European Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus)


Oryctolagus cuniculus is primarily a herbivore, but on rare occasions these rabbits have been seen eating meat.  Its diet primarily  consists or leaves, roots and tubers, wood, bark, stems, seeds, grains, nuts, fruits, and flowers.  Rabbits have also been known to eat vegetables out of gardens such as lettuce, cabbage, etc.  Although the diet is relatively low in nutritional value and high in indigestible material, bacteria help them by breaking down some of the indigestible material.  This occurs in the rabbit’s large caecum.  Occasionally, the rabbit will defecate the contents of the caecum and then reingest the feces.  This allows the essential nutrients to be absorbed into the body resulting in extra nourishment.  The process of eating the feces is called coprophagy. 

Photo taken by Richard Ford

Rabbits are adapted to eating plants.  Their jaws are filled with incisors in the front of the mandible, and premolar and molar teeth in the back.  This allows the rabbits to bite off the plant food, and then grind in up for digestion using the molars.   The digestion of the food nutrients takes place with the help of enzymes, similar to many other animals.  Significant making of B-vitamins  and some amino acids occurs mostly in the cecum and large intestine.  These vitamins and amino acides are then absorbed through the practice coprophagy. Even though the rabbit eats a lot of crude fiber, it only digests about 20% of the fiber it ingests.  This is about half of that of a guinea pig or a horse. 


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