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The Three Hares is an ancient motif found in various parts of the world. This design features three hares, which are shown chasing each other / running in a circle, and joined together at their ears. Although one might expect three hares to have a total of six ears, the ones in the motif have only three ears in total. Due to an optical illusion, however, it looks as though each hare has a pair of ears. Although the Three Hares is a motif shared by a number of cultures, it is likely that its symbolism changed as it crossed the different cultural barriers. Hence, this design probably has differing meanings in the many cultures where it is found.
The Three Hares in China
The earliest known examples of the Three Hares motif can be found in China. It can be seen on the ceilings of some of the temples in the Mogao Caves (also known as the Mogao Grottoes or the Cave of the Thousand Buddhas). There are at least 17 temples in this complex where the Three Hares motif is depicted on the ceiling. The earliest motifs found in this Buddhist site near Dunhuang, Gansu Province, Western China, are thought to date back to the 6th century AD, when China was under the Sui Dynasty. In the subsequent Tang Dynasty, the icon of the Three Hares continued to be used.
The Three Hares motif in Mogao Cave 407, Sui Dynasty. ( Japanese Mythology & Folklore )
Although China possesses the earliest known examples of this motif, it has been speculated that the Three Hares is not a Chinese design, and may have originated further west, perhaps from Mesopotamia, Central Asia, or the Hellenistic world. This is based on the fact that many other artistic elements in the Mogao Caves are from the West. Nevertheless, examples of the design from these proposed areas that predate those at the Mogao Caves have yet to be discovered.
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The Three Hares motif in Mogao Cave 406, Sui Dynasty . (Japanese Mythology & Folklore )
Trade and the Dispersal of the Motif
The Silk Road played an important role in the diffusion of the Three Hares motif. It was via this trade route that the Three Hares symbol found its way into the western part of China. Assuming that all later examples of the Three Hare motif have their origin in the ones found in China, then it is possible to say that the motif travelled along the Silk Road to distant lands as well.
Some later examples of this motif have been found in places such as Turkmenistan, Iran, Egypt, Syria, Germany, France, and England. The objects on which the Three Hares motif have been found include glass, ceramics, coins, and textiles. Many of these artifacts date to the time of the Pax Mongolica , i.e. the 13th century, a period when trade and the exchange of ideas between East and West flourished.
Main routes of the Silk Road (top) and known sites of the Three Hares motif between 600-1500 AD. ( Morn/CC BY SA 3.0 )
Meanings of the Three Hares
The Three Hares symbolized different things for the different cultures who used it. In the absence of contemporary written records, however, these meanings can only be speculation. For example, in Christian Europe, one interpretation of the motif is that it symbolized the Holy Trinity, which may explain its depictions in churches. The problem with this hypothesis is that it was made some centuries after the motif was made, and might not coincide with the original meaning as intended by its creators.
The Holy Trinity by unknown Portuguese master (16th cent.) (CC BY-SA 4.0 )
Another theory is that the hare represents the Virgin Mary, as hares were once mistakenly believed to have been able to procreate without a mate, thus giving birth without losing their virginity. In some churches, this motif is juxtaposed with an image of the Green Man, perhaps to highlight the contrast between the redemption of humanity with its sinful nature.
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In the East, on the other hand, the hare is said to represent peace and tranquility, and has been regarded as an auspicious animal. This may be the reason for its use in the decoration of the Mogao Caves for example.
A medallion on an 18th-century embroidered Chinese emperor's imperial robe showing the White Hare of the Moon, at the foot of a cassia tree, making an elixir of immortality.
In both Eastern and Western cultures, the hare was once believed to have magical qualities, and it has been associated with mysticism and the divine. Additionally, the hare can be found in numerous stories relating to fertility, femininity, and the lunar cycle. Thus, it may be these connections that led to the hare being incorporated into the Three Hares motifs.
Featured image: The Dreihasenfenster (Window of Three Hares), Paderborn Cathedral, Germany. Photo source:
Pagan Traveler: The Mysterious Origins Of The Green Man
As a born-again pagan hoping to keep the UK green, the Green Man seemed a perfect place to start.
The forest symbol was, of course, a part of British heritage and a defender of green spaces. When I started my research into the motif, some of the literature supported my original image of the Green Man these books generally focused on his spirit.
However, another line of research concentrating on archaeology and history declared the Green Man a well-traveled universal religious icon, brought to the UK by Christianity. I was intrigued by the split personality of the Green Man, and will describe what we know about an archetypal symbol that continues to influence and inspire cultures around the world.
The “Green Man” forest spirit has traveled the world for centuries, and seems to have adapted to local cultures as the centuries have passed. Some of the best evidence of the phenomenon today is interestingly found on medieval churches in France and England. But in ancient times, this pagan God of nature lived not only among Celtic forest tribes in northern Europe, but also among great architectural empires such as Egypt, Greece and Rome.
So how did the Green Man find itself becoming a common church decoration, and what do we now know about its origins? The trail appears to stretch from Eastern Asia across to North America.
The Continental Connection
One theory about the origins of the Green Man in the West is that it is a pagan artifact derived from the ancient Celts’ worship of the head. The Celts regarded the head as the seat of the soul.
An armlet found in a Celtic grave at Rodenbach in Germany, dating from around 400 BC, provides material evidence to support a link between the Celts and later representations of the Green Man, as it has a decoration that culminates in an abstracted male head wearing a crown of yew-berries.
As Christianity later spread across old Celtic territory, pagans who converted to the new religion may have influenced the adoption of the nature symbol by the church.
The first record of such a figure in a Christian setting is on the fourth century tomb of Abre in the Church of Saint-Hilaire-le-Grand in Poitiers, France. Abre was the daughter of Saint Hilaire, who was a high-ranking pagan that converted to Christianity and became a renowned figure in the church.
Christianity may also have become accustomed to the foliate heads through the recycling of pagan ornaments, as many old temples and statues were adopted by churches. For example, in the sixth century, as the Franks took power in North-Eastern Europe, Archbishop Nicetius of Trier maintained several foliate head figures in the cathedral church he rebuilt, despite their origination as a pagan symbol.
