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Cottontails

There are sixteen species of Cottontail rabbits.  The majority of Cottontails have short, stub tails that are white on the bottom side.  We have "Rabbits" separated into three distinct groups:  Cottontails, Hares and Jackrabbits and Pikas.
This article contains information on five of the many different types of Cottontail rabbits:

Desert Cottontail, Eastern Cottontail, Swamp Rabbit, Pygmy Rabbit, Brush Rabbit

Desert Cottontail           Desert Cottontail Picture  

The Desert Cottontail is found in Eastern Montana to Western Texas, west central Nevada to Southern California and in Northern Mexico.  It is identified by its large ears, rounded tail with white underneath, light grey to brown body, white belly and large hind feet.  The female Desert Cottontail is slightly larger than the male.  Active in early morning and late afternoon, it eats grass and cacti and rarely needs to drink water, getting it from the plants they eat.  They get additional nutrition from eating their own feces just after consuming a meal.Desert Cottontail
Predators of the Desert Cottontail are eagles, hawks, coyotes, bobcats and humans. Native Americans kill them for their fur and hides.  Running up to 30 mph from danger in a zigzag motion, they kick to defend themselves against small predators. When running, the white on their tail shows, acting as a signal to others that danger is nearby.  They have also been known to swim and climb trees when escaping from danger.  When there is no hiding place available, the desert cottontail will get real close to the ground and lay still in order to blend in with its surroundings.  They do not build their own burrow, but rather use an abandoned badger or prairie dog burrow.  During the hot summer months they will scratch a depression under shrubs and other vegetation in order to find a cool place to rest.  In good climates, females have several litters a year, usually five to six babies per litter.  Babies are born blind and hairless above ground or in a shallow burrow and leave the nest after three weeks.  The desert cottontail rarely strays far from its birthplace.  The territory of the male can be up to fifteen acres while the female territory is only around one acre.

Eastern Cottontail    Picture of Eastern Cottontail 

The Eastern Cottontail is the most common rabbit in North America.  It is identified by its red brown or grey brown body color, large hind feet, long ears, white belly, short fluffy white tail and a rusty patch on its nape.  They are found in meadows and shrubby areas of eastern and southwestern United States, southern Canada, eastern Mexico and California.  The eastern cottontail eats green vegetation of grasses and clover in summer and bark and twigs in the winter.  Its predators are hawks, owls, and humans who hunt them for food and fur used for clothing.  Male and female eastern cottontails do a mating dance when preparing to mate.  Males will fight with other males for the female’s attention after which the male will chase the female for a while until she stops and faces him.  She then boxes him with her front paws until one or both jump straight up in the air. Eastern Cottontail 
Male eastern cottontails mate with more than one female.  They mate between February and September and the female gives birth one month after mating.  Their litters of two to four babies are born in a nest in the ground lined with grass and fur. After their young are born, the female will usually mate again.
Very territorial and aggressive, the eastern cottontail can leap into the air up to fifteen feet.  When on the look out for predators, they will stand on their back feet to watch for coyotes, foxes, weasels, eagles and hawks.  When running from predators, they will often leap from side to side to break its scent trail.
The cottontail rabbit can run up to fifteen mph.

Swamp Rabbit    Picture of Swamp Rabbit 

The Swamp Rabbit is a large cottontail rabbit found in swamps and wetlands of the southern US.  Known as the largest member of the cottontails, they have brown body fur, a brown tail and weighs three to six pounds.  They also have a black spot between their ears. 
Swamp Rabbits eat reeds, plants and grasses common to the marsh it lives in.  Fond of eating bamboo, the swamp rabbit is also known as the “cane cutter” because of the 45 degree angle its teeth make when cutting its food. Swamp Rabbit
Males and females mate between February and March and have around two litters per year.  Babies are born with fur and with their eyes fully opened ready and able to take care of themselves.  The swamp rabbit nests above ground in dens made of dead plants lined with its own fur and never stray far from the water.  A skilled swimmer, they can run over 45 mph in a zigzag pattern when chased by predators.

Swamp Rabbits hide from natural enemies by sitting still in shallow water exposing only its nose to breathe.  They also hide in hollow logs and under thick brush.  Predators include the American alligator, foxes, coyotes, hawks and the great horned owl. 

Pygmy Rabbit    Picture of Pygmy Rabbit 

The Pygmy Rabbit is the smallest rabbit in North America, the smallest of the cottontail species, and the only cottontail that digs its own burrow.  Found in parts of California, Oregon, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana and Nevada, this species of rabbit is critically endangered in the state of Washington.  Only weighing 1.1 pounds with a body length of 11.6 inches, the female pygmy rabbit is slightly larger than the male.  Identified by its long ears, gray body color and large hind legs, the pygmy rabbit is unlike other rabbits because is has a lack of white fur on its tail.  They have five toes on each foot and hairy cushions on the soles of their feet. Pygmy Rabbit

Adults breed from February to May with males chasing females.  Adult females are very aggressive and protective of her young, fending off predators with her hind feet. Babies are born blind and with a little fur; they are born in fur lined burrows in the ground.  The young leave the nest after two to three weeks. 
During the winter months, the pygmy rabbit eats sagebrush and does not store its food.  It eats tulips, buds and flowers during the summer months.  They are hunted for their meat, for sport and by farmers as pests.

Brush Rabbit    Picture of Brush Rabbit 

The Brush Rabbit, also known as the Western Brush Rabbit, is a cottontail found in western coastal regions of North America.  Found in dense brushy cover and in oak and conifer forests, they use the burrow system to form runways through tall vegetation.  They do not dig their own burrows, but use the discarded burrows of other species.  Smaller than other cottontails, the brush rabbit has a brown-grey bodyBrush Rabbit color, white belly, and grey under its tail instead of white.  

Adults mate February to August and have two to three litter a year.  The babies are born blind, hairless and helpless.  The female brush rabbit is very territorial around her young.  They feed on grasses and clover as well as berries.  Predators include cougars, coyotes, foxes, bobcats, weasels, raptors and snakes

Pest Control    Wildlife Control    Animals and Pests

Rabbits    Hares and Jackrabbits    Cottontails