Between Dollar and Muckhart there is currently an abundance or rabbits on the grazed rough pastures that sweep down from the Ochils towards the River Devon.

Although they are prospering, their existence hangs in the balance because of the threats of myxomatosis and the highly contagious rabbit viral haemorrhagic disease devastating the population.

I enjoy watching these Clackmannanshire rabbits because their behaviour is fascinating.

Rather than being simple animals, rabbits have complex social lives where a strict hierarchy is maintained, with the dominant males siring the most offspring and the lead females having access to the best burrows for nesting.

Such a pecking order is easy to discern when observing my local rabbits, with the peaceful evening scene of small groups feeding on the short grass occasionally interrupted by frantic chases as a dominant animal tries to see off a lesser one.

If danger threatens, such as when I make a noise as I move to return home, then the scatter of rabbits down into their burrows is sometimes accompanied by a distinct thump of the back feet, which acts as a warning signal. From observing my children’s pet rabbits many years ago, the feet are also thumped when excited, for example at feeding time.

Another interesting feature of these Wee County rabbits is that some of them are black, a genetic aberration that frequently occurs.

The rabbit is one of our most ubiquitous animals, which makes it perhaps surprising that it is not native to Britain having been introduced to our shores by the Normans as source of food and fur. They were certainly popular to eat in medieval times and there are many references to rabbits in recipes from the period such as ‘Conys in Hogepoche’, a simple dish where the roughly hewn rabbit was stewed in ale and minced onions.

Although an undoubted pest to agriculture and forestry, rabbits do play a useful ecological role as food for predatory animals such as foxes, stoats and buzzards. Their grazing activities also create patches of neatly cropped grass that are beneficial for certain insects and small wildflowers that would otherwise be engulfed by taller growing plants.