In the wild, Mountain Cottontail Rabbits are abundant in the western parts of the United States and certain parts of Canada, specifically in intermountain areas. These small animals live within brush cover to try to hide from predators. If you happen to be looking to add a rabbit to your household as a member of the family, this breed is not an option to consider, as they are not pets. However, if you’re curious about what this wild animal is like and how they live, read on!

Size:13–18 inches
Weight:2–3 pounds
Lifespan:1–7 years
Similar Breeds:Eastern Cottontail, New England Cottontail
Suitable for:Wild environments
Temperament:Independent, skittish, distrustful

Mountain cottontails are small creatures that get to be between 13 and 18 inches in length by the time that they become adults. They have brownish-greyish fur and a pale belly. Their long back legs are extremely powerful, giving them the ability to travel long distances with ease. Their ears are quite small compared to those of the typical rabbit breed, and their eyes are dark and large.

This rabbit is a docile animal that tends to keep to themselves to avoid predators. These rabbits are prey for hungry animals like foxes, coyotes, snakes, and even ferrets and dogs. Therefore, they don’t have a long lifespan and so tend to procreate abundantly.

This breed can create up to five litters of babies in a year. Each litter can include up to eight babies, and those babies can also quickly proliferate when fully grown. This means every adult female of reproductive age can have up to 40 babies each, every year, throughout her life.

These wild rabbits are always on the go for a few reasons. First, they need to stay one step ahead of the predators. Second, they need to find fresh sources of food. They will stick around one place long enough to rest or eat, then they are off to the next location.

Mountain Cottontail Rabbit Characteristics

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The Earliest Records of Mountain Cottontail Rabbits in History

There is no documentation available that pinpoints when the Mountain Cottontail Rabbit first came into existence. They are one of many species of rabbits (there are 17 species of cottontails in total) that have been recognized and documented by scientists, wildlife enthusiasts, and the general populous.

However, it is safe to say that this rabbit breed is extremely old, seeing as how rabbits entered North America at least 40 million years ago! This is where rabbits developed before establishing habitats in other parts of the world like Asia and Europe about 7 million years ago.

mountain cottontail rabbit on grass
Image Credit: Paul Brennan, Pixabay

How the Mountain Cottontail Rabbit Gained Popularity

The Mountain Cottontail Rabbit has been popular among hunters and wildlife enthusiasts since they were discovered. These small animals are not popular among pet owners, as they have not been domesticated and cannot be bonded with like domesticated rabbits can.

Formal Recognition of the Mountain Cottontail Rabbit

The United States Department of Agriculture recognizes the Mountain Cottontail Rabbit as a wild animal and describes them as living in wooded, brushy areas with an abundance of vegetation. The National Park Service in the U.S. notes that this rabbit species inhabits Devil’s Tower National Park. Other organizations, like the Pajarito Environmental Education Center, also recognize this rabbit species.

rabbit on snow
Image Credit: moosehenderson, Shutterstock


Top 10 Unique Facts About the Mountain Cottontail Rabbit

Here are a few lesser-known facts about the Mountain Cottontail Rabbit that are worth uncovering.

1. They Can Run Really Fast

Mountain Cottontail Rabbits can run an astonishing 18 miles per hour! This speed gives the rabbits a fighting chance when it comes to getting away from predators. If they didn’t have such speed, they would have a harder time surviving, as they are prey to a large variety of animals.

2. They Are Sometimes Referred to by a Different Name

The Mountain Cottontail is also sometimes called the Nuttall’s Cottontail Rabbit. These rabbits are a part of the Leporidae family, which encompasses more than 50 different types of rabbits and hares overall.

Mountain Cottontail rabbit
Image Credit: Devin Cooper, Shutterstock

3. The Females Are Usually Larger Than the Males

All Mountain Cottontail Rabbits are naturally small in size, typically weighing no more than 3 pounds when fully grown. Interestingly, female Mountain Cottontails tend to be bigger than males, likely so giving birth is easier.

4. They Are Known for Climbing Trees

Mountain Cottontails have been observed climbing juniper and other types of trees in the wild. It is thought that they do so to find sources of water that form on the leaves of the trees due to condensation. They may also climb trees to get away from predators and to stay cool during the summer months.

Mountain Cottontail rabbit
Image Credit: Nataliia Politova, Shutterstock

5. They Don’t Have a Long Lifespan

While this rabbit breed has been shown to live up to 7 years when captive, they are not expected to live any longer than about 2 years in the wild because of their vulnerability to predators. Even with longer life in captivity, these rabbits are not domesticated and don’t do well as pets.

6. They’re Considered Herbivores

This rabbit breed is an herbivore, which means their diet consists solely of plant-derived food sources. Their favorite things to eat include grasses, shrubs, fruit, and even flowers and bark.

Close up shot of a cute Cottontail rabbit
Image Credit: Kit Leong, Shutterstock

7. Nobody Knows How Many Are in Existence

The number of Mountain Cottontail Rabbits in existence has never been recorded, so we cannot be sure how prolific they are in their natural habitats. However, with a large number of them being observed in the wild, it is thought that they are not an endangered species.

8. They Are Solitary Animals

This rabbit breed lives as a solitary animal in the wild; living in groups would draw too much attention to them and increase their vulnerability. They hunt for food, travel to new locations, and sleep all on their own. The exception is when a male and female are spending time together to mate and when a mother is taking care of her babies until they are weaned.

close up cotton tail rabbit
Image Credit: Bob Pool, Shutterstock

9. The Babies Are Born Altricial

Mountain Cottontail Babies are born altricial, which means they cannot see and have no hair at first. They must be cared for in their nest for about a month until they are able to see, have enough hair for weather protection, and can look for food on their own.

10. They Can Be Dangerous When Approached

These rabbits are protective of themselves and tend to think of humans as predators. Therefore, they can lash out and attack if a human gets too close, so it’s always best to keep your distance if you happen to come across a Mountain Cottontail in the wild.

mountain cottontail close up
Image Credit: egvisuals, Shutterstock

Can the Mountain Cottontail Rabbit Be Kept as a Pet?

No, the Mountain Cottontail Rabbit cannot be kept as a pet. This is a wild breed of rabbit that has not been domesticated. Therefore, they maintain their skittishness and independence when in captivity. They do not have an interest in interacting with and building bonds with humans as domesticated rabbits do. It’s best to let these rabbits remain in the wild to live their lives out naturally.



The Mountain Cottontail Rabbit is abundant in the wilds of North America, but they don’t make good pets. They should be admired from afar, not caught or purchased to be kept in captivity. These rabbits cannot be happy in captivity because they are not conditioned to live in an enclosed space or be limited in their ability to roam.

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Featured Image Credit: TheOtherKev, Pixabay