Rabbits are timid animals with many enemies and rely on their large ears to warm them of the sound of approaching danger. Their ears act like old-fashioned ear-trumpets. The large area catches a great many sound waves and channels them into the rabbit’s inner ear. Wild rabbits spend most of the day underground, usually coming out to feed between dusk and dawn. They are continually on the alert, their long ears twitching and moving round to pick up the faintest sound from an enemy. They also have a keen sense of smell.
Long back legs give rabbits speed. But they are virtually defenceless and, in fact, often seem to be hypnotized by approaching predators. When this happens, they crouch squealing and make no attempts to run away. Only their extraordinary fertility has enabled them to survive the onslaughts of foxes, badgers, wild cats, martens, stoats, weasels, polecats, dogs, man and disease.
The rabbit’s close relative, the hare, has even longer ears. It, too, relies upon its acute hearing and sense of smell for warning. But it stands a good chance of escaping an enemy because its powerful hindquarters and unusually long back legs enable it to travel at an estimated speed of 40 miles of an hour. A racing greyhound will gain on it eventually, but only after a long run, when the hare begins to tire.