Rabbits belong to the scientific order Lagomorpha, which lists around 80 different living species. Lagomorpha is broken down into two further families: rabbits and hares belong to the family Leporidae. Texas is home to four species from this family of which three belong to the cottontail genus and one belongs to the common hare and jackrabbit genus.
The swamp rabbit is the largest of the three Texas cottontail species. It grows to 21 inches in length and weighs just under 7 lbs. The rabbit has a short, coarse, grayish coat with a white underbelly and a blackish rump. It is found in the eastern third of the state in badly drained, swampy areas and, with its waterproof coat, is at home in the water. The species is shy and is rarely seen unless startled out of hiding.
The desert cottontail is a medium-sized animal found in the upland habitats of western Texas. It grows to 16 inches in length and up to 3 lbs. in weight. The rabbit has a gray-brown coloration with hints of rusty tones. It is an adaptable species, living in desert, grassland and heavily-shrubbed areas. The rabbit is seldom seen during the day and is most active at night and around twilight. It is like the swamp rabbit, fully vegetarian eating grasses, bark, twigs and cactus pads.
The eastern cottontail is similar in size to the desert variety. It grows to just over 16 inches and weighs a little more than 4 lbs. It has a rusty, brown-colored fur and has relatively short ears. It ranges throughout three-thirds of the state from the eastern borders. It is most common in thick bushland or grasslands and sometimes swampy areas like the swamp rabbit. The rabbit is a mainly nocturnal species, most active at twilight and early evening.
The black-tailed jackrabbit is from the same family as rabbits, but is in fact a species of hare. With longer ears and legs than a rabbit, they look very similar superficially. The jackrabbit grows to 23 inches and weighs just under 9 lbs. It is found throughout Texas in open areas, but seldom in wooded regions. Like the native cottontail rabbits, it is not highly active during the day, but comes out at twilight to feed.
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