One of my friends asked a while back how we tell our cottontail rabbits apart, as they all look the same.
I guess we’ve been watching the cottontail crews for so long that I’ve forgotten that to most people they do all look the same.
Cottontails only come in one color, a sort of grayish brown. Technically their color is called “agouti,” which is quite different than “brown” in regards to the genetics behind coat color that are “under the hood” so to speak. If you pluck out (good luck with that!) a single hair from a cottontail’s flank and examine it, you’ll see that the hair isn’t brown at all. Instead, it’s made up of alternating bands of color which are from various amounts of yellow and black pigment. But to pretty much everyone but rabbit fanciers and coat color genetics hobbyists like me, cottontail bunnies are all grayish-brown. There are some pretty distinct differences you can see between rabbits if you look closely at patterning that does show up in their fur. The shape and size of head and ears differ from one cottontail to the next, too, as does their body size and shape. But those are all subtle distinctions. Unless you’ve spent a lot of time watching them, a cottontail bunny looks like a bunny looks like a bunny.
We often distinguish our cottontails by watching their behaviors, instead of by how they look. Usually a rabbit will have at least one distinct behavior that sets it aside from the other bunnies.
Young Grumps is a great example of that. She hates snow. As in “get this stuff away from me!” hates snow. Being a fairly assertive rabbit (as rabbits go), it makes for some pretty captivating shows to watch how she deals with it when it’s snowing, or after a deep snowfall.
She hates having snowflakes settle on her ears. When we’re having a heavy snowfall (like today), she jumps up in the air every so often and vigorously shakes her head, ears twitching, until her ears are free of snow.
She also hops higher on every fourth or fifth leap, when traversing the yard, and shakes her front paws midair.
To avoid sitting in the snow as she eats, she’ll sometimes stand “tippy paws” on her hind feet, so that her tummy and butt are raised well above that nasty snow.
Her most distinctive behavior, however, occurs when she uses her hind legs to tromp down any spot where she intends to spend a bit of time. She almost stands upright on her front paws as she brings down both of those big ol’ rabbit hind feet, thumping the snow down as she does. It’s best described as an angry bunny dance, the inverse of everything sweet you ever imagined in a bunny hop. In bunny speak, it’s pretty clear what she’s saying: “Take that, and that and that you $*%#^ snow!”
It’s hilarious to watch, and I’ve never seen another rabbit do it!