The world’s rabbits have been classified into eight distinct genera and while some are so common they’re considered pests, others are exceptionally rare and on the edge of extinction. These 9 amazing rabbits not only can be found in a variety of habitats around the globe, they’ve also managed to establish a firm and lasting presence in a surprising number of different human cultures.
Amami Rabbit (Pentalagus furnessi)
The Amami rabbit is one of the rarest rabbit genera, rated EN or Endangered on the 1994 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Restricted to just two small islands (Amami Oshima and Toku-no-Shima) in Japan’s southern Ryukyu archipelago, the Amami rabbit has enjoyed official protected status since 1963 though it remains vulnerable to feral cats. It’s estimated the current population of Amami rabbits is somewhere between 2,000 and 5,000 with the vast majority living on Amami Oshima island.
(image via: Arkive/Futoshi Hamada)
Amami rabbits have dark brown fur that pales to reddish-brown along their sides. Characterized by short hind legs, small eyes and short (for a rabbit) ears, the Amami rabbit is considered by some to be a “living fossil” and possibly a relict population of the primitive rabbits that once ranged over wide expanses of the Asian continent.
Bushman Rabbit (Bunolagus monticularis)
The only member of the genus Bunolagus, the Bushman rabbit or Riverine rabbit is one of the world’s most endangered species with as little as 200 individuals remaining. Never very abundant and highly adapted to the arid conditions in South Africa’s Karoo Desert, the Bushman Rabbit is rated CR, or Critically Endangered according to the year 2000 release of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
(image via: Open Africa)
Active nocturnally like many desert-dwelling creatures, the Bushman rabbit browses on vegetation at night before retiring for the day to shallow trenches dug in soil beneath bushes. Their distinctive visual features are a black stripe that runs across both sides of their face from the corners of the mouth over each cheek and pale rings around their eyes.
Sumatran Striped Rabbit (Nesolagus netscheri)
The Sumatran Striped Rabbit is so rare it makes the critically endangered Bushman rabbit seem positively abundant. After being sighted in the 1930s, the rabbit was not seen again until 1972 and again, via camera trap, several times since 2000. Though threatened by human encroachment on its habitat, the Sumatran Striped Rabbit is rated only VU or Vulnerable on the year 2000 edition of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as it is considered to be relatively safe in its small but mountainous rainforest range.
(image via: You Say Too)
Once thought to be the only member of the genus Nesolagus, the Sumatran Striped Rabbit has lately been joined taxonomically by the Annamite Striped Rabbit (Nesolagus timminsi). The foot-long Annamite Striped Rabbit is native to the Annamite Mountains between Laos and Vietnam. Both rabbits are striped, have short ears like the Amami rabbit, and live in isolated, mountainous jungle habitats.