How European rabbits took over Australia?


Story Highlights
  • Are there rabbits in Australia?
  • Are rabbits still a problem in Australia?
  • What is a fact about rabbits in Australia?
  • Why did rabbits become a problem in Australia?

The European rabbit is one of the most successful invasive species in the world, and nowhere is this more evident than in Australia. The rabbit was introduced to Australia in the mid-19th century and quickly became a pest that has caused billions of dollars in damage to the Australian environment and economy. In this article, we will explore how the European rabbit took over Australia.

The Introduction of Rabbits to Australia

The European rabbit was introduced to Australia in 1859 by Thomas Austin, a wealthy landowner who wanted to establish a hunting population on his estate in Victoria. Austin released 24 rabbits into the wild, and within a few years, the population had exploded to millions.

The rabbit’s rapid reproduction and lack of natural predators in Australia allowed it to spread quickly and become established in every state and territory. By the early 1900s, rabbits had become a significant pest that was causing widespread environmental and economic damage.

The Impact of Rabbits on the Australian Environment

Rabbits are one of the most destructive invasive species in the world, and their impact on the Australian environment has been significant. Rabbits have caused extensive damage to Australia’s vegetation, soil, and wildlife. They have caused the extinction of many native plant and animal species, and have contributed to the decline of many others.

Rabbits have a voracious appetite for vegetation, and their grazing habits have caused significant soil erosion, which has led to desertification in many areas. They have also contributed to the spread of weeds, which have displaced native plant species.

The Impact of Rabbits on the Australian Economy

The economic impact of rabbits in Australia has been significant, with billions of dollars lost due to their destructive behavior. Rabbits have caused damage to agricultural crops, causing losses to farmers and the Australian economy.

Rabbits have also had a significant impact on the natural environment, which has affected industries such as tourism, forestry, and fishing. The damage caused by rabbits has led to a decline in the quality of Australia’s natural resources, which has negatively impacted many industries.

Attempts to Control Rabbit Populations

Australia has made many attempts to control rabbit populations over the years, with varying degrees of success. One of the most successful methods of control has been the introduction of biological control agents such as the rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV) and myxoma virus.

The introduction of RHDV in the mid-1990s led to a significant reduction in rabbit populations, with some estimates suggesting that up to 90% of rabbits were killed by the virus. However, rabbit populations have since rebounded, and the virus has become less effective in controlling their numbers.

Other methods of rabbit control include shooting, trapping, and poisoning. However, these methods have been less effective in controlling rabbit populations, and they often have unintended consequences, such as killing native wildlife.


The introduction of European rabbits to Australia has had a significant impact on the country’s environment and economy. The rabbit’s rapid reproduction and lack of natural predators allowed it to become established quickly and to cause widespread damage. Despite many attempts to control rabbit populations, they remain a significant pest in Australia. As a result, ongoing efforts are needed to manage and control their populations to minimize their impact on Australia’s environment and economy.

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