A few centuries later, the foliate heads became a common feature on continental medieval churches. They then crossed the channel into Britain with the Normans, but remained largely unnoticed until being named Green Men by Lady Raglan in 1939.
After their naming, a common theory for the origins of the foliate heads was that they had been passed down from ancient British pagan tradition, along with the Jack-in-the-Green May Day figure.
However, an exhaustive historical study by Dr. Roy Judge found no evidence of the Jack-in-the-Green before the eighteenth century, centuries after the Green Man foliate heads crossed the channel into British churches.
An Asian Heritage?
Although the Green Man may be a descendant of old Celtic and European culture, there is another line of thinking that traces its origins to south and east Asia.
Renowned Green Man researchers such as Mercia MacDermott and Mike Harding argue that the most common representation of the European Green Man, which disgorges vegetation from its mouth, bears a striking similarity to statues of the kirttimukha and makara in India.
Harding also found a similar design in the Apo Kayan region of Borneo, and thinks the motif traveled along the trade routes linking Europe and Asia.
Another motif that links the East and Europe at that time is the Three Rabbits/Hares figure which often appears in churches alongside the Green Man. Harding explains:
“This second motif consists of three rabbits, or hares, chasing each other in a circle, with each animal sharing an ear in much the same way as six foliate heads on the roof boss in Chichester Cathedral each share an eye with their neighbours. The earliest known example of this triple rabbit motif occurs in Buddhist cave paintings, dating from the late 6th/early 7th century, in Dunhuang, on the edge of the Gobi desert in western China.”
As with the Green Man, there is no written record of what the Rabbits/Hares motif symbolizes. Chris Chapman offered the following theory:
The hare is strongly represented in world mythology and from ancient times has had divine associations…in Christian contexts, the three hares may be associated with the Virgin Mary in her role in the redemption of mankind. This might explain why a Three Hares boss is often juxtaposed in western European churches with a boss of the Green Man, perhaps a representation of sinful humanity.
New Homes for the Green Man
Although ecclesiastical Green Man figures peaked in medieval times, they found a new home on secular buildings around the world during the Victorian era.
The Green Man’s resurgence gathered pace in the twentieth century, starting with its naming by Lady Raglan, and then becoming an environmental totem for the counter-culture movement that emerged during the 1960s.
The Green Man now looks very healthy for a 2500 year old global traveler, but whether this is one Green Man archetype that has traveled the world, or many similar designs that have emerged like pyramids in the Jungian collective unconscious, is still unclear.
We may never know the truth.
What do you think about the history of the Green Man and his cultural influence? Share your thoughts below.
The Dartmoor Tinners have always been a law unto themselves, at one time they had their own parliament and laws with the rights to virtually mine tin wherever they wanted. Recent legend tells of how they even had their own symbol or badge in the shape of three rabbits running in a circle.
Careful research has revealed that this is untrue and in fact the symbol has much older roots. In her book ‘The Outline of Dartmoor’s Story’, Lady Sayer wrote(p.24):
“The Fifteenth century was a particularly prosperous time for Dartmoor tinners, and by way of a thank-offering they enlarged and rebuilt some of the moorland churches. Widecombe church is a fine example, and there you can see the tinners’ emblem carved on a roof-boss – three rabbits sharing ears…”
This was probably the first serious mention that linked the symbol with the tinners. The connection between the symbol and the tinners may have arisen because the ‘Three Rabbits’ can be found in some of the Dartmoor churches which would have been in mining areas. If one accepts that the actual symbol shows hares and not rabbits then there is a deep hidden history to be found.
Ok, let’s look at where the three hares can be found, most of the old examples are in churches, in Devon there are 28 in total of which 19 are of a possible medieval origin and of these 12 are on or very near Dartmoor. All are carved wooden bosses and are located in the roof. There are 2 examples which appear on plaster ceilings of private houses and a modern example of a stained glass window which is located in the door of the tinners bar at the Castle Inn in Lydford.
Looking further a field there are instances of church bosses to be found in Corfe Mullen, Cotehele, Selby Abbey, St. David’s cathedral and Llawhaden. In Long Melford church the design can be seen in a medieval stained glass window and in Chester cathedral it appears in a floor tile. Scarborough can boast having the design set into a plaster ceiling. Although this is not a long list the distribution is far and wide. When looking in a global context, there are examples to be found in France, Germany and Switzerland, Southern Russia, Iran, Nepal and China. The earliest known example is the Chinese one which dates to around AD600. The Nepalese examples have been dated to around AD1200 and the Afghanistan instance to AD1100. The earliest European examples date to around AD1200 with the English ones at around AD1300.
What does the actual symbol look like? It actually depicts three rabbits running in a circular formation. Bit like a ‘harey merry-go-round’. Their ears interlock in the centre – and here is the really clever bit, they actually form an optical illusion in that although they all appear to have two ears in fact only three are actually depicted.
