Lagomorpha, the mammalian order including hares, rabbits and pikas, evolved in Asia more than 40 million years ago. The break-up of continents may be responsible for the distribution of rabbit species. European rabbits, Oryctolagus cuniculus, originated in modern-day Spain 4,000 years ago.
The European rabbit is the only domesticated rabbit species. They were first domesticated by monks in 5th-century France, and Britain followed suit in the 12th century. During the Middle Ages, rabbits became a widely used food and fur source as well as popular pets among the gentry. A variety of rabbit species appear in writing and painting from throughout the 15th to 19th century and continue to be seen in the 21st century.