Rabbits are one of the most common pets and are very cute animals associated with a range of different activities.
They are quite iconic creatures and can represent anything from curiosity to bravery and are also one of the most highly sought-after game animals in the country, with wild rabbit and hare hides being very good for tanning and other applications.
However, while rabbits are very well known for their pointy ears, cute noses, and lucky feet, there are some things about rabbits that people are very confused about.
One of the funniest and most common misunderstandings about rabbits is that they lay eggs instead of giving birth to live young.
While some people may find this to be an absurd idea, it’s a common misconception and one with very deep cultural roots!
It is believed that the idea of egg-laying rabbits came to the US along with Lutheran German immigrants in the 1700s, who settled Pennsylvania and who still have very deep roots in this area of the US today.
In their traditional Easter celebrations, children would leave their hats out on the night before Easter, in the hope that the egg-laying Easter rabbit referred to as Oschter Haws (which means easter hare) would deem the children to be well behaved enough to receive an egg for their good behavior.
On Easter morning children would rush out to find what the Oschter Haws had left for them, much like children on Christmas morning in the modern day!
Good children would often find gifts, treats, and brightly colored eggs in their hats, while naughty children would only find rabbit poop, a reflection of their poor behavior in the eyes of the Easter hare, and perhaps a good motivator to change their ways!
While the exact origin of this myth and tradition are mostly lost and unknown, many scholars believe it has its roots in ancient festivals associated with Celtic or Germanic seasonal festivals and religious rites and would’ve been a part of their paganistic fascination with the natural world, rebirth, and cycles of life.
Regardless of its true origin, this myth is what has given us the ubiquitous Eastern traditions of the modern-day, which are often centered around the Easter bunny and the giving of chocolate and candy eggs to represent rebirth in relation to Christianity, which drew many of its religious festivals from older and more ancient pagan holidays and festivals.
This has of course given rise to the common misconception and association rabbits have with eggs, and why many people mistakenly believe that rabbits lay eggs in the same way that birds and reptiles do.
However, birds and reptiles are very different types of animals and are quite unlike mammals in many ways, and as rabbits are mammals, they have a totally different breeding process that doesn’t involve the laying of eggs at all.
If they don’t lay eggs, how do rabbits have babies?
Rabbits are mammals, and while some mammals do lay eggs, such as the Platypus and Echidna, these are very rare mammals known as Monotreme Mammals and are very unique.
Most mammals are distinguished from other types of animals by a few key factors, one of the most important and easily recognized being the birthing of live young instead of eggs.
Rabbits themselves fall into a category of mammal known as ‘placental mammals’ which means that baby rabbits develop inside the body of the mother until their bodies are able to function on their own, at which point the mother rabbit gives birth to a new litter of rabbit pups!
However while mammals often give birth to babies which are able to function in terms of their bodily processes, they are often totally incapable of fending for themselves and often require a lot of help from their parents in the early stages of their life.
Rabbits themselves are actually quite well known to be prodigious breeders, and it’s one of the reasons they’re able to continue to thrive and survive following huge challenges posed by humans, changing environments, and other predators, and pressures on their survival.
Bunnies have a very short gestation period of just 31 days and this makes the babies very quick to make, but means that they’re almost helpful for the first weeks of their lives and need help even months after being born. This isn’t unlike other mammals, humans being another example where we are born fully formed, but aren’t capable of fending for ourselves at all for many years.
Rabbits reproduce through a system known as induced ovulation, which means that rabbits release eggs from their ovaries during sex, which means that they can get pregnant very quickly after giving birth and almost never miss an opportunity to get pregnant and begin the process of giving birth again.
Its believed that most female rabbits are able to breed around 4 or 5 times a year, which is a staggering number and this, combined with the fact that they ovulate during sex, means that rabbits are some of the fastest breeding animals in the world, and may be one of the reasons why rabbits are so common and are associated with ideas of rebirth in the first place, being so efficient at the process themselves!