Having established what the symbol looks like, the main question to answer is why the hare and what did it represent? In their book ‘The Leaping Hare’, George Ewart Evans and David Thomson (1972pp. 15-17) point out that in early Chinese mythology the hare was a symbol for resurrection. In fact the Chinese don’t refer to ‘the man in the moon’, they refer to ‘the hare in the moon’. This hare in the moon is said to pound the herb of immortality. In India there is a similar legend and in addition the hare figured as a sacrificial animal that offered itself to be burnt in order to provide food for Brahman. In ancient Egypt the figure of a hare was used as a hieroglyph which denoted existence. In Europe there is evidence of a cult of a hare goddess. In his book ‘The Sacred Ring’, Michael Howard explains that in Saxon times the Goddess Oestara or Eostre was said to rule over the spring and the dawn. Her sacred animal was the hare which was also the symbol of the moon. Coincidentally, the gestation period of a hare is 28 days which is comparable with the moons monthly cycle. And whilst talking cycles it is also interesting to note that the female monthly cycle is affected by the hormone oestrogen and also lasts about 28 days. Howard goes on to note that the moon hare was supposed to have laid the Cosmic Egg from which emerged all life. (1995 pp. 58-9). It is from Eostre that we get the festival of Easter which originally celebrated the coming of spring. It was only when the Christians came along that the festival was bastardised to represent their celebration thus overshadowing the origin pagan concepts. The very symbols of the pagan festival were transformed into Christian icons, the ‘hare of Eostre’ became the ‘Easter Bunny’ and the ‘Cosmic Egg’ became the Easter egg. In pagan time special cakes were baked as sacrificial offerings to the moon goddess and were marked with an equal-armed cross to divide the cake into four quarters. These represented the four lunar quarters. The cake was then broken up into pieces and buried at the nearest crossroads as an offering. Yet again this has been plagiarised into the cake becoming the ‘hot cross bun’ and the cross representing the cross of Christ. Believe me, the more you study folklore, myth and custom the more you realise that the early Christians didn’t have an original idea amongst themselves. They simply converted any pagan site, custom or belief into one of the Christian doctrines – this is another subject so had better way leave it there. Ralph Whitlock, in his book ‘In search of lost gods’, suggests that the hare was an early Celtic form of divination and that when Queen Boudicca was assembling her army prior to kicking the proverbial out of the Romans, a hare shot out from under her cloak and fled in panic, this was a portent meaning the Romans would be put to flight (1979 p.74) It is also interesting to note that once the hare symbol had been Christianised into a fluffy Easter bunny that same religion soon associated the hare with evil. The other association transferred from the hare to the rabbit was the tradition that its foot was a good luck charm. In his book ‘Folklore, myths and customs of Britain’, Marc Alexander gives several examples of how the hare was regarded in legend. For instance, if you dreamt of a hare you were being warned of an imminent death in the family. If a pregnant woman saw a hare then the baby would be born with a ‘hare lip’. It was also said that if a hare crossed the path of a wedding procession then the marriage was doomed (2002 p.124). In Cornwall it is said that girls who died of grief caused by a fickle lover turned into pure white hares and haunted the guilty parties. It is the connection with witches that has earned the hare its worst association with evil. Tradition holds that witches could turn themselves into hares as in the story of Bowerman’s Nose . Alexander gives an example of how in 1662 a woman named Isobel Gowdie was put on trial for a charge of witchcraft. She related how she and other witches could transform themselves into hares by repeating: “I shall go intill a hare, with sorrow and such meikle care and I shall go in the Devil’s name at while I come home again“. Any Dartmoor enthusiast will be aware of the legend of the witch from near Buckland who would send her grandson to direct the local squire’s hunt to where he knew a hare would be. This story can be found in local lore all across the country. One variant is that the huntsman shot the hare with a silver bullet and then found the old woman with a bullet wound. The silver bullet was meant to be the only thing that could harm a witch. Bit like the werewolf legend. Well ok, that was a rambling way to ascertain that the hare clearly was a mystic symbol with roots deep into pre-Christian times. Worldwide it represented the moon and in general life and rebirth and of course the female figure. But as far as the tinners of Dartmoor are concerned I think it is just a co-incidence that many of their churches depict this symbol and that it was clearly a ‘in thing’ as far as church decorations go.
Three Hares window – Castle Inn, Lydford – Chris Chapman.
There is an excellent website on the Three Hares Project which depicts many of the three hares symbols on church bosses.
Alexander, A. 2002 Folklore, Myths & Customs of Britain, Sutton Pub., Bath
Ewart Evans, G. & Thompson, D. 1972 The Leaping Hare, Readers Union, Trowbridge.
Greeves, T. 1991 Tinners Rabbits, Dartmoor Magazine No.25, Quay Pub.
Greeves, T. 2000 The Three Hares, Dartmoor Magazine, No.61, Quay Pub.
Howard, M. 1995 The Sacred Ring, Capall Bann Pub., Chieveley.
Sayer, S. 1987 The Outline of Dartmoor’s Story, Devon Books, Exeter.
Whitlock, R. 1979 In Search of Lost Gods, Phaidon Press, Oxford.
She and the 3 Hares
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This is a unique artwork, which combines the beauty of a painted human body, canvas painting, photographed together as a total work of art.
The THREE HARES motif is a trinity symbol and appears in sacred sites from the Middle and the Far East to the churches of Devon, England, and historical synagogues in Europe. The earliest occurrences appear to be in cave temples in China, dated to the Sui dynasty (6th to 7th centuries). The iconography spread along the Silk Road and was a symbol associated with Buddhism. While each hare seems to have two ears, the symbol is actually a visual puzzle: a total of three ears connects them in their endless loop. Some believe the rabbits symbolize eternity others think they stand for fertility. Still, others consider them a representation of the connection between the heavens and the Earth. The original meaning of the three hares motif remains obscure, but it has a cross-cultural significance.
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Cultural environmentalist Tom Greeves was born in Plymouth in 1949. The universities of Essex, Edinburgh and Exeter prepared him for extensive research, publication, teaching and interpretation, on which is built his reputation as an authority on the archaeology and history of Dartmoor. He has worked independently since 1990.
A varied career has included being Sites & Monuments Officer for Devon, Archaeologist for Dartmoor National Park, and Local Initiatives Officer for the environmental arts group Common Ground. He has worked independently since 1990. Since 1998 he has been Chairman of the Dartmoor Society. He was President of the Devonshire Association 2015-2016.
Besides unravelling Dartmoor’s cultural landscape, Tom’s core interests include Tinworking, The Three Hares, European Prehistory, the Isles of Scilly, and Theatrical Performance.
"From the perspective of European folklore, the rabbit is a creature with strong ties to witchcraft and magic. Rabbits and hares were commonly considered to be favorite familiars of witches. Additionally throughout Wales, Ireland and Scotland it was often believed that witches would transform themselves into hares in order to travel about undetected. In the case of the witch or her familiar it was said that the only way to injure or kill the supernatural hare was with the aid of a silver bullet. Interestingly enough, and a concept with potential significance, some European traditions held that the devil himself would often take the form of a hare with only three legs. This inspires further thought when we note that one of the few claimed powers of the Rabbit’s Foot in Europe was its ability to protect against witchcraft. The color of a rabbit was also of importance as some believed that to see a white rabbit was an omen of death, whilst black rabbits were often thought to be the reincarnated souls of ancestors."
- From an article by Matthew Venus entitled The Rabbit's Foot.
