Cottontail rabbits are a genus of American lagomorphs in
the family Leporidae, in appearance closely similar
to the wild European Rabbit.
What people commonly refer to as the cottontail rabbit is
the Eastern Cottontail Rabbit, scientific name Sylvilagus
and the most common rabbit species in North
America. There are several types of cottontail rabbits and
their coloring can range from red-brown to gray. What is
distinct about them from any other species of rabbit is that
their short, white, fluffy tail looks like a "cotton ball."
The cottontail rabbits from the genus Sylvilagus consist of the:
- Appalachian Cottontail
- Brush Rabbit
- Desert Cottontail
- Dice's Cottontail
- Eastern Cottontail
- Manzano Cottontail
- Marsh Rabbit
- Mexican Cottontail
- Mountain Cottontail
- New England Cottontail
- Omilteme Cottontail
- Robust Rabbit
- San Jose Brush Rabbit
- Swamp Rabbit
- Tres Marias Rabbit
The Easter Bunny is commonly considered and
portrayed as a
cottontail rabbit, as well as are Peter Rabbit
Cottontail from Beatrix Potter stories.
The Eastern Cottontail is found from Canada to South America
and in the United States from the Great Plains to the East
Coast. It is common in the Midwest of North America and,
thanks to humans, now competes with the New England
Cottontail in the Northeastern US.
Cottontail rabbits are a fringe land species that are most
often found on the edges of forests, meadows, fields and
farms, although they are also often seen in the yards of
suburbia as well.
You can domesticate this species. They are mostly nocturnal
and browse at night on herbs and grasses. They enjoy human
crops and will happily make a meal of most ground vegetables
including lettuce, strawberries, peas and of course carrots.
In the winter the diet of wild cottontails is somewhat
limited. In winter they normally eat any vegetation they can
find including the bark of trees, twigs and buds. In the
daytime they spend their time hidden or in their burrows.
When spotted by predators a cottontail will run up to
eighteen miles per hour in a zigzagging pattern, but
eventually circling around to their den or the mouths of
their more wily predators.
Cottontails become mature enough to breed in the second or third
month and are very prolific, giving birth to two to four
litters every year, producing up to nine young per litter
and re-mating immediately thereafter.
The kits are born in shallow ground nests and only about
fifteen percent survive the first year of life. They mature
quickly and in one month are basically self-sufficient.
Cottontail rabbits can be a problem for farmers and also are
popularly hunted as game. They also make good pets when