Lagomorphs have a worldwide distribution. These animals are found as native
species in many parts of the globe. Lagomorphs have been introduced by many
countries such as New Zealand, Australia and Madagascar for various purposes.
They live in a wide variety of habitats such as desert, grassland, swamp, tundra
and tropical forest. In the wild, lagomorphs are hunted for food, fur, sport etc.
These small to medium sized animals are commercially reared for meat, skin and
biomedical research. Lagomorphs were classified earlier in the order Rodentia.
Later on, they have been given the status of a separate order Lagomorpha.
However, lagomorphs can be distinguished from rodents by having two pairs of
incisor teeth in the upper jaw (in rodents-one pair) in which the small and peglike
second pair teeth are located behind the long and constantly growing chisellike
anterior teeth. At birth, there are 3 pairs of incisors but the outer pairs are
soon lost. There is a gap between the incisors and premolars. Lagomorphs can
also be distinguished in having larger ears, fully furred feet (some rodents may
have furred feet), eyes set high on heads and less developed jaws muscles. The
testes are permanently external unlike the rodents.
The order Lagomorpha has two families:
(a) Ochotonidae- pika
(b) Leporidae- rabbit, hare and cottontail
Foxes, bobcats, wolves, weasels, owls and hawks are the natural predators of lagomorphs. A conservation and manag"ement programmes of lagomorphs including habitat management, stocking programmes, harvest, control and protection have been taken up all over the world.