Can Domestic Rabbits Survive Outdoors?

domestic rabbit

Pet rabbits are of the genus and species Oryctolagus cuniculus; they are also known as “European rabbits” because they are native to Europe. The fourteen species of wild rabbits and the four species of hares in America belong to the genera (ie genuses) Sylvilagus (which includes cottontails) and Lepus (which includes jackrabbits), respectively.


That means that our domesticated rabbits, if released into the wild, cannot cross breed with wild rabbits or hares, because they are different species and genera, so there is no possibility of mating. They thus cannot disrupt the local ecosystem.

But that also means, since domesticated rabbits are 1) domesticated and 2) not native to this continent, that they cannot survive well in the wild.

What happens to rabbits who end up in the wild, if they have been abandoned or have gotten loose from a backyard?

They are subject to the following dangers:

  • Predators
  • Theft or teasing by humans
  • Moldy or poisonous plants
  • Being hit by cars
  • Toxic pesticides or fertilizers
  • Exposure to sun, heat, wind, or wet
  • Bacteria contained in dirt
  • Diseases spread by flies and mosquitoes

That’s why House Rabbit Society encourages rabbits to be kept as indoor house rabbits. They will live longer, they will be happier and healthier, and you will have a closer relationship with your companion rabbit.