Rabbits are small, herbivorous mammals with acute sight and hearing. They hide from predators using these characteristics, along with their speed, and often retreat to underground burrows. Together with hares, they make up family Leporidae, and with both hares and pikas, order Lagomorpha (lagomorphs). They are one of the only species of animal simultaneously considered pets, pests, and livestock animals by people in the same culture.
Although they mostly live in temperate areas located in the middle latitudes of the Americas, Europe, and Africa, rabbits can live in a variety of environments. They are also found in India, Sumatra, and Japan. There are 50 species in seven genera, but the Domestic Rabbit has been selectively bred into so many breeds that it gives the impression that there are many more. These animals can be white, brown, gray, or brownish-yellow in color, with the black Amami and two striped black species from Asia being exceptions.
Rabbits are ground-dwellers adapted to gathering food during any time of day (usually mid-afternoon or night) without getting caught by predators such as dogs, cats, and foxes. Their body is adapted for predator avoidance, including ears up to 10 cm (4 in) in length, large, sensitive eyes, and strong hind leg muscles. They mainly eat grass, which is low in nutrients, so they eat their own feces to redigest it and extract all available nutrients. This strategy contrasts with ruminants, which chew a cud to extract nutrients instead.
Unlike hares, to which they are closely related, rabbits are social animals, living in small groups of up to 20 individuals with concrete dominance hierarchies including alpha and beta males. Unlike other mammals, they are relatively silent creatures, signaling only with loud foot thumps during times of alarm or aggression. Instead of using sound, they use scent to communicate information such as group identity, sex, age, social and reproductive status, and territory ownership. The Amami species in Japan is another exception here, as it uses a range of auditory calls. Most are members of territorial groups, and will box each other with their front legs during disputes.
The little animals have the capability to reproduce so quickly and consume so much foliage that they are sometimes considered pests. The standard example is that of the European rabbit in Australia, which has displaced many native species. Being marsupials, native Australian mammals tend to have a slower metabolism than placental mammals, and therefore find it difficult to compete. Australian rabbit populations have been kept in check with aggressive culling operations.