The phrase “domestic rabbit” is often used to refer to tame rabbits which are housed in cages, pens, or other enclosures. Due to the “domesticated” ways in which they are raised, they are distinguished from hares and wild rabbits which exist in their natural or wild state. All breeds and varieties of domestic rabbits were developed from the European rabbit (Oxyctolagus cuniculus). In some areas, European rabbits exist in the wild state, so the term “domestic rabbit” is used to classify those maintained in close relation to man. The domestic rabbit is not native to the United States.
Rabbits and hares inhabit most of the temperate regions of the world. Rabbits were once believed to be related to rodents because of their similar chisel-like teeth which continue to grow if not regularly worn down by chewing. Rabbits, however, have two upper and two lower incisor teeth and two smaller pulp teeth behind the upper incisors—a total of six teeth. Rodents only have four.
Breeds of modern domestic rabbits have developed since the 18th century. There are now several hundred varieties throughout the world, varying in size, color, type of hair coat, and other characteristics. There are currently 45 breeds which are recognized by the American Rabbit Breeders Association.