The evolutionary split between rabbits and other living mammals probably occurred about thirty million years ago.
The cottontail rabbit is a somewhat stocky animal with large hind feet, long ears, and a short, fluffy tail that resembles a cotton ball. Its long, coarse coat varies in color from reddish-brown to a black or grayish-brown. The under parts are white. Cottontail rabbits are active all year long, foraging mainly at night. During the day they remain concealed in dense brush, protected from predators and harsh weather. In times of extreme weather conditions or to escape predators, rabbits will readily utilize an abandoned woodchuck burrow for protection. A rabbit's home range varies greatly with the quality of habitat, but generally averages about three acres for females and eight acres for males.
Cottontails have very keen sight and hearing. When danger is sensed, the animal will usually freeze in place until the danger has passed, but they will flush readily if approached too closely. Rabbits normally move slowly in short hops or jumps, but when frightened they can achieve speeds up to 18 miles per hour over a short distance. They often zigzag to confuse a pursuing predator. Although they do not take to the water often, rabbits are good swimmers. They will thump the ground with their hind feet regularly, probably as a means of communication. When playing, breeding, or fighting they often make low purring, growling, or grunting sounds. If captured by a predator, the animal may produce a loud, shrill scream. A coyote captured one right outside our open bedroom window. The sound was horrendous and chilling. We know there is a "food chain" but we do not want to witness it in real time!