Are Rabbits Rodents?

Many people class rabbits as being in the same ‘order’ or ‘family’ as guinea pigs, mice and voles, thus calling them rodents, but is this true?

The answer is no; Rabbits are not rodents (of the order rodentia), as they make up the mammal order ‘Lagomorpha’ along with pikas and hares.

Within the order Lagomorpha, rabbits belong to their own family ‘Leporidae’ along with hares. The other family in the Lagomorpha oder is the ‘Ochotonidae’ family which consists of the Pikas. Together the Leporids (rabbits and hares) and the Ochotonidae family (Pikas) make up the order ’Lagomorpha’). ‘Leporids’ is simply the shorterned family name ‘Leporidae’. The rough Latin to English translation of ‘Leporidae’ is those animals which resemble the ‘lepus’(hare).

The difference between Leporids and Pikas is that leporids have short, fluffy tails, (usually) long, elongated ears and powerful hind limbs. Pikas are small round chinchilla like animals, with small round ears, short limbs and tails.

There are approximately 50 species of Leporids (rabbits and hares). I have found it difficult to find out how many species of pika there are but I do know that there are around 30 species of pikas in the ‘Ochotona’ genus.

There are I believe 10 different genera within the Leporidae family. The species under 9 of these genera are usually called ‘Rabbits’. The species within the 10th genera ‘Lepus’ are usually classified as the hares. The ‘Lepus’ genus contains around of the total number of species in the Leporidae family, so the Lepus genus is the biggest genus of the Leporids. However, the distiction between the two common names of ‘rabbit’ and ‘hare’ does not entirely follow depending on which genus the species is in, as jackrabbits are members of the Lepus gene. Similarly there are a few species that are sometimes called hares in the genera ‘Pronolagus’ and ‘Caprolagus’, even though they are not in the hare genus of ‘Lepus’.

What are the differences between Rodents and Lagomorphs?

Lagomorphs are completely vegetarian with the exception of some species in the ‘Lepus’ (hares) and ‘Ochotona’ (pikas) which will occasionally eat carrion in the winter if food is scarce. Many rodents on the other hand will eat both meat (many eat insects) and vegetation.

Although rodents and lagomorths have the same types of teeth andd rough formation of then, leporids have more ‘cheek teeth’ than rodents. To be more specific it is that lagomorphs have four inscisors in the upper jaw whereas rodents only have two. Like rodents, their teeth grow throughout their life.

The other differnces occur with the male sexual organs being slightly different in Lagomorphs to Rodents.

So what makes people think rabbits are rodents, when they are Leporids?

The answer to this may be that before the early 20th Century, all members of Lagomorpha were counted as a sub family under the order ‘Rodentia’. Around 1900 the Lagomorpha group was reclassified as its own order, with it’s sub-families the of ‘Leporidae’ and ‘Ochotonidae’; the rabbits and hares and the pikas.

Another reason people may think that rabbits are rodents is because they are believed to be distant relatives to rodents with whom they have a superficial resemblance.

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August 8, 2010 · Maddia (Admin) · 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,  · Posted in: Rabbit Information

2 Responses

  1. Christine - August 9, 2010

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  2. Catherine Palmers - December 7, 2010

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