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Riverine Rabbit

Nicole Cosgrove

The Riverine Rabbit is an endangered desert rabbit. It’s native to South Africa and has been suffering through habitat destruction for many years. There are very few left, and their return is hampered because they are one of the few rabbit breeds that don’t produce a lot of offspring. Join us while we take a close look at this breed to learn more interesting facts about it to see if it’s possible to get one for your home.

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Quick Facts about the Riverine Rabbit

Species Name: B. monticularis
Family: Leporidae
Care Level: Difficult
Temperature: Hot climates
Temperament: Solitary, nocturnal
Color Form: Grey-brown
Lifespan: 3 years
Size: 3–4 pounds
Diet: Herbivore
Habitat: River basins

Riverine Rabbit Overview

The Riverine rabbit is limited to a small area in South Africa. It tends to live in the local river basins of the Northern Cape Province, which has the world’s sparsest population. It’s the only member of the Bunolagus genus because it is slightly different than other rabbit breeds, and many argue that it is a hare. It’s also one of the few nocturnal rabbits being most active at night. Most other species are most active at dusk and dawn when they can use dim lighting and fog to their advantage.

How Much Do Riverine Rabbits Cost?

Unfortunately, you won’t be able to purchase a Riverine rabbit for your home due to being on the endangered species list. If you would like to participate in this rare breed’s conservation, you can contact the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) and donate what you can. The EWT is a South African environmental organization that looks over several threatened species, including the Riverine rabbit.

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Typical Behavior & Temperament

Since there are few examples of this breed to study, there is much more to learn about the Riverine rabbit’s behavior and temperament. It creates underground burrows, and the soil needs to be correct to create the nests, and habitat destruction ruins this important soil and contributes to the falling numbers.

The riverine rabbit causes the vegetation it eats to bind with the soil, keeping the plants and soil in place when floods come. A single male will mate with several females, and they will share part of the territory. The females build nests underground using plant stems and hair to care for their young. While the males and females get together for mating, they will live a solitary life. The mother will share the food only until they are old enough to leave the nest.

Riverine Rabbit in the wild
Image Credit: Tony Camacho, Wikimedia Commons

Appearance & Varieties

The Riverine rabbit looks like most other wild rabbits that you might see. It has grey-brown fur with a dark stripe that runs from the mouth to the ears’ back. It will also have cream-colored hair on the belly, neck, and ears. It has large back feet and a plump, slightly elongated body. Its ears are a little longer than most other breeds, and they resemble the ones you see on a hare. It’s also one of the few rabbit breeds where the female is noticeably larger than the females. When it’s not underground, you can find it sleeping under a Karoo bush.

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How to Take Care of Riverine Rabbits

Habitat

You can only find the Riverine rabbit in a tiny South Africa area and on a small preservation site. It likes river basins and a limited number of plants and shrubs that you can only find in the same place. The growth is dense and provides plenty of cover from predators. The seasonal rivers recede and create the type of soil they need to build their nests. Unfortunately, experts believe the remaining habitat can support less than 1,500 rabbits. Experts believe that the Riverine rabbit will lose another fifth of its habitat in less than 100 years, even with the current conservation efforts. Conservationists have started to train farmers on ways they can help protect the species from becoming extinct.

Do Riverine Rabbits Get Along with Other Animals?

Unfortunately, like all other rabbits, Riverine rabbits are heavily predated. These rabbits make great food for all other animals, including humans. The Black Eagle is one of its main predators, and its numbers are falling along with its food supply.

The Riverine is capable of jumping one meter high to get over tall bushes to escape, and it sleeps throughout the day when most of the birds are active.

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What to Feed Your Riverine Rabbit

The Riverine rabbit is an herbivore that eats a select group of plants like the Salsola and the Lycium plant, which you can find in many parts of the world, but many of the other plants it eats are limited to that area. Farmers need to cultivate the land for farming and raise livestock, which is the primary reason for the decline in the Riverine population. Over the past 100 years, we lost two-thirds of suitable habitat. The remaining area is subject to overgrazing from other herbivores.

Keeping Your Riverine Rabbit Healthy

Unfortunately, only about 500 mature rabbits remain, and this species is in serious danger of becoming extinct. The best thing you can do to help the Riverine rabbit is to donate to the Endangered Wildlife Trust, as we mentioned earlier. You can also help by raising awareness to get other people to donate as well.

Breeding

One of the biggest factors contributing to the Riverine rabbit’s low numbers is the low number of offspring it produces. While most other breeds can produce 20 or more offspring in a single year, the Riverine rabbit will usually only produce a single baby, with an extremely rare two-baby litter. The baby rabbits are born blind and hairless and must stay in an underground burrow for several weeks. Riverine rabbits are the only African breed to have babies underground and one of the only breeds to build a nest for their young. The mom will take care of the kit until it can fend for itself.

Riverine rabbits are polygamous, and a single male will fornicate with several females.

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Are Riverine Rabbits Suitable for You?

Unfortunately, Riverine rabbits are nearly extinct and need all of our help to save their habitat before they are gone for good. If you are looking for a pet rabbit, several breeds are suitable, including the Mini Rex, Holland Lop, American Checkered Giant, and many more. These breeds are friendly, attractive, and are perfectly happy living in your home. In many cases, you can purchase one for less than $50.

We hope you have enjoyed reading over our look into this extremely rare breed and found some new information. If we have convinced you to help raise awareness, please share this guide to the Riverine rabbit on Facebook and Twitter.


Featured Image: Byron Van Gool, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.