"According to local legend, a huntsman called Bowerman lived on the moor around one thousand years ago. When chasing a hare he and his pack of dogs unwittingly ran into a coven of witches, overturned their cauldron and disrupted their ceremony.
They decided to punish him, and the next time he was hunting, one of the witches turned herself into a hare, and led both Bowerman and his hounds into a mire. As a final punishment, she turned them to stone - the dogs can be seen as a jagged chain of rocks on top of Hound Tor, while the huntsman himself became the rock formation now known as Bowerman's Nose."
- From John Page's "An Exploration of Dartmoor", 1889, found here. (A photograph of Bowerman's Nose can be found at the end of this post.)
"Ancient Chinese men before the Han Dynasty believed that there were no male rabbits and female rabbits only became pregnant by watching the moon and spat out babies from their mouths. The origin of the Chinese term for rabbit "tuzi" was drawn from this belief, where tu means 'spit' and zi means 'babies'. This belief was corrected in the Han Dynasty. Mulan Ci, the story of Hua Mulan, talked about the way to tell rabbits' gender by lifting the rabbit by its ears. It was said that male rabbit's feet kept moving while female rabbit's eyes squint."
I've been mulling over the Three-hare symbol since I featured it in my spring post. a lot! Something about its attractiveness and the mystery surrounding it took hold of me and the little wheels started turning. If symbols could speak - and, really, that seems to be the whole point of a symbol - then the rotating three hares were speaking to me. So, what is it about those cunning little rabbits? While I can't say anything for certain, my online research has taken me to so many odd places that I'd feel irresponsible if I didn't try to share some of the interesting bits of information I found along the way.
|Three Hare motif on a woman's tombstone, Sataniv, Ukraine, found here.|
According to the Wiki article, the symbol of the Three Hares is, quite possibly, a meme in this case, emerging synchronistically and independently in several localities at once without, necessarily, a common link or thread. But, the consensus of opinion seems to be that the symbol originated in the Far East, specifically in Buddhist caves - or, possibly, in central Asia - and as it travelled along the Silk Road in the form of an embellishment on some variety of goods, was discovered and eventually borrowed by other artists or artisans. So, in the end, the symbol came to mean several different things depending upon the cultural needs it served. And, along with Buddhist caves, the symbol has been found in Jewish synagogues, on Ukrainian gravestones, on an Iranian tray, a Mongolian casket, various Medieval illuminations, and numerous Christian churches across Europe and the British Isles. But it's only been due to the relatively recent, dedicated research on the part of art historian Sue Andrew, archaeologist and historian Dr. Thomas Greeves, Elizabeth Greeves, and documentary photographer Chris Chapman, that the conundrum was brought to popular attention. They formed the Three Hares Project in 2000 - (BBC article) - and, it's to them that this post and a subsequent article are indebted.
|One interpretation of the Hare on the Moon. |
Another can be found here.
From an Asian perspective, the Three-Hare symbol might be understood in one of several ways. For instance, when China launched its lunar rover, Yotu - the Jade Rabbit - in 2013, I'm guessing that few of us in the west were aware of the fact that putting a rabbit on the moon was the metaphorical Asian equivalent of the West's putting a man on the moon. That is, those of us in the west are conditioned to see a man's face in the full moon. hence, Man in the Moon and/or on the moon. But, when Asian children gaze at the moon, they're taught to see a hare mixing the "elixir of mortality" with a mortar and pestal. In Japan and Korea the hare is pounding a rice cake or "Moshi" in the mortar, which, in the Shinto tradition is comprised of human souls. But, in any case, when Yotu arrived on the moon, the Asian moon myths were actualized in the same way the Apollo moon landing actualized the myth of the west. (Note: Interestingly, the Aztecs and Native Americans had similar myths.)
|The plaster original for a small brooch I carved |
for my mom in the 1990s.
Japanese Mythology posted a link to The Usagi Song.
a strange little tune related to the Moon Bunny.
"Gowdie was born sometime in the early 1600s in Auldearn, a village just outside Nairn in the Scottish Highlands. The daughter of a solicitor, she was a highly educated woman, encountering the upheaval of the Covenanting War in her youth, probably witnessing the gory Battle of Auldearn in 1645. She found herself trapped in a fairly miserable marriage. Sources say she married ‘beneath herself’, to John Gilbert of Lyon, a farmer and Kirk elder, going to live at his farm in Lochloy. The farm was isolated, and Isobel cut a lonely figure, expected to accompany her dour husband everywhere he went, which she was reluctant to do. Arguably, it was this dreich existence that drove her to witchcraft.
. The predicted meeting at Auldearn Kirkyard went ahead, with Isobel meeting both the Devil and Margaret Brodie. At this meeting, Isobel was renamed “Jonet” by the Devil and received his mark. From then on, she went on to fairly big things in the witching world. She was the powerful head of her own coven, which, according to her confessions, got up to all types of magic. Interestingly, her confessions, which had a huge impact on Scottish witchcraft, introduced the word coven into the general lexicon of witch trials.
Gowdie, in her confession, described how she and her coven were able to shape shift, turning into creatures such as hares. The incantation they used was:
Male rabbits are called bucks females are called does. An older term for an adult rabbit used until 18c. is coney (derived ultimately from the Latin cuniculus), while rabbit once referred only to the young animals.  Another term for a young rabbit is bunny, though this term is often applied informally (particularly by children) to rabbits generally, especially domestic ones. More recently, the term kit or kitten has been used to refer to a young rabbit.
A group of rabbits is known as a colony or nest (or, occasionally, a warren, though this more commonly refers to where the rabbits live).  A group of baby rabbits produced from a single mating is referred to as a litter  and a group of domestic rabbits living together is sometimes called a herd. 
The word rabbit itself derives from Middle English "rabet", a borrowing from Walloon "robète" which was a diminuitive of French or Middle Dutch "robbe". 
Rabbits and hares were formerly classified in the order Rodentia (rodent) until 1912, when they were moved into a new order, Lagomorpha (which also includes pikas). Below are some of the genera and species of the rabbit.
