Swamp rabbits are large cottontail rabbits found in the wetlands of the southern United States. Their head and back are typically dark or rusty brown or black, while the throat, ventral surface, and tail are white, and there is a cinnamon-colored ring around the eye. Male Swamp rabbits are usually slightly larger than females.
Swamp rabbits are found in much of the south-central United States and along the Gulf coast. They are most abundant in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, but also occur in South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, North Carolina, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, and Georgia. They prefer to live close to lowland water, often in cypress swamps, marshland, floodplain, and river tributaries.
Swamp rabbits are solitary territorial animals. They spend much of their time in depressions which they dig in tall grass or leaves, providing cover while they wait until the nighttime to forage. Although they feed mainly at night rain showers often cause them to feed during the daytime as well. Swap rabbits have a strong preference for wet areas and are excellent swimmers. They have several adaptations to avoid predators: cryptic coloration, "freezing", and rapid, irregular jumping patterns. They will also get into the water and lay still surrounded by brush or plant debris with only their nose visible.
Swamp rabbits are polygynandrous (promiscuous) meaning that both males and females have multiple mates. Breeding season varies widely across the range but usually takes place anywhere between February and August, and can occur year-round in Texas. The gestation period lasts 35 to 40 days and females can have 1 to 3 litters a year with each litter consisting of 4 to 6 young. The nests in which the young are born consist of a slight depression in the earth that is filled with grasses mixed with rabbit hair. The young are altricial; they have well-developed fur but their eyes are closed and they are immobile. Their eyes open by day 3 and they begin walking. The young are usually weaned after about 15 days of age and are ready to leave their nest. They become reproductively mature at 7 months of age and reach adult weight 3 months later.
Swamp rabbits are not endangered at present, however, they suffer greatly from the loss of their native habitat. They are also hunted for fur, meat, and sport, and are the second-most commonly hunted rabbits in the United States.
The IUCN Red List and other sources don’t provide the number of the Swamp rabbit total population size. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List but its numbers today are decreasing.
Swamp rabbits play an important role in their ecosystem. Due to their diet habits, they influence plant communities and keep them grow healthy. Swamp rabbits are also an important prey item for local predators, especially during snowy/wintry seasons.