Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit

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The Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit is an isolated population of pygmy rabbit (Brachylagus idahoensis), that is native only to a single Columbia Basin area of Washington state.[1] The Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit is the smallest North American rabbit. While the IUCN considers the species as a whole to be of least concern, the US Fish & Wildlife Service considers this a distinct population segment, and as thus merits protections under the Endangered Species Act. The last purebred Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit died in 2008, marking the end of the pure genetic line.[2]


Pygmy rabbits are the only North American rabbits that dig burrows and live in a sagebrush habitat. In the wild, pygmy rabbits eat sagebrush almost exclusively in the winter; during summer, they eat a more varied diet. They may have two to four litters of about two to six kits during the spring and summer breeding seasons. Population decline is widely attributed to predation and habitat loss caused by agricultural development and wildfires.


Unlike most rabbits, the Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit did not breed prodigiously in these environs, partially due to inbreeding within the tiny wild population. As a result, they were cross bred with pygmy rabbits from Idaho, and subsequent breeding efforts have been more successful. In 2009, the Oregon Zoo produced 26 kits, bringing the total offspring population for the year to 73 kits among participating breeding facilities.[3] In 2010, the zoo found that pairings based on familiarity and preferences resulted in greater breeding success than pairings based only on genetic relatedness.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ B. J. Verts; Leslie N. Carraway (15 August 1998). Land Mammals of Oregon. University of California Press. p. 128. ISBN 978-0-520-21199-5. 
  2. ^ "Pygmy Rabbit (Brachylagus idahoensis)". US Fish & Wildlife Service Species Profile. 
  3. ^ Meet the World's Smallest Rabbit. ZooBorns (2009-10-14). Retrieved on 2012-12-31.
  4. ^ "Love is in the hare: Zoo explores pygmy rabbit ‘love connection’". The Oregon Zoo (KVAL). February 14, 2013.