Differences from hares
Hares are precocial, born relatively mature and mobile with hair and good vision, while rabbits are altricial, born hairless and blind, and requiring closer care. Hares (and cottontail rabbits) live a relatively solitary life in a simple nest above the ground, while most rabbits live in social groups in burrows or warrens. Hares are generally larger than rabbits, with ears that are more elongated, and with hind legs that are larger and longer. Hares have not been domesticated, while descendants of the European rabbit are commonly bred as livestock and kept as pets.
Rabbits have long been domesticated. Beginning in the Middle Ages, the European rabbit has been widely kept as livestock, starting in ancient Rome. Selective breeding has generated a wide variety of rabbit breeds, of which many (since the early 19th century) are also kept as pets. Some strains of rabbit have been bred specifically as research subjects.
As livestock, rabbits are bred for their meat and fur. The earliest breeds were important sources of meat, and so became larger than wild rabbits, but domestic rabbits in modern times range in size from dwarf to giant. Rabbit fur, prized for its softness, can be found in a broad range of coat colors and patterns, as well as lengths. The Angora rabbit breed, for example, was developed for its long, silky fur, which is often hand-spun into yarn. Other domestic rabbit breeds have been developed primarily for the commercial fur trade, including the Rex, which has a short plush coat.
Because the rabbit's epiglottis is engaged over the soft palate except when swallowing, the rabbit is an obligate nasal breather [ contradictory ] . Rabbits have two sets of incisor teeth, one behind the other. This way they can be distinguished from rodents, with which they are often confused.  Carl Linnaeus originally grouped rabbits and rodents under the class Glires later, they were separated as the scientific consensus is that many of their similarities were a result of convergent evolution. However, recent DNA analysis and the discovery of a common ancestor has supported the view that they do share a common lineage, and thus rabbits and rodents are now often referred to together as members of the superorder Glires. 
Since speed and agility are a rabbit's main defenses against predators (including the swift fox), rabbits have large hind leg bones and well developed musculature. Though plantigrade at rest, rabbits are on their toes while running, assuming a more digitigrade form. Rabbits use their strong claws for digging and (along with their teeth) for defense.  Each front foot has four toes plus a dewclaw. Each hind foot has four toes (but no dewclaw). 
Most wild rabbits (especially compared to hares) have relatively full, egg-shaped bodies. The soft coat of the wild rabbit is agouti in coloration (or, rarely, melanistic), which aids in camouflage. The tail of the rabbit (with the exception of the cottontail species) is dark on top and white below. Cottontails have white on the top of their tails. 
As a result of the position of the eyes in its skull, the rabbit has a field of vision that encompasses nearly 360 degrees, with just a small blind spot at the bridge of the nose. 
Hind limb elements
The anatomy of rabbits' hind limbs are structurally similar to that of other land mammals and contribute to their specialized form of locomotion. The bones of the hind limbs consist of long bones (the femur, tibia, fibula, and phalanges) as well as short bones (the tarsals). These bones are created through endochondral ossification during development. Like most land mammals, the round head of the femur articulates with the acetabulum of the ox coxae. The femur articulates with the tibia, but not the fibula, which is fused to the tibia. The tibia and fibula articulate with the tarsals of the pes, commonly called the foot. The hind limbs of the rabbit are longer than the front limbs. This allows them to produce their hopping form of locomotion. Longer hind limbs are more capable of producing faster speeds. Hares, which have longer legs than cottontail rabbits, are able to move considerably faster.  Rabbits stay just on their toes when moving this is called Digitigrade locomotion. The hind feet have four long toes that allow for this and are webbed to prevent them from spreading when hopping.  Rabbits do not have paw pads on their feet like most other animals that use digitigrade locomotion. Instead, they have coarse compressed hair that offers protection. 
Rabbits have muscled hind legs that allow for maximum force, maneuverability, and acceleration that is divided into three main parts foot, thigh, and leg. The hind limbs of a rabbit are an exaggerated feature, that are much longer than the forelimbs providing more force. Rabbits run on their toes to gain the optimal stride during locomotion. The force put out by the hind limbs is contributed to both the structural anatomy of the fusion tibia and fibula, and muscular features.  Bone formation and removal, from a cellular standpoint, is directly correlated to hind limb muscles. Action pressure from muscles creates force that is then distributed through the skeletal structures. Rabbits that generate less force, putting less stress on bones are more prone to osteoporosis due to bone rarefaction.  In rabbits, the more fibers in a muscle, the more resistant to fatigue. For example, hares have a greater resistance to fatigue than cottontails. The muscles of rabbit's hind limbs can be classified into four main categories: hamstrings, quadriceps, dorsiflexors, or plantar flexors. The quadriceps muscles are in charge of force production when jumping. Complementing these muscles are the hamstrings which aid in short bursts of action. These muscles play off of one another in the same way as the plantar flexors and dorsiflexors, contributing to the generation and actions associated with force. 
Within the order lagomorphs, the ears are utilized to detect and avoid predators. In the family Leporidae, the ears are typically longer than they are wide. For example, in black tailed jack rabbits, their long ears cover a greater surface area relative to their body size that allow them to detect predators from far away. Contrasted to cotton tailed rabbits, their ears are smaller and shorter, requiring predators to be closer to detect them before they can flee. Evolution has favored rabbits having shorter ears so the larger surface area does not cause them to lose heat in more temperate regions. The opposite can be seen in rabbits that live in hotter climates, mainly because they possess longer ears that have a larger surface area that help with dispersion of heat as well as the theory that sound does not travel well in more arid air, opposed to cooler air. Therefore, longer ears are meant to aid the organism in detecting predators sooner rather than later in warmer temperatures.  The rabbit is characterized by its shorter ears while hares are characterized by their longer ears.  Rabbits' ears are an important structure to aid thermoregulation and detect predators due to how the outer, middle, and inner ear muscles coordinate with one another. The ear muscles also aid in maintaining balance and movement when fleeing predators. 
The auricle, also known as the pinna, is a rabbit's outer ear.  The rabbit's pinnae represent a fair part of the body surface area. It is theorized that the ears aid in dispersion of heat at temperatures above 30 °C with rabbits in warmer climates having longer pinnae due to this. Another theory is that the ears function as shock absorbers that could aid and stabilize rabbit's vision when fleeing predators, but this has typically only been seen in hares.  The rest of the outer ear has bent canals that lead to the eardrum or tympanic membrane. 
