The Story Of Wild Animals:
Story Of The Shrew
Story Of The Tenrec
Story Of The Rabbit
Story Of The Chamois
Story Of The Duckbill
Story Of The Peccary
Story Of The Linsang
Story Of The Aard-vark
Story Of The Gorilla
Story Of The Weasel
Read More Articles About: The Story Of Wild Animals
Story Of The Rabbit
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
From the day of its birth till the day of its death a rabbit spends most of its time dodging or fighting the enemies that seek its life. All the larger birds of prey are constantly on the lookout for rabbits, and were it not for the tangled vines and the briar hedges, bunny would find it more difficult to escape than he does with their friendly aid. Almost every four-footed meat-eating animal is a foe to the rabbit minks, weasels, skunks, wolves, foxes, cats and dogs. Certain snakes will eat rabbits, and are particularly fond of young rabbits. Against all these enemies on land and in air, and against the arch-enemy of all animal life, the man with a gun, Bunny is required to be constantly on guard. Hence he leads an active life, full of peril and hair-breadth escapes.
He has two means of protecting himself one is to kick out hard and strong with his hind legs, and he kills many snakes in this way, and the other is to run. Usually he runs. We malign the poor creature by stigmatizing it as cowardly or timid, because it runs away when it is hunted. Half a dozen men, together with a pack of dogs, band together in pursuit lof one defenseless hare, which is likely to run away under such circumstances. There is scarcely any animal, from an elephant or lion downward, that Would not run away in like manner; and it is very unfair to brand the poor rabbit with an offensive epithet because it does not attempt to fight men and a pack of hounds.
A farmer had. captured a young rabbit in a furrow, and was proceeding to mark it by notching its ears, when he was interrupted in his work by the mother, which flew at him with singular courage, and struck so fiercely with her feet that she tore his hands rather severely. Finding that she could not release her child, she stood within a few feet of the captor, and waited patiently until he liberated the little rabbit, with which she went off.
The very long and powerful hind-legs of the rabbit enable it to make prodigious bounds, and to cover a considerable space of ground at every leap. The hinder limbs are, indeed, of such great proportionate length that the animal does not walk, but proceeds by a series of hops or leaps.
Mark Twain gives a graphic account of the jack-rabbit, one of the members of the hare family, in "Roughing It." "As the sun was going down," he says, "we saw the first specimen of an animal known familiarly over two thousand miles of mountain and desert from Kansas clear to the Pacific Ocean as the 'jackass-rabbit.' He is well named. He is just like any other rabbit, except that he is from one-third to twice as large, has longer legs in proportion to his size, and has the most preposterous ears that ever were mounted on any creature but a jackass.
"When he is sitting quiet, thinking about his sins, or is absent-minded, or unapprehensive of danger, his majestic ears project above him conspicuously; but the breaking of a twig will scare him nearly to death, and then he tilts his ears back gently, and starts for home. All you can see then, for the next minute, is his long form stretched out straight, and 'streaking it' through the low sage-bushes, head erect, eyes right, and ears just canted to the rear, but showing you where the animal is, just the same as if he carried a jib.
"Now and then he makes a marvelous spring with his long hind-legs, high over the stunted sage-bushes, and scores a leap that would make a horse envious. Presently he comes down to a long graceful 'lope,' and shortly he mysteriously disappears. He has crouched behind a sage-bush 'and will sit there and listen and tremble until you get within six feet of him, when he will get under way again.
"But one must shoot at the creature once, if he wishes to see him throw his heart into his heels, and do the best he knows how. He is frightened clear through now, and he lays his long ears down on his back, straightens himself out like a yardstick every spring he makes, and scatters miles behind him with an easy indifference that is enchanting.
"Our party made this specimen 'bump himself,' as the conductor said.
The secretary started him with a shot from the Colt; I commenced spitting at him with my weapon; and all at the same instant old 'Allen's' whole broadside let go with a rattling crash. He frantically dropped his ears, set up his tail, and left for San Francisco at lightning speed. Long after he was out of sight we could hear him whiz."
The jackass-rabbit's ears are, in fact, much longer than his head. Flap-ping among the stunted vegetation of the plains, as their owner covers the country with a series of prodigious bounds, these ears might be, and in fact often are, mistaken for a bird in flight, skimming along near the surface of the ground. When frightened, however, the Texas hare, as it is some-times called, lays the ears close back, brings its body into the form of a semicircle, and clears the flora of its habitat with flying leaps that bear it in safety from the wolf, or even from the swifter hawk.
Its speed, which is unparalleled among hares, is its only means of safety, as it seeks no other hiding place or protection than a little scratch in the earth, or the shade afforded by a sage-bush.
With the exception of one remarkable Indian species all the members of the family are very much alike in appearance in coloration; the usual tint of the fur on the upper parts being a mixture of gray and reddish brown, although in some cases the red, and in others the gray, tends to predominate. This coloration harmonizes well with the general tint of the open country on which most of the species dwell. A noteworthy feature is the pure white of the under surface of the upturned tail. This, in the case of the rabbit at least, serves the purpose of a guiding signal to other ' individuals in the presence of danger, so that when the leader of a flock is in full retreat towards its hole, the remainder at once see in which direction to follow.
The mountain or Alpine hare is a species with a very wide distribution, ranging over the greater part of Northern Europe and Asia, from Ireland in the west to Japan in the east, and also met with in the Alps, the Pyrenees, and the Caucasus. It is represented by a variety known as the Polar hare in Arctic America, which extends as far south as Nova Scotia. In the British Isles this species is not met with except in Scotland and Ireland; and in the former country is commonly termed the blue hare.
The mountain hare is intermediate in size between the common hare and the rabbit; and has a relatively smaller and more rounded head, with shorter ears, hind legs, and tail than the former. Throughout the year in Ireland and the south of Sweden, and during summer in the greater part of the rest of its habitat, the general color of the fur is light gray; the tips of the ears being black. With the commencement of winter, however, except in the regions named, the fur gradually becomes more and more flaked with white, until at length it assumes a uniformly white hue, save on the black tips of the ears.
The rabbit has been introduced by h u m a n agency into several countries beyond E u r o p e, where it has flourished and multiplied to a degree beyond conception so much so, indeed, that in Australia and New Zealand these animals have become a perfect pest and a serious hindrance to agriculture. Rabbits were first introduced at the period of highest prosperity of Australia and New South Wales by a patriotic gentlemen who thought it would be a good thing to import a few rabbits into the colony, as they would serve for food and for sport. He accordingly imported three couple of rabbits, and they were turned loose. It was not long before it was found that the district in question had been transformed into a gigantic rabbit warren. Indeed it was discovered that a single pair of rabbits, under favor-able circumstances, would in three years have a progeny numbering 13,-718,000. The inhabitants of the colony soon found that the rabbits were a plague, for they devoured the grass, which was needed for the sheep, the bark of trees, and every kind of fruit and vegetables, until the prospect of the colony became a very serious matter, and ruin seemed inevitable. In New South Wales upwards of fifteen million rabbit skins have been exported in a single year; while in the thirteen years ending with 1899 no less than thirty-nine millions were accounted for in Victoria alone. To prevent the increase of these rodents, the introduction of weasels, stoats, mungooses, etc., has been tried; but it has been found that these carnivores neglected the rabbits and took to feeding on poultry, and thus became as great a nuisance as the animals they were intended to destroy. The attempt to kill them off by the introduction of an epidemic disease has also failed. hi order to protect such portions of the country as are still free from rabbits fences of wire-netting have been erected; one of these fences erected by the Government of Victoria extending for a distance of upwards of one hundred and fifty geographical miles.