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What Is the Tapeti?

Ray Hawk
Ray Hawk

The Tapeti is a rabbit that is native to South American countries such as Brazil, Paraguay, Peru and more, and is commonly referred to by the taxonomic names of Sylvilagus brasiliensis or Lepus braziliensis. They can also be found in several Central American countries, including Mexico, Belize, and Panama. There are almost two dozen subspecies of Tapeti, and popular names for them in the region include the Brazilian Rabbit and the Forest Rabbit.

Classified as a hare by its Lepus braziliensis name, the Tapeti is among the smallest species of hares. Rabbits, on the other hand, are generally considered to be smaller versions of hares, and classifying the Tapeti as a rabbit puts it at medium size for most rabbits, with an adult weight of 1.5–2.2 pounds (0.7–1 kilogram). They are not an endangered animal despite having many predators, including man.

Birds of prey are one of the main predators of tapeti.
Birds of prey are one of the main predators of tapeti.

Yellowish-brown in color with very short ears and legs, Tapeti are capable of breeding all year round, and live to be about three years old in the wild, though comparable rabbits in captivity have been known to live as long as 15 years. They live in forested, grassland, and swampy areas, and feed on grasses, green vegetation, and, in a crisis, even tree bark and shrubs. Several predators exist for Tapeti including tayras, a small type of weasel, wild dog and cat species, and birds of prey.

Most rabbits are crepuscular, meaning they are active in the twilight hours of sunrise and sunset when predators that are adapted to the day or night, like owls and foxes, cannot see well. The Tapeti, however, is fully active during the day, and some reports have attested to its affinity for swimming, which is uncommon among rabbit species. Cottontail rabbit species of North America such as the Ixodes pacificus share some similarities to Tapeti, such as a tail with a white or pale underside, and, therefore, Tapeti are also classified as cottontails.

Rabbits are consumed for food in countries as diverse as France, Ghana, Vietnam, India, and the Sudan, as well as most African, some Asian, and most Latin American and European nations. Commercial rabbit meat production is estimated at 1,000,000 metric tonnes and 708 million rabbits are consumed worldwide, yearly. This includes Tapeti, which are eaten locally in Mexico and Brazil. Due to its secretive and solitary nature, however, it is not considered practical breeding stock. Comparatively, it produces small litters of offspring, usually only one to five at a time, and has a long gestation period of 44 days, making it less-than-ideal as a captive breeding specimen.

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    • Birds of prey are one of the main predators of tapeti.
      Birds of prey are one of the main predators of tapeti.