The middle ear is filled with three bones called ossicles and is separated by the outer eardrum in the back of the rabbit's skull. The three ossicles are called hammer, anvil, and stirrup and act to decrease sound before it hits the inner ear. In general, the ossicles act as a barrier to the inner ear for sound energy. 
Inner ear fluid called endolymph receives the sound energy. After receiving the energy, later within the inner ear there are two parts: the cochlea that utilizes sound waves from the ossicles and the vestibular apparatus that manages the rabbit's position in regards to movement. Within the cochlea there is a basilar membrane that contains sensory hair structures utilized to send nerve signals to the brain so it can recognize different sound frequencies. Within the vestibular apparatus the rabbit possesses three semicircular canals to help detect angular motion. 
Thermoregulation is the process that an organism utilizes to maintain an optimal body temperature independent of external conditions.  This process is carried out by the pinnae which takes up most of the rabbit's body surface and contain a vascular network and arteriovenous shunts.  In a rabbit, the optimal body temperature is around 38.5–40℃.  If their body temperature exceeds or does not meet this optimal temperature, the rabbit must return to homeostasis. Homeostasis of body temperature is maintained by the use of their large, highly vascularized ears that are able to change the amount of blood flow that passes through the ears.
Constriction and dilation of blood vessels in the ears are used to control the core body temperature of a rabbit. If the core temperature exceeds its optimal temperature greatly, blood flow is constricted to limit the amount of blood going through the vessels. With this constriction, there is only a limited amount of blood that is passing through the ears where ambient heat would be able to heat the blood that is flowing through the ears and therefore, increasing the body temperature. Constriction is also used when the ambient temperature is much lower than that of the rabbit's core body temperature. When the ears are constricted it again limits blood flow through the ears to conserve the optimal body temperature of the rabbit. If the ambient temperature is either 15 degrees above or below the optimal body temperature, the blood vessels will dilate. With the blood vessels being enlarged, the blood is able to pass through the large surface area which causes it to either heat or cool down.
During the summer, the rabbit has the capability to stretch its pinnae which allows for greater surface area and increase heat dissipation. In the winter, the rabbit does the opposite and folds its ears in order to decrease its surface area to the ambient air which would decrease their body temperature.
The jackrabbit has the largest ears within the Oryctolagus cuniculus group. Their ears contribute to 17% of their total body surface area. Their large pinna were evolved to maintain homeostasis while in the extreme temperatures of the desert.
The rabbit's nasal cavity lies dorsal to the oral cavity, and the two compartments are separated by the hard and soft palate.  The nasal cavity itself is separated into a left and right side by a cartilage barrier, and it is covered in fine hairs that trap dust before it can enter the respiratory tract.   As the rabbit breathes, air flows in through the nostrils along the alar folds. From there, the air moves into the nasal cavity, also known as the nasopharynx, down through the trachea, through the larynx, and into the lungs.   The larynx functions as the rabbit's voice box, which enables it to produce a wide variety of sounds.  The trachea is a long tube embedded with cartilaginous rings that prevent the tube from collapsing as air moves in and out of the lungs. The trachea then splits into a left and right bronchus, which meet the lungs at a structure called the hilum. From there, the bronchi split into progressively more narrow and numerous branches. The bronchi branch into bronchioles, into respiratory bronchioles, and ultimately terminate at the alveolar ducts. The branching that is typically found in rabbit lungs is a clear example of monopodial branching, in which smaller branches divide out laterally from a larger central branch. 
Rabbits breathe primarily [ contradictory ] through their noses due to the fact that the epiglottis is fixed to the backmost portion of the soft palate.  Within the oral cavity, a layer of tissue sits over the opening of the glottis, which blocks airflow from the oral cavity to the trachea.  The epiglottis functions to prevent the rabbit from aspirating on its food. Further, the presence of a soft and hard palate allow the rabbit to breathe through its nose while it feeds. 
Rabbits lungs are divided into four lobes: the cranial, middle, caudal, and accessory lobes. The right lung is made up of all four lobes, while the left lung only has two: the cranial and caudal lobes.  In order to provide space for the heart, the left cranial lobe of the lungs is significantly smaller than that of the right.  The diaphragm is a muscular structure that lies caudal to the lungs and contracts to facilitate respiration.  
Rabbits are herbivores that feed by grazing on grass, forbs, and leafy weeds. In consequence, their diet contains large amounts of cellulose, which is hard to digest. Rabbits solve this problem via a form of hindgut fermentation. They pass two distinct types of feces: hard droppings and soft black viscous pellets, the latter of which are known as caecotrophs or "night droppings"  and are immediately eaten (a behaviour known as coprophagy). Rabbits reingest their own droppings (rather than chewing the cud as do cows and numerous other herbivores) to digest their food further and extract sufficient nutrients. 
Rabbits graze heavily and rapidly for roughly the first half-hour of a grazing period (usually in the late afternoon), followed by about half an hour of more selective feeding. [ citation needed ] In this time, the rabbit will also excrete many hard fecal pellets, being waste pellets that will not be reingested. [ citation needed ] If the environment is relatively non-threatening, the rabbit will remain outdoors for many hours, grazing at intervals. [ citation needed ] While out of the burrow, the rabbit will occasionally reingest its soft, partially digested pellets this is rarely observed, since the pellets are reingested as they are produced. [ citation needed ]
Hard pellets are made up of hay-like fragments of plant cuticle and stalk, being the final waste product after redigestion of soft pellets. These are only released outside the burrow and are not reingested. Soft pellets are usually produced several hours after grazing, after the hard pellets have all been excreted. [ citation needed ] They are made up of micro-organisms and undigested plant cell walls. [ citation needed ]
Rabbits are hindgut digesters. This means that most of their digestion takes place in their large intestine and cecum. In rabbits, the cecum is about 10 times bigger than the stomach and it along with the large intestine makes up roughly 40% of the rabbit's digestive tract.  The unique musculature of the cecum allows the intestinal tract of the rabbit to separate fibrous material from more digestible material the fibrous material is passed as feces, while the more nutritious material is encased in a mucous lining as a cecotrope. Cecotropes, sometimes called "night feces", are high in minerals, vitamins and proteins that are necessary to the rabbit's health. Rabbits eat these to meet their nutritional requirements the mucous coating allows the nutrients to pass through the acidic stomach for digestion in the intestines. This process allows rabbits to extract the necessary nutrients from their food. 
