A familiar rabbit species across much of eastern North America, the eastern cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) has the long ears, large hind legs and feet, and short, fluffy tail which are characteristic of all rabbits and hares. The eastern cottontail’s front legs are shorter than its hind legs, and the soles of its feet are covered in fur. The eastern cottontail’s soft, dense fur varies from brown to reddish-brown or grey on the upperparts of the body, with a sprinkling of black. There is usually a reddish-brown patch on the back of the neck, but this may be yellowish-brown to black in individuals from South America. The underside of the eastern cottontail’s body is white, as is the underside of its tail. The tail is usually held up against the animal’s back, meaning that this white surface is clearly visible. The legs and feet of the eastern cottontail are usually reddish-brown to buffy-brown. This species’ ears are slightly darker than its back and may be bordered with black, and there is often a white spot on the animal’s forehead and a light ring around each eye. Unlike some other rabbit and hare species, the eastern cottontail does not develop a white coat in winter. The male and female eastern cottontail are similar in appearance, but the female averages slightly larger than the male. Juveniles are generally paler and buffier in colour than the adults. Like other rabbits, the eastern cottontail produces two types of droppings, re-ingesting the first type so they can be digested more thoroughly. It has been estimated that, with no mortality, one pair of eastern cottontails could potentially produce 350,000 descendants in just 5 years. The female eastern cottontail gives birth in a fur-lined nest, and only visits her young briefly each day to nurse them. The eastern cottontail is named for its short, fluffy, cotton-like white tail.

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