cottontail rabbit, animal of the order Lagomorpha, which includes the hares and rabbits, except for the domestic, or European, rabbit, which is in a separate species. Members of the genus Sylvilagus, cottontails have large ears and short legs and move with a scurrying or scampering gait. Unlike the European rabbit, they do not dig their own burrows but make a nest in a depression in the ground. Unlike hares, they seek protection in hiding rather than in swift flight. The cottontail ranges from the southern border of Canada to N Argentina. There are six races. Cottontails are a common source of tularemia, or rabbit fever. They are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Lagomorpha, family Leporidae.