The rabbit family includes both hares and rabbits. They are small, furry, gnawing mammals with long ears and short tails. They can run fast, taking great leaps with their long, powerful hind legs.
Rabbits and hares are alike, except for size and nesting habits. Rabbits are much smaller than hares.

   European ones usually have their babies in an underground burrow which they have dug themselves, or which another animal has dug. Their babies are blind and helpless, and have no fur when they are born. American hares rarely dig burrows. They usually have their babies out in the open or in a shady spot under a clump of bushes. Baby hares are well-developed when they are born. They have warm coats of fur, their eyes are open, and they are soon able to care for themselves. Jack rabbits, arctic hares, and varying or snowshoe hares are all true hares. Cottontails, pygmy rabbits, and swamp rabbits are wild rabbits.

   There are several groups of jack rabbits found on the plains of North America. They are big hares about twenty-eight inches long, weighing up to ten pounds. They have very long ears and very long hind legs. They are well-known for their speed. A mother jack rabbit may have as many as six litters each year, with two to four babies in each litter. When jack rabbits become too numerous and start to damage crops in their search for food, they are poisoned until their numbers are under control. Many rabbits and hares also die from disease, such as rabbit fever (tularemia), which may also be fatal to man, and infectious myxomatosis.

   Jack rabbits are active in the early morning and late afternoon. They spend the warm part of the day in a shady resting spot called a form. Each jack rabbit seems to have its own form.

   The varying or snowshoe hare, found in the colder parts of northern North America, is white in winter and brown in summer. It sheds twice a year, growing a coat of brown in the spring and a coat of white in the fall. Its feet, which are long, broad, and heavily furred, serve as snowshoes in winter.

   The arctic hare is a large white hare with short ears and legs and snowshoe feet. It feeds on mosses and grasses growing under the arctic snow.

   Interesting members of the rabbit family are the cony or pika, living in colonies above the timberline in mountains in the Northern Hemisphere. They are small, brown animals weighing less than a pound. Their diet is grass and moss, which they store for winter.

   The brown cottontail rabbit, common throughout North America, is easily identified by the white underside of its tail, seen as it runs away. It is a small rabbit, weigh­ing about two or three pounds. Cottontails eat tender green plants, usually feeding in the early morning or late afternoon and spending the rest of the day under a bush or some other protective cover. The mother builds the grassy nest in a shallow hole in the ground, lining it with bits of its fur. Several litters of two to six babies may be born during the spring and summer.

   Enemies of the cottontail include the fox, coyote, lynx, hawk, and owl, as well as man who hunts it for food.

   Marsh or swamp rabbits are cottontails found in the swampy areas of southern United States. Their fur is a darker brown and their tails are not as white. The Idaho pygmy rabbit, found on the prairies of Cali­fornia, Nevada, Oregon, and Idaho, looks like a small cottontail with similar habits.

   There are also many varieties of domestic rabbits. Some are raised for their meat and fur, and some are raised as pets.