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Lewis & Clark as Naturalists
The Collection: Species Details Lewis and Clark as Naturalists
Mammal    Species Name:
Sylvilagus audubonii

Common Name:
Desert Cottontail


Chamberlain, South Dakota
Near Mouth of White River
  September 15, 1804

An anonymous rabbit

Lewis' pen went silent for long periods, or else his notes are lost.  Anyway, he did not tell us if he noticed anything different about the cottontails of the plains from the eastern cottontails he would have known.  Clark merely referred to these desert cottontails as rabbits.  Had Lewis written about them, he would have noticed the longer ears on a slightly smaller body, and slender feet with sparser fur.  The desert cottontail was described in a scientific report in 1858 by Spencer F. Baird, the second Secretary of the Smithsonian after Joseph Henry.  When Baird came to the Smithsonian in 1850, 6,000 specimens were kept in the collections.  At his death the number of objects had jumped to 2.5 million.  Today 142 million objects reside in the nations largest museum complex, including specimens of the desert cottontail.

For more information about this North American mammal, click here.

Journal Entries:

Although there is precious little description of the rabbits that they saw in the area between the Niobrara River and the Big Bend of the Missouri,...  more>>

References Baird, Spencer F., "Mammals" in Reports of explorations and surveys, to ascertain the most practicable and economical route for a railroad from the Mississippi river to the Pacific ocean. , , 1858

see following caption

See following caption
desert cottontail

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