romans may have taken it over from the Iberians or Ligurians (as a non-Indo-European loan word). B. the Roman writer Pliny . The Latin cuniculus would then be a so-called cultural wandering word that the Romans would have adopted together with the animal (which they did not know and only got to know in Spain). Duden also suspects an Iberian origin. Others derive conin and cuniculus from a Gallic word form kuniko (only developed, not handed down) , which would be derived from Indo-European kuon "dog" (Greek kyon , Latin canis ).

The German word rabbit has been attested since the 16th century, formed from Middle Low German kanin and the suffix -chen . In the 1534 translation of the Bible, Luther mentions Caninichen as unclean animals because they " chew on " but do not split their claws.

In addition to kanin , there was the variant künglein and the southern German names kün (i) g (Swabian), chüngel (Swiss) and chinigl (southern Bavarian). These terms, which are secondary to "king", were used for example. B. translated into the Polish królik [ˈkru: li: k] loan. In central and northern Germans forms emerged Kanickel and (with inserted r ) rabbits . The term rabbit fur is still used today in the fur industry ( rabbit fur , rabbit coat).

The country of Spain owes its name to the rabbits. This reminded the Phoenicians on their voyages to the - unrelated - Hyrax (Phoenician Shaban ) in their homeland. Hence they named the land Ishapan , which the Romans converted to Hispania .


Within the rabbit family (Leporidae), several genera are referred to as "rabbits" and several as "hares". Neither “rabbits” nor “hares” are systematic groups, that is, they are no more closely related to each other than to the other animals in the rabbit family. This can also be seen from the fact that the red rabbits are sometimes referred to as wool-tailed hares.

Rabbits are defined as:

  • the wild rabbit ( Oryctolagus cuniculus ) and its cultivated form, the pet rabbit , which is popular as a pet
  • the Ryukyu rabbit ( Pentalagus furnessi )
  • the red rabbit ( Pronolagus ) with three species
  • the striped rabbit ( Nesolagus ) with two species
  • the volcanic rabbit ( Romerolagus diazi )
  • the dwarf rabbit ( Brachylagus idahoensis ) - the dwarf rabbits offered in the pet trade are not representatives of this species, but a variant of the domestic rabbit
  • the cottontail rabbit ( Sylvilagus ) with 17 species
  • the bush rabbit ( Poelagus marjorita )
  • the bristle rabbit ( Caprolagus hispidus )

The Ryukyu rabbit and the red rabbit, together with the Bushman hare ( Bunolagus monticularis ), form the Palaeolaginae, one of the two subfamilies of the Leporidae. All other genera are grouped together with the real hare ( Lepus ), to which for example the brown hare ( Lepus europaeus ) belongs, to the second subfamily, the Leporinae.

A few characteristics can be cited that determine whether a genus is called a hare or a rabbit:

  • Rabbits usually have longer ears (in relation to their head) and stronger hind legs (in relation to their total body length) than rabbits. They are usually a little bigger.
  • In the area of ​​the skull, hares have a shorter zygomatic process compared to rabbits of the genus Oryctolagus cuniculus , and the roof of the mouth in hares is also wider.
  • Some rabbits are born naked and blind and are nestlings , while newborn rabbits have fur and open eyes and are fleecers .
  • Some rabbits live in groups, rabbits are solitary animals.


Rabbits are by nature not loners, but live in colonies . They depend on each other to warn each other about enemies, to maintain their (sometimes complex and extensive) tunnel systems and to clean each other (grooming).

The proverbial "rabbit in front of the snake" probably has a real basis. Certain movement patterns, which are not necessarily carried out by a snake but also by a marten or similar animal, cause the rabbit to remain motionless. This makes it the prey of an animal that cannot reach the rabbit's escape speed.

When rabbits feel threatened, tap the floor with their hind legs to warn the other colony / group members.


Web links

Commons : Rabbit  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Rabbit  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. De Re Rustica by Varro. Loeb Classical Library, 1934.
  2. ^ H. Nachtsheim, H. Stengel: From wild animal to domestic animal . 3., rework. Edition Parey, Berlin / Hamburg 1977, ISBN 3-489-60636-1 .
  3. a b c d e J. Hoops: Reallexikon der Germanischen antiquity . Vol. 16 Jadwingen small seal. 2. completely rework. and strong exp. Edition. de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2000, ISBN 3-11-016782-4 .
  4. Duden. The dictionary of origin. Etymology of the German language . 2nd Edition. Dudenverlag, Mannheim / Leipzig / Vienna / Zurich 2007, ISBN 3-411-20907-0 .
  5. M. Luther: Biblia, that is, the entire Holy Scripture in German. First complete complete edition of the Bible. Hans Lufft, Wittemberg 1534.
  6. Esther Schmidt: My rabbit: All around healthy. GU, 2009, p. 20.