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Uncovering the History Of Domestic Rabbits

By Tom Seest

What Are the Origins Of Domestic Rabbits?

At BackyardBunnyNews, we help people who want to raise rabbits and bunnies by collating information about the hare-raising experience.

The origins of domestic rabbits are a mystery. They can be traced back to the early European rabbits, but scientists aren’t sure exactly when they became so docile. The first known domestication happened in the Middle Ages when French monks domesticated them. They were encouraged to do so by Pope Gregory the Great, who ruled that newborn rabbits didn’t count as meat and so Christians were allowed to eat them during Lent. As a result, rabbits quickly became a delicacy, and hungry monks began to breed them. The French monks successfully transformed the wild European rabbit into a domesticated animal.

What Are the Origins Of Domestic Rabbits?

What Are the Origins Of Domestic Rabbits?

Uncovering the Mystery of Domestic Rabbit Origins?

The origins of domestic rabbits are obscure. Some believe that they were domesticated in the fifth century. However, this theory does not hold up under scrutiny. A decree from St Gregory of Tours is said to undermine this story, and Irving-Pease suggests that it took a much longer time than that.
Irving-Pease’s study attempted to unravel the history of rabbit domestication by researching every reference to the story in chronological order. She found many inaccuracies and confusion. For example, Charles Darwin claimed that rabbits were domesticated during the time of Confucius, yet he never wrote anything about rabbits.
Rabbit domestication is a process involving small variations in the genome of rabbits. This is different from the more conventional evolution theory, where a single mutation is the only change in the species. Instead, many small variations in the genome allow the animal to adapt to the environment and survive. This is what scientists call polygenic selection.
While European rabbits are domesticated, they are still wild in some places. Their original wild populations can be found throughout the world today. These rabbits were once confined to hedged or walled areas. In some regions, they were kept as a source of meat. Later, they were domesticated and kept as pets by the middle class.
The domestication of rabbits has helped humans understand the reproductive system and how it works. Today, rabbits are used for laboratory work and to study the effects of different compounds on the male reproductive system. They are widely used in research on diabetes, stroke prevention, and bronchial asthma.

Uncovering the Mystery of Domestic Rabbit Origins?

Uncovering the Mystery of Domestic Rabbit Origins?

Lagomorpha: How Did Rabbits Evolve?

Domestic rabbits are mammals belonging to the order Lagomorpha. This group of animals includes pikas, rabbits, and hares. These species are closely related to rodents but differ in size, morphology, and specialized adaptations. They also differ from rodents in their lack of tails and long, curved ears.
Lagomorphs are remarkable mammals with 92 extant species distributed across all continents except Antarctica. Collectively, they live in diverse environments and represent the largest element of the small mammal herbivore guild. However, the diversity of this group is limited compared to rodents, their sister clade, which contains more than two thousand species.
Lagomorphs evolved from a clade of ungulate-type herbivores. While lagomorphs have diverged in their body size, their basic ecological adaptations remain constant through evolution. Their occurrence is linked to climate and vegetation. Because their dietary and locomotor specialization are similar, there is high competition among them.
Lagomorphs have a narrow body mass distribution compared to ungulates. However, domesticated rabbits have also surpassed the upper limit at around five kilograms. One extinct leporid, Nuralagus rex, was estimated to weigh eight kilograms.
Lagomorphs are similar to domestic rabbits in some ways, with the exception of a peg-like upper incisor. As a result, they were classified in the Duplicidentata class. Rabbits also have a single layer of enamel on the front of their incisors. The enamel does not contain pigments and is entirely white.
While the evolutionary stability of lagomorphs is questionable, one important feature of the fossil record shows that their body size never surpassed five kilograms in North America. The fossils are estimated to be 10 million to 53 million years old.

Lagomorpha: How Did Rabbits Evolve?

Lagomorpha: How Did Rabbits Evolve?

Where Did the European Rabbit Come From?

