Eastern Cottontail
Photos by Bruce Dayton

Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) Picture

ORDER: Lagomorpha (Rabbits, Hares, Pikas)
FAMILY: Leporidae (Rabbits and Hares)
SPECIES: Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus)

CLICK - on any silver bar to return to top of page

Eastern Cottontail
(Sylvilagus floridanus) 

The Eastern Cottontail is one of the most common rabbit species in North America.
They are solitary and very territorial.
They can sometimes be observed standing on their hind feet watching for predators, such as coyotes, foxes, weasels, eagles and hawks.
This animal is active at night and does not hibernate in winter.
They are hunted as game in many areas of the country.


The average adult weighs about 2-4 pounds; however the female tends to be heavier.

The Eastern Cottontail is chunky red-brown or gray-brown in appearance with large hind feet, long ears. It has a short fluffy white tail with a hairy underside.

Sexual Dimorphism: Females are larger than the males

NESTING The female rabbit builds a nest in a depression in the ground and lines it with soft materials and fur from her chest. The normal litter is 3 to 6 young, but litters of 8 or 9 are not uncommon. They may have three, four or more litters a year.
BEHAVIOR The Eastern Cottontail is nocturnal (Active at night) but is also active during early dawn and late dusk. When chased, it runs (up to 15mph) leaping from side to side in a zigzag pattern, sometimes jumping 10-15 feet. This confuses the predator and many times allows them to safely get away.
The Eastern Cottontail can be found in most of the eastern United States. Originally, the Eastern Cottontail was not found in the New England area, but it has been introduced there and now competes for habitat there with the native New England Cottontail. It can also be found in southwestern United States in the states of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. Its range expanded north as forests were cleared by settlers.
HABITAT The eastern cottontail can be found in meadows, shrubby areas, fields, swamps  woodlands, and thickets.
DIET The Eastern Cottontail is an herbivore. In the summer, it eats a variety of green vegetation such as grasses and clover.  In the winter, it eats twigs, buds and the bark of bushes and small trees. They are considered nocturnal, but they are also active in early dawn at at late dusk.


Eastern Cottontail
(Sylvilagus floridanus)
Groton Township
Tompkins County, New York
CLICK - Eastern Cottontail Picture CLICK - Eastern Cottontail Picture
EsCt-204_005885 EsCt-204_000496
CLICK - Eastern Cottontail Picture CLICK - Eastern Cottontail Picture
EsCt-204_000582 EsCt-204_000579
Hunter Township
Greene County, New York
CLICK - Eastern Cottontail Picture CLICK - Young Eastern Cottontail Picture
CLICK - Young Eastern Cottontail Picture
EsCt-204_055053 EsCt-204_055062-Young
Drawing by
Louis Agassiz Fuertes
Eastern Cottontail Drawing by Louis Agassiz Fuertes
Rabbit or Hare
The hare is generally larger than the rabbit and has longer ears. Hares have long muscular legs and can jump further than a rabbit. Hares are born furred and with open eyes, thus they are hence able to fend for themselves very quickly after birth, that is to say they are precocial

Rabbits are born naked with closed eyes and completely helpless. Rabbits also have the habit of living in colonies in underground burrows (The exception is the cottontail of North America, which does not dig burrows; its nest is on the surface, usually in dense vegetation.)


There are different states of hibernation, The following information is general in nature.
This is a time when animals ‘sleep’ through cold weather. This is not a normal sleep, but a deep state of dormancy, where body activities are greatly reduced. During  hibernation, an animal's heart rate and breathing slow down and its body temperature drops. During this period, it uses very little energy. It survives by getting its energy requirements from built up body fat. Many animals would not survive the winter if they didn't hibernate.

Return to 
Mammals of North America

For Fine Art Scenic Prints

Please email with any ideas or comments concerning this web page.

The images on this web page are copyrighted © 2003 - 2007 by Bruce Dayton. I want to share my photos to promote conservation and to help people identify and learn about the birds and other creatures that live with us on the North American continent. Please do not use any of my work in any non-profit or for-profit project without first getting written permission from me. You can ask for permission by emailing me at webmaster@wildlifeofnorthamerica.info. All reproductions must bear an appropriate credit.

Visit Birds of North America

NOTE: This site will be updated as time and pictures become available.

Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus)
Updated 10-23-2008