What Is the Niche of a Rabbit?
Rabbits fill the ecological niche of small grazing prey animals with high reproductive rates. They are primary consumers, animals that are at the bottom of the food chain and eat only plants. Their high rate of reproduction means they can support many predators in their local environment. Their grazing and digging habits control the growth of local plants; different species may be more or less specialized for their particular niche.
The riverine rabbit is a species that only lives in dense vegetation that grows alongside rivers; these rabbits are rare and endangered. The species is found nowhere else, which makes it very vulnerable to changes in the local environment.
Other species, such as the European rabbit, are much more generalized and can survive in a variety of different places, though they prefer temperate climates. European rabbits are found in grasslands, woodlands, tropical grazing areas, semi-arid deserts and even in suburban areas inhabited somewhat densely by human beings. They are found worldwide due to European colonizers spreading the animal for the purposes of hunting and farming it.
Some animals that fulfill the same niche as species of rabbit include the hyraxes of Africa and the pikas. All three animals have been referred to by the term “cony,” a word originally derived from Latin for “rabbit.”