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Volcano Rabbit

Nicole Cosgrove

The volcano rabbit is the world’s second-smallest rabbit after the pygmy rabbit and is found only in Mexico. Interestingly, it is the most primitive rabbit or hare species in the world.

Unfortunately, estimates show that there are only about 1,200 volcano rabbits in existence. This makes them some of the rarest small mammals on the planet. Unsurprisingly, they are on the endangered species list. This also means they do not make suitable pets.

Here is everything else you need to know about the volcano rabbit.

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Quick Facts about Volcano Rabbits

Species Name: Romerolagus diazi
Family: Leporidae
Care Level: High-maintenance
Temperament: Docile
Color Form: Yellowish-gray
Lifespan: 7 to 9 years
Size: 0.86–1.3 pounds
Diet: Herbivorous

Volcanic Rabbits Overview

A short distance from Mexico City lives the only population of the second smallest rabbit in the world: the volcano rabbit. These rabbits get their name from the fact they are native to the four volcanoes that are just southeast of Mexico City.

The volcano rabbit’s fur has a dark coloration, which allows them to blend well with the rocky, volcanic soils in their environment. It is believed that volcanos diverged from the common European rabbit about 40 million years ago and are the only surviving species in their genus.

The diet of volcano rabbits consists mainly of zacaton bunchgrass – a tall grass that grows on the alpine slopes of the volcanos that they call home. In addition to providing them with a source of nutrition, the tall and dense zacaton grass provides them with cover from predators such as red-tailed hawks, long-tailed weasels, and bobcats.

Other sources of nutrition for this rabbit include the bark of alder trees and spiny herbs.

As mentioned, volcano rabbits are bordering on extinction, with habitat changes being the main cause of this problem. They are also threatened by human encroachment. Unfortunately, while it is illegal to hunt volcano rabbits, those laws are rarely enforced.

However, it does seem as though their population is on the increase. This is likely due to the recently enacted conservation efforts, including the adoption of better farming practices and preservation of zacaton grass.

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How Much Do Volcano Rabbits Cost?

Unfortunately, you cannot find this rabbit at a pet store or a breeder due to the fact that they are an endangered species. However, you might be lucky to chance upon one in their natural habitat.

Typical Behavior & Temperament

Volcano rabbits are semi-social animals and live in groups of 2 to 5 individuals. These groups have a hierarchy, with the breeding pair dominating it. And only that pair can reproduce. The female is the dominant one of the breeding pair, often asserting her dominance over the rest of the group. The top male is not as aggressive.

Like other rabbits, volcanos are most active at dawn and dusk. Again, like other rabbits, they communicate by thumping their feet. However, this species is unique in that it is the only member of the Leporidae that vocalizes sounds. Those sounds include a high-pitched bark and a lower-pitched squeak.

Appearance & Varieties

As mentioned, volcano rabbits are the second smallest rabbit species in the world, rarely weighing more than 1.3 pounds when fully grown. Lengthwise, most fully-grown individuals measure 9 inches from the tip of their nose to the tip of their tail. However, some have been known to attain lengths of up to 12 inches. Female volcano rabbits are usually larger than males.

This miniature rabbit has small, rounded ears, short feet and legs, and a vestigial tail. Their fur is short and thick and has a yellowish gray coloration.

Unlike other rabbits, volcanos are extremely slow, making them highly vulnerable to predators. This is why habitat loss has such a monumental effect on their numbers. Without the tall and dense zacaton grass to hide in, volcano rabbits are easy pickings for local predators.

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How to Take Care of Volcano Rabbits

Compared to domestic rabbits, volcano rabbits are more challenging to care for since they are wild. Nonetheless, while it is possible to tame them, it will take time.

When it comes to care, the needs of a volcano are similar to those of domestic breeds. This means ensuring that they have a good diet, a proper enclosure, companionship, and medical care.