The chewed plant material collects in the large cecum, a secondary chamber between the large and small intestine containing large quantities of symbiotic bacteria that help with the digestion of cellulose and also produce certain B vitamins. The pellets are about 56% bacteria by dry weight, largely accounting for the pellets being 24.4% protein on average. The soft feces form here and contain up to five times the vitamins of hard feces. After being excreted, they are eaten whole by the rabbit and redigested in a special part of the stomach. The pellets remain intact for up to six hours in the stomach the bacteria within continue to digest the plant carbohydrates. This double-digestion process enables rabbits to use nutrients that they may have missed during the first passage through the gut, as well as the nutrients formed by the microbial activity and thus ensures that maximum nutrition is derived from the food they eat.  This process serves the same purpose in the rabbit as rumination does in cattle and sheep. 
Because rabbits cannot vomit,  if buildup occurs within the intestines (due often to a diet with insufficient fibre),  intestinal blockage can occur. 
The adult male reproductive system forms the same as most mammals with the seminiferous tubular compartment containing the Sertoli cells and an adluminal compartment that contains the Leydig cells.  The Leydig cells produce testosterone, which maintains libido  and creates secondary sex characteristics such as the genital tubercle and penis. The Sertoli cells triggers the production of Anti-Müllerian duct hormone, which absorbs the Müllerian duct. In an adult male rabbit, the sheath of the penis is cylinder-like and can be extruded as early as two months of age.  The scrotal sacs lay lateral to the penis and contain epididymal fat pads which protect the testes. Between 10 and 14 weeks, the testes descend and are able to retract into the pelvic cavity in order to thermoregulate.  Furthermore, the secondary sex characteristics, such as the testes, are complex and secrete many compounds. These compounds includes fructose, citric acid, minerals, and a uniquely high amount of catalase. 
The adult female reproductive tract is bipartite, which prevents an embryo from translocating between uteri.  The two uterine horns communicate to two cervixes and forms one vaginal canal. Along with being bipartite, the female rabbit does not go through an estrus cycle, which causes mating induced ovulation. 
The average female rabbit becomes sexually mature at 3 to 8 months of age and can conceive at any time of the year for the duration of her life. However, egg and sperm production can begin to decline after three years.  During mating, the male rabbit will mount the female rabbit from behind and insert his penis into the female and make rapid pelvic hip thrusts. The encounter lasts only 20–40 seconds and after, the male will throw himself backwards off the female. 
The rabbit gestation period is short and ranges from 28 to 36 days with an average period of 31 days. A longer gestation period will generally yield a smaller litter while shorter gestation periods will give birth to a larger litter. The size of a single litter can range from four to 12 kits allowing a female to deliver up to 60 new kits a year. After birth, the female can become pregnant again as early as the next day. 
The mortality rates of embryos are high in rabbits and can be due to infection, trauma, poor nutrition and environmental stress so a high fertility rate is necessary to counter this. 
Rabbits may appear to be crepuscular, but their natural inclination is toward nocturnal activity.  In 2011, the average sleep time of a rabbit in captivity was calculated at 8.4 hours per day.  As with other prey animals, rabbits often sleep with their eyes open, so that sudden movements will awaken the rabbit to respond to potential danger. 
In addition to being at risk of disease from common pathogens such as Bordetella bronchiseptica and Escherichia coli, rabbits can contract the virulent, species-specific viruses RHD ("rabbit hemorrhagic disease", a form of calicivirus)  or myxomatosis. Among the parasites that infect rabbits are tapeworms (such as Taenia serialis), external parasites (including fleas and mites), coccidia species, and Toxoplasma gondii.   Domesticated rabbits with a diet lacking in high fiber sources, such as hay and grass, are susceptible to potentially lethal gastrointestinal stasis.  Rabbits and hares are almost never found to be infected with rabies and have not been known to transmit rabies to humans. 
Encephalitozoon cuniculi, an obligate intracellular parasite is also capable of infecting many mammals including rabbits.
Rabbits are prey animals and are therefore constantly aware of their surroundings. For instance, in Mediterranean Europe, rabbits are the main prey of red foxes, badgers, and Iberian lynxes.  If confronted by a potential threat, a rabbit may freeze and observe then warn others in the warren with powerful thumps on the ground. Rabbits have a remarkably wide field of vision, and a good deal of it is devoted to overhead scanning.  They survive predation by burrowing, hopping away in a zig-zag motion, and, if captured, delivering powerful kicks with their hind legs. Their strong teeth allow them to eat and to bite in order to escape a struggle.  The longest-lived rabbit on record, a domesticated European rabbit living in Tasmania, died at age 18.  The lifespan of wild rabbits is much shorter the average longevity of an eastern cottontail, for instance, is less than one year. 
Habitat and range
Rabbit habitats include meadows, woods, forests, grasslands, deserts and wetlands.  Rabbits live in groups, and the best known species, the European rabbit, lives in burrows, or rabbit holes. A group of burrows is called a warren. 
More than half the world's rabbit population resides in North America.  They are also native to southwestern Europe, Southeast Asia, Sumatra, some islands of Japan, and in parts of Africa and South America. They are not naturally found in most of Eurasia, where a number of species of hares are present. Rabbits first entered South America relatively recently, as part of the Great American Interchange. Much of the continent has just one species of rabbit, the tapeti, while most of South America's southern cone is without rabbits.
The European rabbit has been introduced to many places around the world. 
Rabbits have been a source of environmental problems when introduced into the wild by humans. As a result of their appetites, and the rate at which they breed, feral rabbit depredation can be problematic for agriculture. Gassing [ disambiguation needed ] , barriers (fences), shooting, snaring, and ferreting have been used to control rabbit populations, but the most effective measures are diseases such as myxomatosis (myxo or mixi, colloquially) and calicivirus. In Europe, where rabbits are farmed on a large scale, they are protected against myxomatosis and calicivirus with a genetically modified virus. The virus was developed in Spain, and is beneficial to rabbit farmers. If it were to make its way into wild populations in areas such as Australia, it could create a population boom, as those diseases are the most serious threats to rabbit survival. Rabbits in Australia and New Zealand are considered to be such a pest that land owners are legally obliged to control them.  
