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  • Writer's pictureCarl Mckie

Nature photography Rabbits in the United Kingdom: A Brief History

Rabbits are not native to the United Kingdom. They were introduced to the country by the Normans in the 12th century for their fur and meat. Rabbits quickly thrived in the UK's climate and habitat, and their numbers exploded. By the 16th century, rabbits were considered a pest, and there were laws in place to control their numbers.

In the 1950s, a new disease called myxomatosis was introduced to the UK. Myxomatosis is a highly contagious and fatal disease for rabbits. It caused a dramatic decline in the rabbit population, which fell by as much as 90% in some areas.

In the 1990s, another disease called rabbit viral haemorrhagic disease (RVHD) was introduced to the UK. RVHD is also highly contagious and fatal for rabbits. It has caused further declines in the rabbit population, although not as severe as myxomatosis.

Today, the wild rabbit population in the UK is estimated to be around 10 million. This is still a significant number, but it is much lower than the population levels that existed before the introduction of myxomatosis and RVHD.

 European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) or coney, youngster, diffuse green background
European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) or coney

The Impact of Rabbits on the UK Environment

Rabbits are herbivores, and they eat a wide variety of plants. This includes grasses, clover, crops, and even tree bark. In large numbers, rabbits can have a significant impact on the environment. They can overgraze vegetation, which can lead to erosion and the loss of biodiversity. Rabbits can also damage crops, which can be a financial loss for farmers.

However, rabbits can also play a positive role in the environment. They are a food source for many predators, such as foxes, owls, and hawks. Rabbits also help to keep the soil healthy by their digging and burrowing.

 European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) or coney, youngster, diffuse green background
European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) or coney

Nature photography

Rabbits are reletively easy to photograph inn the United Kingdom, laying down close to the burrows (the images here where taken at a reservoir in Oxfordshire)early morning, late afternoon are best, and if your quiet and dont move about too much, the rabbits dont seem to take a lot of notice

The car park at RSPB Minsemere has rabbits that take no notice at all, being habituated to people and cars, as do a number of coastal car parks on the Gower peninsular

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