This might seem crazy to some, but many people question if rabbits lay eggs. This is largely due to misleading Easter commercials and movies. The Cadbury bunny aside (chocolate eggs don’t count!), rabbits do not lay eggs; they give birth to live young.
Rabbits are Mammals
Rabbits are mammals, and only two mammals are known to lay eggs, the duck-billed platypus and the echidna. We call these mammals that lay eggs monotremes.
Oviparous animals (those that lay eggs) are almost always birds, reptiles, amphibians, dinosaurs, and fish. The two monotremes mentioned above are the exception.
Once a female rabbit (doe) gets pregnant, she gestates for thirty days. Once she gives birth, she can get pregnant again the following day!
The doe rabbit might have up to four litters during one season, and each litter can have anywhere from one to twelve “kittens” (that is what we call baby rabbits.) The average litter for a doe is five kits.
When rabbit kits are born, their eyes are closed for the first week of life, and they depend on the doe for three weeks. By three weeks old, the kits measure about four inches long, and they are independent of their mother.
Once the doe rabbit gives birth, she will leave her kits in the nest and return just once every 24-hours to feed them.
Often, humans find a rabbit’s nest with babies and assume that the babies have been abandoned. The doe rabbit does not usually abandon her babies. She does leave them alone in the nest, though, so that she does not attract predators.
In rare instances, the doe rabbit will abandon her young, but this is usually seen only in inexperienced does.
WHY DO PEOPLE THINK THAT RABBITS LAY EGGS?
“Do rabbits lay eggs?” It is not an uncommon question. So, why do so many people ask it?
Remember our mention of the Cadbury bunny? The Cadbury bunny is one reason why so many people think that rabbits lay eggs. Somewhere in the plethora of Easter commercials, confectionary companies have managed to confuse many people by portraying a rabbit sitting on eggs!
But where does the Cadbury bunny idea originate?
THE GERMAN TRADITION OF OSTERHASE
Cadbury was not the first to portray a rabbit laying eggs. The concept goes back to a book published in 1874 entitled “Deutsche Mythologie” by Adolf Holtzmann.
Holtzman took the 1835 story of Ostara – the Germanic goddess of spring – written by Jacob Grimm and elaborated upon it.
Holtzman’s story tells of Eastre (Ostara) – the goddess of spring – who took a frozen bird and turned it into a snow hare. The snow hare then laid colorful eggs at the festival of Eastre (Ostara) in appreciation and celebration.
Before Holtzman’s story, however, there was no connection between Eastre and the hare. Holtzman created this connection by speculating on the origin of the Germanic tradition of Osterhase.
Osterhase is a Germanic figure of legend. He is said to hide colorful eggs in the homes and gardens of children during Easter.
SO, DO RABBITS LAY EGGS?
No, not unless you are talking about the Germanic legend of Osterhase!