Lagomorphs are members of the taxonomic order of Lagomorpha, which includes rabbits, hares and pikas. Originally these animals were classified as rodents but it has since been discovered that they have unique characteristics which differ from those in the rodent order.
The main differences are:
- Lagomorphs have four incisors in the upper jaw, while rodents have only two.
- They are almost wholly herbivores, while rodents are omnivores.
- The male’s scrotum is in front of the penis. In rodents it is behind.
- The lagomorph’s penis contains no bones, but the rodent’s does.
What lagomorphs have in common with rodents is that their teeth continue to grow for their whole lives. This is why they chew constantly to keep their teeth worn down.
Lagomorphs exist today on every continent except Antarctica. They are native to every continent except Antarctica and Australia. They were brought to Australia and New Zealand by European colonists. On these isolated land masses, lagomorphs lack natural predators, as the few surviving marsupial predators (like the Tasmanian Devil) are close to extinction, and natural species are less voracious eaters with slower metabolisms and reproductive rates.
In general, lagomorphs have many predators, so they have certain characteristics which allow them to avoid them. They can easily detect predators with their big ears, eyes set high on their heads and flexible necks. When a predator is near, they will run away quickly. Lagomorphs also reproduce quickly, which helps compensate for the large numbers of them which are eaten.