Mammals of Pennsylvania and New Jersey




Background Information

There are many kinds of rabbits located throughout the world. The eastern cottontail rabbit is the one known best in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. It can be found through much of eastern and central United States, and as far south as northern South America.

Physical Features

Rabbits are about 12 to 18 inches long. They usually have long ears, long hind legs, soft fur, and a fluffy white, short tail. For this reason, rabbits in this region are known as Eastern Cottontail rabbits. They have brownish fur with white patches on their feet, and of course, their tail. Rabbits weigh between 2 to 4 pounds. They have 28 teeth in their heads.

The female rabbit, called a doe, is larger than the male, called a buck. Their ears are two to three inches long. They have large eyes that help to protect them from predators. They can hop as high as 9 feet into the air!

Life Cycle

Rabbits' breeding season lasts from late winter to late summer. Does will have as many as four litters per year. After mating occurs, in about one month, 4 to 5 babies are born.

Females build nests for their young. They dig a small hole in the ground. The nest is lined with grass, leaves, and fur from their stomachs. The young are born blind and without fur. They feed from mothers' milk. In 3 months, the babies are ready to become parents!

Nine out of ten baby rabbits die, mostly from predators. Those that escape the predators live 2 to 3 years in the wild. A rabbit can live 10 years in a zoo or as a home pet.

Rabbits are active mainly in the early evening, during the evening, and early morning hours. During the day, they find a protected hiding place to rest.


Rabbits like to live in brushy areas, near forests' edges, or near the edges of swamp land. They also are protected from being shot in suburban areas. They sometimes live within housing development areas.

When they are being chased by predators or hunters' dogs, rabbits can run up to 25 miles per hour. They often run in a circle to confuse an animal that smells their trail.


Rabbits are herbivores. That is, they feed on green plants such as grasses and leaves in the summer. They often eat crops from home gardens. During winter, they eat bark, seeds, and twigs.

  © Dr. Randall Pellow, 2005