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Sunday, April 16, 2017

Here Comes Peter Cottontail

Happy Easter, Everyone!  There is probably no holiday that has an animal more closely associated with it than Easter (okay, maybe Groundhog Day...).  That animal, of course, is the rabbit.

There are few aspects of the history of human-animal relations that strike me as more unlikely than the domestication of the European rabbit.  That early man was able to take one of the wiliest, jumpiest (pun intended), and neurotically fearful animals on the face of the globe and get enough specimens to survive and breed in captivity long enough to become domesticated astonishes me.

Don't believe me?  Ask yourself - how many non-domestic rabbits and hares do you see when you go to the zoo?  Cottontails? Jackrabbits?  Pygmy rabbits?   I know of some zoos in the Pacific Northwest working with pygmy rabbits, but I've never seen one.  I can think of one that I've seen in the last several years - a desert cottontail at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo.

And so we are stuck with humble domestic rabbit, staple of zoo education departments, famed of magician's hats.  And the famous stand-in for the Easter bunny.

With Easter comes the one time of year when rabbits are on everyone's brain, and not a few parents end up getting their kids a floppy-eared pet as a surprise.  Rabbits can make excellent pets - some of my closest friends have pet rabbits that they are very attached to.  No pet, whether it's a hound or a hermit crab, should be purchased as an impulse pet.  Rabbits require care after Easter Sunday... and a diet that includes much more than carrots.

Have a Happy Easter, but keep your rabbits chocolate (and your chicks marshmallows).  If you want a pet rabbit, by all means, do your research.  Talk to current pet owners about their experiences.  Make sure you have the budget, the space, and the time for it.  You may find a rabbit to not be the pet for you.  You may find it to be ideal for you.  Just skip the Easter Basket.

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