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Brief History of the Rabbit in Britain

The Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) is surely one of our most familiar mammals,widespread throughout Britain and Ireland including even very small Islands. Originally from North West Africa,Spain and Portugal,they were introduced into Britain by man during the twelfth century,where they were bred in captivity for their meat and fur. Probably quite soon afterwards they escaped from the man made enclosed warrens and established wild colonies - but even as late as the eighteenth century they were not looked upon as a nuisance. By the nineteenth century the rabbit numbers had increased dramatically - probably as a result of agricultural changes such as the introduction of crop rotation and the sowing of winter fodder crops.

In the early part of the twentieth century trapping was carried out to control rabbits but the attempt failed and their numbers increased to an estimated population of 50 -100 million with densities of 15 or 20 to the acre (50 to the hectare). It was obvious that some drastic measure needed to be taken to halt the rising rabbit numbers and in 1942 a scientist discovered that a South American rabbit (Sylvilagus braziliensis) a near relative of our European rabbit was infected with the disease myxomatosis - itself only discovered in 1897.

To the Brazilan rabbit, myxomatosis was only a mild infection - but to the European rabbit it was lethal. Armed with this knowledge there followed several attempts to release the disease into Australia where the rabbit numbers had reached plague proportions. After several unsuccessful attempts myxomatosis was finally introduced into Australia and between 1950/53 the rabbit population (itself originally introduced by man) was almost wiped out. Then in 1952 deliberate introduction into France led to myxomatosis spreading through most of continental Europe and again to a tremendous reduction in the rabbit population. In 1953 sick rabbits were found in south-east England and on 13th. October of that year myxomatosis was confirmed at a farm in Kent. Attempts were immediately made to confine the disease in the hope of eradication, but they failed and the disease spread rapidly throughout Britain.

Today in Britain rabbit numbers are once again on the increase and although myxomatosis is established in a endemic form it is not as lethal as it once was. Rabbits now have developed a certain immunity to the disease and can make a full recovery, passing on this immunity to their offspring.

This is where the modern day trapper can make a huge difference to the rapidly expanding rabbit population, with the use of snares,cage traps and spring traps, rabbit infestations can quickly be brought under control.

To learn the art of successful rabbit trapping why not buy the dvd? It contains all the information needed to become skilled in the traditional methods of rabbit control.

National Pest Technicians Association The British Association for Shooting and Conservation