In some areas, wild rabbits and hares are hunted for their meat, a lean source of high quality protein.  In the wild, such hunting is accomplished with the aid of trained falcons, ferrets, or dogs, as well as with snares or other traps, and rifles. A caught rabbit may be dispatched with a sharp blow to the back of its head, a practice from which the term rabbit punch is derived.
Wild leporids comprise a small portion of global rabbit-meat consumption. Domesticated descendants of the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) that are bred and kept as livestock (a practice called cuniculture) account for the estimated 200 million tons of rabbit meat produced annually.  Approximately 1.2 billion rabbits are slaughtered each year for meat worldwide.  In 1994, the countries with the highest consumption per capita of rabbit meat were Malta with 8.89 kg (19 lb 10 oz), Italy with 5.71 kg (12 lb 9 oz), and Cyprus with 4.37 kg (9 lb 10 oz), falling to 0.03 kg (1 oz) in Japan. The figure for the United States was 0.14 kg (5 oz) per capita. The largest producers of rabbit meat in 1994 were China, Russia, Italy, France, and Spain.  Rabbit meat was once a common commodity in Sydney, Australia, but declined after the myxomatosis virus was intentionally introduced to control the exploding population of feral rabbits in the area.
In the United Kingdom, fresh rabbit is sold in butcher shops and markets, and some supermarkets sell frozen rabbit meat. At farmers markets there, including the famous Borough Market in London, rabbit carcasses are sometimes displayed hanging, unbutchered (in the traditional style), next to braces of pheasant or other small game. Rabbit meat is a feature of Moroccan cuisine, where it is cooked in a tajine with "raisins and grilled almonds added a few minutes before serving".  In China, rabbit meat is particularly popular in Sichuan cuisine, with its stewed rabbit, spicy diced rabbit, BBQ-style rabbit, and even spicy rabbit heads, which have been compared to spicy duck neck.  Rabbit meat is comparatively unpopular elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific.
An extremely rare infection associated with rabbits-as-food is tularemia (also known as rabbit fever), which may be contracted from an infected rabbit.  Hunters are at higher risk for tularemia because of the potential for inhaling the bacteria during the skinning process.
In addition to their meat, rabbits are used for their wool, fur, and pelts, as well as their nitrogen-rich manure and their high-protein milk.  Production industries have developed domesticated rabbit breeds (such as the well-known Angora rabbit) to efficiently fill these needs.
Rabbits are often used as a symbol of fertility or rebirth, and have long been associated with spring and Easter as the Easter Bunny. The species' role as a prey animal with few defenses evokes vulnerability and innocence, and in folklore and modern children's stories, rabbits often appear as sympathetic characters, able to connect easily with youth of all kinds (for example, the Velveteen Rabbit, or Thumper in Bambi).
With its reputation as a prolific breeder, the rabbit juxtaposes sexuality with innocence, as in the Playboy Bunny. The rabbit (as a swift prey animal) is also known for its speed, agility, and endurance, symbolized (for example) by the marketing icons the Energizer Bunny and the Duracell Bunny.
The rabbit often appears in folklore as the trickster archetype, as he uses his cunning to outwit his enemies.
In religious iconography, anthropomorphic, theriomorphic, and phytomorphic motifs may be combined. The result of this fusion of forms may be seen in the numerous hybrid figures of local culture (e.g., totem poles, uli figures of New Ireland, and ancestral tablets). Such combined motifs occur also in ancient Near Eastern figures of winged demons with human heads and animal bodies or in winged beings with animal heads and human bodies and in the winged Greek goddesses, as well as in the winged protectresses of the dead in ancient Egypt and the angels and demons in Christian art. In Christianity, the snake in the Garden of Eden is sometimes portrayed with a human head (the face of Satan). In the Middle Ages, representations of the living cross with its arms depicted as hands appear. The cross also has been combined with various other anthropomorphic and phytomorphic elements.
A composite picture of plants, animals, and men together with other natural objects and architectural structures often becomes a sacred scenic background against which the mythical and ritual action takes place. Such scenic depictions were developed in Hellenism and adopted by early Christianity. Paradise scenes including plants, animals, men, Christ, and the saints are later enriched by symbolic and diagrammatic elements. Renaissance painting and East Asian Buddhist and Daoist art also use such combinations when depicting sacred, mythological, and allegorical scenes.
HARE MYTHOLOGY: HARES IN BRITAIN
The Romans are credited with introducing brown hares to Britain more than 2,000 years ago. If we are to believe the story of the Iceni queen Boudica consulting the entrails of a hare as an augury of victory in her uprising against the Romans in AD61, the animals had established themselves quickly. Their preference then as now was for open country and grassland, downs and flat marshlands. In succeeding centuries, farmland, particularly arable land, also proved popular with hares. Their chosen habitat is one that offers shelter in the form of long grass or heather food in the form of herbs, grasses and cereal crops and the broad expanses which afford a canvas for hares’ remarkable speed. Before the advent of hare coursing and beagling, that speed was exercised principally in escaping foxes, the hare’s principal natural predator. More recently, despite the greater speed of the sighthounds used for coursing, hares frequently outwitted their pursuers by their ability to turn and corner with unrivalled agility.
Mad hare days: it’s March and the start of the mating season.
As with so many forms of British wildlife, today’s hares are threatened by changing agricultural practice. Larger fields with a single cereal crop a year curtail hares’ year-round food supply while offering them diminished cover, and their forms – shallow depressions in the ground – offer limited shelter and, potentially, a degree of exposure and vulnerability. A survey in 2008 estimated current brown hare numbers in Britain in the region of 800,000, a figure which represents a consistent if gradual decline since the Sixties. Unlike rabbits, hares are resistant to myxomatosis and have suffered no equivalent cull.
Watch the video: Tutorial Cross Cultural Communication (August 2022).