A standard rabbit enclosure should do for your volcano. Those with removable bottoms are the best, as they are much easier to clean. Cover the bottom with soft bedding so that the wire does not cut into the rabbit’s feet. For bedding, consider using wood pellets or hay. Do not use paper bags, paper towels, or newspapers, as they tear easy.

Consider placing a hay feeder inside the enclosure and fill it with hay so that your bunny can feed whenever they feel hungry.

When cleaning the enclosure, first remove your pet and place them in a safe and clean spot. Never use standard household cleaners, such as detergents, bleach, or toilet cleaners, as they contain ingredients that are toxic to volcano rabbits. Therefore, only use natural cleaning products, such as lemon juice mixed with water.

Like other rabbits, volcano rabbits are tremendous chewers, chewing on anything in sight, especially wood. Constant chewing allows them to file their continuously growing incisors. As such, you will need to rabbit-proof the rooms that your bunny has access to.

In addition to keeping wooden fixtures out of their reach, cover electrical wires with a tough plastic that is resistant to chewing. Most importantly, make sure that they have a rabbit-friendly chew toy with them at all times, as it will prevent them from chewing on your wooden walls and furniture.

Do Volcano Rabbits Get Along with Other Pets?

Volcano rabbits are extremely frightful and understandably so because they are prey to almost every other carnivorous animal in their habitat. Therefore, unlike domestic rabbits that can tolerate pet cats and dogs, a volcano rabbit cannot due to its wild instincts.

As such, exposing them to your carnivorous pets is extremely nerve-wracking to Volcano rabbits. Avoid that at all costs.

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What to Feed Your Volcano Rabbits

As with other rabbits, hay should form the bulk of a volcano rabbit’s diet. To add variety, you can also feed fruits and vegetables to your rabbit sparingly. Cut them into tiny pieces so that your bunny has an easy time swallowing. Pet rabbit pellets and supplements are great additions too.

Nevertheless, your volcano should never run out of hay and freshwater. Use a shallow and heavy bowl for its water so that it does not knock it over when moving about in its enclosure.

Keeping Your Volcano Rabbits Healthy

Despite their smaller stature, volcano rabbits are extraordinarily hardy. This is because they have had to evolve in an incredibly rugged habitat. As such, they are not prone to many diseases.

However, it is a different case in captivity. Since their immune systems have not evolved to combat common rabbit diseases, any of those diseases can be fatal to the rabbit. Therefore, make sure that you take them to a vet for vaccination. Additionally, do not keep your animal with other rabbits.

Regular visits to the vet are the best way of keeping your rabbit healthy. It is also a good idea to familiarize yourself with the signs of illness in volcano rabbits. This will allow you to act sooner. Some of those signs include poor appetite, grating of teeth, restlessness, unsteady gait, or sleeping longer than usual.

Breeding

Volcano rabbits mate for life. As mentioned, only dominant males and females mate. They will keep doing so until one of them dies, upon which a lower-ranking member will assume their role.

While volcanos can breed all year round, spring is when breeding is usually at its peak.

In captivity, male volcano rabbits attain sexual maturity at 5 months and females at 8 months. The gestation period lasts around 40 days, after which the female gives birth to a litter of 1 to 4 kits, weighing less than 3 ounces each. Female volcano rabbits can make up to 5 litters per year.

Are Volcano Rabbits Suitable For You?

For starters, volcano rabbits are wild. This means that they do not make good pets. Couple that with the fact that they are endangered, and you will realize that caring for these rabbits is best left to experts.

If you decide to do so yourself, there is a good chance that the rabbit will not live out its natural lifespan due to stress and an increased risk of new diseases.

Moreover, since volcanos live in groups, you will have to adopt them as a couple or group to maintain their social dynamics. As you can imagine, providing proper care to a group of wild rabbits might prove to be outside your wheelhouse. Therefore, resist the urge to abduct a volcano rabbit in the wild.

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Conclusion

If you are looking for a pet rabbit, the adorable volcano rabbit is not for you. They are not only wild but also are facing possible extinction. However, the good news is that conservation efforts seem to be working.


Featured Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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.