Sunday, February 26, 2006

Lupin sends her love

One of Lupin the rabbit's more spectacular moults, for all the world as if she was trying to send a signal spelled out in fur. She is about to ingest one of the yoghurt treats pet shops produce. Curious animals, rabbits, small herbivores with a highly complex digestive system, which deals with the problem of having a short gut in which to break down grass. I cannot understand how the lop-eared variety was bred, as the variant knocks out one of the rabbit's main defensive lines against predation (the other obvious ones being those prominent eyes, and the fall-back strategy of producing an over-abundance of new rabbits). Lupin is not a very intelligent animal. You can see that she just cannot work out how the door into the house sometimes allows her through, and sometimes not. She is, however, immensely curious (intellectual sense), galloping up to observe at the closest possible quarters gardening, or bicycle repairs, anything that happens on her patch. Again, it is hard to see how this curiosity functions in an evolutionary way: it would seem better to react to anything new or unusual by shying away from it. But cows are just the same. Maybe it is a product of domestication, or perhaps in the wild it is better for the group that individuals are impelled to check out potential dangers. If there was one phrase I'd like Lupin to get to understand, it would be 'Get out of the way!' I sometimes attend rabbit shows, but have yet to see that the breeders have started on stripy rabbits (see for the stripy rabbit found in the Annamite Mountains of Laos).
Certain animals show that immense plasticity under selective breeding: Darwin bred pigeons, then there are dogs, horses, chickens, cats. The rabbit is a lesser priority, of course, but ranges from creatures like the recently famous Roberto, who is supposed to be 3'6" long and weigh two and a half stone, down to the miniatures. How you could measure a rabbit length-wise, I do not know: they have very flexible skeletons, and can be any length they please. Lupin is very hard to grab: as your hands close in on her, she flattens out, and you miss getting a hold.
She largely roams free in the garden, which looks suspiciously neat at this time of the spring - levelled? On really cold damp nights, she has a tray in the house. The mess is as if a working combine harvester had driven through during the night. But she is only a bunny, and doesn't know.

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