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I have been interested in nature for most of my life but since I retired I spend as much time as I can exploring the nature reserves and wildlife hotspots of my adopted home, Dorset in southern England. Whilst out I record what I see and take snaps where I can (I am no photographer!) and that forms the basis of my Nature of Dorset website. When I find something new I like to research it and write about it in my nature notes, it is how I learn and hopefully you might find my notes helpful as well!

This website is for the people of Dorset interested in wildlife and for people from elsewhere interested in the wildlife of Dorset!

03 December, 2010

Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus)

Does the Rabbit count as wildlife or not? It was almost certainly introduced by the Normans primarily as a food source and it remained part of our staple diet, particularly amongst 'country folk', for about 1,000 years. I can remember, as a very small child, my grandmother regularly serving up Rabbit stew when we went round to see her.

That all changed in 1955 when Myxomatosis was introduced. It seems that the Rabbit was becoming to be seen as a pest (probably linked to the shortage of food supplies during the war?) and man decided to take control. This vile disease decimated the Rabbit population and it ceased to be part of the human diet and other predators of the Rabbit declined rapidly, especially the Buzzard.

In recent years the numbers have begun to rebuild but it seems Myxomatosis is still around and when numbers in a given area grow so the disease reappears and knocks them back again.

No longer favoured by we British as a meal it remains popular with foxes. stoats, buzzards and other animals at the top of the food chain and the Rabbits revival has certainly been matched by an increase in Buzzards over the last thirty years.