Volcano Rabbit

This unusual rabbit, with its extremely restricted distribution, is now rare and strictly protected. It has short, rounded ears and trots, rather than hops, on its short legs as it moves along the runways it makes in the grass. Volcano rabbit species is found only on the slopes of two volcanic mountain ranges in central Mexico. These mountains harbour an unusual habitat known as zacaton. This is a dry, high-altitude pine woodland where clumps of grass grow under the trees. Volcano rabbits live in small colonies in rocky areas of the zacaton, feeding on tender herbs and grasses. They shelter in burrows by day and follow networks of runways through tall grasses when feeding at night. Up to five rabbits share each burrow. The burrows are several metres long and about 40 cm (15 in) under the surface. The volcanic soil is dark and very rocky.

The volcano rabbit is an unusual rabbit species, and resembles pikas in many ways. It is the only member of its genus, and is one of the smallest of all rabbits, with short ears, short legs and no visible tail. The dark fur on the back and flanks has yellowish hairs mixed in. The underside is a light grey.

Volcano rabbits are most active at dawn and dusk. They forage in large groups, like pikas. They also communicate with a series of squeaks and other high-pitched calls. This species breeds mainly in summer. Young are born six weeks after mating.

The wild population of volcano rabbit may be as low as 1,300, but a captive colony exists in the zoo on Jersey in the Channel Islands.

Distribution: Mountains in central Mexico.

Habitat: Pine forest with grass undergrowth.

Food: Grass.

Size: 27 - 31 cm (10.25 - 12.5 in); 370 - 600 g (13 - 21.25 oz).

Maturity: 1 year.

Breeding: Litters of 1 - 3 young produced at any time, but mostly in summer; gestation is 38 - 40 days.

Life span: 5 years.

Status: Endangered.