The origins of domestic rabbits in Europe can be traced back to the Middle Ages, when animals were bred for food and used as pets. These animals were confined to the farm, but over the centuries, they migrated into homes, where they are now valued as pets. These furry, fluffy creatures make excellent pets and can be a great addition to any family.
The domesticated rabbits of the world today derive from two subspecies of the European rabbit. One of these is the wild Oryctolagus cuniculus, and the other is the domesticated form. Although there are two subspecies of Oryctolagus cuniculus, the wild rabbits of the Iberian Peninsula are the first known domesticated species. The second subspecies is Oryctolagus cuniculi cuniculus algirus. Originally from Europe, rabbits have spread to the south and to other regions.
The European rabbit is an ancient species that originated on the Iberian Peninsula. Phoenician traders introduced the animal to the Mediterranean, and the Romans introduced the animal to other parts of Europe. They were used as game animals by the ancient Romans, though they were not yet domesticated.
The Romans discovered the rabbit as a food source, and in the second century B.C., they bred rabbits in fenced-in enclosures. Later, during the Middle Ages, rabbits were bred to be bigger and fatter to be used as food. In the nineteenth century, breeding for meat took on a different phase when the Industrial Revolution began.
The first European domestication of rabbits is thought to have occurred during the fifth century A.D. in southern France. This period of time was also considered holy by the Catholic Church, and eating fetal rabbit meat was permitted during Lent. In the ensuing centuries, rabbit farming grew to become widespread throughout Europe. Some gentry women even kept rabbits as pets. As a result, rabbits evolved into distinct breeds in different regions.

Where Did the European Rabbit Come From?

Where Did the European Rabbit Come From?

How Much Nucleotide Diversity Do Domestic Rabbits Possess?

Recent work on rabbit genetic diversity has revealed that the diversity of domestic species is low. The nucleotide diversity of domestic rabbits is about 0.2% and 60% of that of wild rabbits. Most polymorphisms are shared between different breeds. This suggests that domestication occurred gradually, starting from a small founding population and passing through two successive bottlenecks. However, the study also revealed some deviations from the expected pattern, which may have been the result of artificial selection.
In this study, researchers analyzed the genetic diversity and population structure of domesticated rabbits in Kenya. They analyzed the mtDNA D-loop region of 111 rabbits sourced from the western, central, and eastern regions of the country. Among these, they identified five unique haplotypes. In addition, they found that the population of domesticated rabbits in Kenya is largely polymorphic.
Although this work has not addressed the question of how much domestication has altered genetic diversity, it is important to note that domestication has indeed affected the evolution of rabbit breeds. Domesticated animals are now increasingly used as models for biomedical research and fundamental research. In particular, the domestic rabbit has been used for many centuries, and remarkably little research has investigated the impact of domestication on genetic variability. Researchers used 45 microsatellites to identify the patterns of the genetic structure of domestic rabbits.
The origin of domestic rabbits is uncertain, but evidence suggests that the species originated in southern Spain. This study also used mitochondrial DNA sequences to determine phylogeny. The rabbit breeds studied were the Egyptian Red Baladi, the Egyptian Black Baladi, and the Gabali Sinai. In addition, the Spanish common rabbit was compared with the European wild rabbit (EWR).

How Much Nucleotide Diversity Do Domestic Rabbits Possess?

How Much Nucleotide Diversity Do Domestic Rabbits Possess?

Can Wild and Domestic Rabbits Coexist?

The answer to the question, “Can domestic rabbits interbreed with their wild counterparts?” depends on a number of factors. First, there’s the question of origin. While there’s no single, clearly defined source of domestic rabbits, the species is believed to have originated in Europe. The most common progenitor of domestic rabbits is the European rabbit, which is native to the Iberian Peninsula and contains two subspecies – the algirus and the cuniculus. Genetic studies of the two subspecies have found some evidence of secondary contact.
The OCA may have contributed to the domestic rabbit gene pool via introgressive hybridization. In addition, some haplotypes exhibited similarities to other subspecies but lacked geographic correspondence. This suggests extensive admixture after secondary contact. Further, the model of isolation-with-migration has shown high levels of gene flow in rabbits.
The wild rabbit lives in burrows, but some populations live above ground as well. When threatened, it may use bushes or shrubs as a cover. Adult males often deposit a strong odor of feces as a territorial signal.
Despite their similar appearance, wild rabbits are completely different from their domesticated counterparts. The latter have very different habits and lifestyles. Therefore, they are not suitable as pets. You must ensure that the wild rabbits do not infest your backyard or hutch.
Domestic rabbits are much less skittish than their wild counterparts. They also tend to be less aggressive when interacting with other species. However, they have some genetic and neurological differences from their wild counterparts. In addition, domestic rabbits lack the instincts to survive in the wild. A 2014 study of the genomes of wild and domestic rabbits showed that they have genetic differences in genes that control brain development.

Can Wild and Domestic Rabbits Coexist?

Can Wild and Domestic Rabbits Coexist?

Be sure to read our other related stories at BackyardBunnyNews to learn more about raising bunnies and rabbits.