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A warren is a network of wild rabbit
burrow An Eastern chipmunk at the entrance of its burrow A burrow is a hole or tunnel excavated into the ground by an animal to create a space suitable for habitation, temporary refuge, or as a byproduct of locomotion. Burrows provide a form of shelter ag ...
s. Domestic warrens are artificial, enclosed establishment of
animal husbandry Animal husbandry is the branch of agriculture concerned with animals that are raised for meat, fibre, milk, eggs, or other products. It includes day-to-day care, selective breeding and the raising of livestock. Husbandry has a long history, start ...
dedicated to the raising of
rabbits Rabbits are small mammals in the family Leporidae (along with the hare) of the order Lagomorpha (along with the pika). ''Oryctolagus cuniculus'' includes the European rabbit species and its descendants, the world's 305 breeds of domestic rabb ...
for meat and fur. The term evolved from the medieval Anglo-Norman concept of
free warren A free warren—often simply warren—is a type of franchise or privilege conveyed by a sovereign in medieval England to an English subject, promising to hold them harmless for killing game of certain species within a stipulated area, usual ...
, which had been, essentially, the equivalent of a
hunting license A hunting license is a regulatory or legal mechanism to control hunting. Hunting may be regulated informally by unwritten law, self-restraint, a moral code, or by governmental laws. The purposes for requiring hunting licenses include the prot ...
for a given
woodland A woodland () is, in the broad sense, land covered with trees, or in a narrow sense, synonymous with wood (or in the U.S., the ''plurale tantum'' woods), a low-density forest forming open habitats with plenty of sunlight and limited shade (see di ...
.


Architecture of the domestic warren

The cunicularia of the monasteries may have more closely resembled
hutch Hutch may refer to: Places * Hutch, Kentucky, an unincorporated community located in Bell County, Kentucky, United States * Hutchinson, Kansas ("Hutch"), a city in Kansas, United States * Hutchinson, Minnesota ("Hutch"), a city in Minnesota, Uni ...
es or pens, than the open enclosures with specialized structures which the domestic warren eventually became. Such an enclosure or ''close'' was called a ''cony-garth'', or sometimes ''conegar'', ''coneygree'' or "bury" (from "burrow").


Moat and pale

To keep the rabbits from escaping, domestic warrens were usually provided with a fairly substantive
moat A moat is a deep, broad ditch, either dry or filled with water, that is dug and surrounds a castle, fortification, building or town, historically to provide it with a preliminary line of defence. In some places moats evolved into more extensive ...
, or ditch filled with water. Rabbits generally do not swim and avoid water. A ''
pale Pale may refer to: Jurisdictions * Medieval areas of English conquest: ** Pale of Calais, in France (1360–1558) ** The Pale, or the English Pale, in Ireland *Pale of Settlement, area of permitted Jewish settlement, western Russian Empire (1791 ...
'', or fence, was provided to exclude predators.


Pillow mounds

The most characteristic structure of the "cony-garth" ("rabbit-yard") is the pillow mound. These were "pillow-like", oblong mounds with flat tops, frequently described as being "cigar-shaped", and sometimes arranged like the letter ⟨E⟩ or into more extensive, interconnected rows. Often these were provided with pre-built, stone-lined tunnels. The preferred orientation was on a gentle slope, with the arms extending downhill, to facilitate drainage. The soil needed to be soft, to accommodate further burrowing. This type of architecture and animal husbandry has become obsolete, but numerous pillow mounds are still to be found in
Britain Britain usually refers to: * United Kingdom, a sovereign state in Europe comprising the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland and many smaller islands * Great Britain, the largest island in the United Kingdom * Ro ...
, some of them maintained by
English Heritage English Heritage (officially the English Heritage Trust) is a charity that manages over 400 historic monuments, buildings and places. These include prehistoric sites, medieval castles, Roman forts and country houses. The charity states that i ...
, with the greatest density being found on
Dartmoor Dartmoor is an upland area in southern Devon, England. The moorland and surrounding land has been protected by National Park status since 1951. Dartmoor National Park covers . The granite which forms the uplands dates from the Carboniferous Per ...
.


Further evolution of the term

Ultimately, the term "warren" was generalized to include wild
burrow An Eastern chipmunk at the entrance of its burrow A burrow is a hole or tunnel excavated into the ground by an animal to create a space suitable for habitation, temporary refuge, or as a byproduct of locomotion. Burrows provide a form of shelter ag ...
s. According to the 1911 ''Encyclopædia Britannica'':
The word thus became used of a piece of ground preserved for these beasts of warren. It is now applied loosely to any piece of ground, whether preserved or not, where rabbits breed. see also
The use is further extended to any system of burrows, e.g., "
prairie dog Prairie dogs (genus ''Cynomys'') are herbivorous burrowing rodents native to the grasslands of North America. The five species are: black-tailed, white-tailed, Gunnison's, Utah, and Mexican prairie dogs. They are a type of ground squirrel, foun ...
warren". By 1649, the term was applied to inferior, crowded human accommodations and meant "cluster of densely populated living spaces" ('' OED''). Contemporarily, the leading use seems to be in the stock phrase "warren of cubicles" in the workplace.


References

{{Subterranea
Livestock{{Commons category, Livestock The category is for various topics of raising livestock, i.e., domesticated animals, that may be kept or raised in pens, houses, pastures, or farms as part of an agricultural or farming operation, whether for commerce or ...
Agricultural buildings Buildings and structures used to confine animals Animals and humans Shelters built or used by animals
Rabbits and hares {{Commons cat, Leporidae Extant Ypresian first appearances Lagomorphs ...