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- Hazel- The main character. He is at first the only rabbit who trusts his brother, Fiver. He becomes the leader of the rabbits when they reach Watership Down. Hazel is not very large or powerful, however he is loyal, brave, and a quick thinker. He sees the good in everyone, and what they bring to the table; in so doing, he makes sure that no one gets left behind, thus earning the respect and loyalty of his warren. He often relies on Fiver's advice, and trusts in his brother's instincts completely.
- Fiver – A small, runt rabbit. His Lapine (rabbit language) name is Hrairoo, which means "Little-five" or "Little-thousand". Rabbits are supposed to be capable of counting only up to four, so there are no specific numerical fixes beyond four. He can tell the future. His visions of the destruction of the Sandleford warren cause him to leave with his brother, Hazel, and several other rabbits. His visions are almost always about Hazel, such as saving him from the snared warren and dying from a gunshot wound. He also gives Hazel a vision that inspires Hazel to set up the release of the Nuthanger Farm dog to save the Watership Down warren from General Woundwort.
- Bigwig – A rabbit who was formerly an officer in the Sandleford Owsla. His name in Lapine is Thlayli, which means "Fur-head" and refers to the fur on the back of his head. The largest and most powerful of the Sandleford survivors in terms of strength, he is often blunt and impatient for dangerous action and fighting. He quickly becomes friends with Kehaar and often asks for his help on Hazel's behalf.
- General Woundwort – The Chief Rabbit of Efrafa who serves as the primary enemy. He is a hard and brutally efficient rabbit. He became an orphan at a young age and started the Efrafa warren. He is described as the largest rabbit anyone has ever seen. Holly thinks he is the one rabbit that is more than a match for Bigwig. In the television series and the movie, Woundwort is blind in his left eye.
Fiver, a rabbit with a gift for seeing the future, living at Sandleford Warren, sees his home being destroyed by a land developer in the future. He convinces his brother, Hazel to talk to the Chief Rabbit, Threarah about leaving the Warren, however, the Chief Rabbit has no intention of leaving. Hazel, Fiver, and nine other rabbits then set off in search of a new home (at the time, merely off of the basis of Fiver's dreams that a good home awaits them somewhere far away).
They travel through forests, fields, over rivers, and roads filled with hrududu's (cars) before tiredness forces them to stop at a warren headed by a rabbit named Cowslip. After much debate, the rabbits agree to stay at Cowslips warren. The warren however, feels wrong to them (especially Fiver) due to the other rabbit's strange customs.
They soon find out that the strange actions that Cowslip's rabbits are showing is due to the fact that they are merely being fed and taken care of by a farmer so that he kill them off, one by one, for food. They leave Cowslip's warren, although Bigwig nearly dies on the way.
They keep going until they arrive at the site of Watership Down, a high hill that is far from man and full of good food and safety. After a day or two at their good land that Fiver had promised them, Hazel is named the unofficial chief rabbit of Watership Down. However, Hazel realizes that there are no does (female rabbits) among them, and they cannot have a healthy warren of rabbits without does.
Hazel later rescues a big gull named Kehaar, who has been hurt by a cat. After nursing Kehaar back to health, Keharr agrees to help the rabbits for the time being in return for their kindness toward him. After being asked by Hazel to check out of the area, Kehaar finds a large warren called Efrafa to the South of their position. After hearing that Efrafa is large and too crowded, Hazel sends four rabbits to Efrafa to ask if they could bring back some does to their warren.
However, Efrafa, being a large warren with too many rabbits, is tightly controlled by a rabbit named General Woundwort and his large military. Each rabbit is told when are where they are allowed to eat, sleep and more. Nothing happens without the General's ok, including leaving the warren. The four rabbits barely run away after playing a trick on an Efrafan Captain.
At the same time that the four rabbits are at Efrafa, Hazel leads a small group to look into Kehaar's report that there is a farm with a few caged rabbits, including does. After a few raids, the Watership rabbits break a few caged rabbits out of the farm, but Hazel is shot on the way out. Fiver has a vision where Hazel is, though, and Hazel is found and returned to health.
Now hearing how Efrafa is, the weakened Hazel decides to free the rabbits from Efrafa. All of the Watership rabbits travel carefully to the edges of Efrafa. Pretending to be a wandering alone rabbit, Bigwig infiltrates Efrafa as an officer of their Owsla. Secretly, however, Bigwig is helping get rabbits to help with the break out. He meets Hyzenthlay and Thethunninnang, two does who tell him that, if he has a working plan, they and a few other rabbits will attempt the escape with him.
After nearly having to fight General Woundwort, Bigwig and the does break out of Efrafa with Kehaar's help. Of course this break out is noticed by the guards, and soon the General himself and his small army catch up Bigwig and the runaway rabbits. They get away only because Kehaar attacks Woundwort. Woundwort keep chasing the rabbits to a stream, and the rabbits escape on a small boat. Two does die on the way to Watership Down, but most rabbits make it there safely.
The rabbits are glad to see the new rabbits. However, a field mouse warns the rabbits that General Woundwort and a small strike team are coming. The General then attacks the warren in the night as the Watership Rabbits head to their deepest burrows, blocking off the tunnels in an attempt to hold off the Efrafans.
While in a burrow, Fiver passes out as too many visions come to him at once. Meanwhile, Hazel, has a vision of how to stop the Efrafans. Hazel tells Bigwig to stay there and fight and he takes Blackberry and Dandelion out of the burrow. Hazel's plan is to use the dog at the nearby Nuthanger farm to defeat the Efrafans.
Hazel's plan works, however Bigwig and Hazel are hurt in the process. General Woundwort disappears, never to be seen again. Captain Campion and the other attackers go back to Efrafa, where Campion becomes Chief Rabbit.
Hazel lives a long life as Chief Rabbit of Watership Down, while his warren does well and is peaceful. Fiver recovers and Bigwig becomes the respected captain of the guard.
- "Formats and editions of Watership Down". WorldCat. Retrieved 2012-07-31.
- Bestseller database entry
- Article on the book by John D. Rateliff
- The Real Watership Down: Photographs and descriptions of the story's setting
- A Tribute to Watership Down, including Lapine Glossary
- A literary pilgrimage to Watership Down
- 1985 Audio Interview with Richard Adams - RealAudio (28 min. 55 sec.)
- Aerial View & Map of Watership Down (GoogleMaps)
- Essay: Life and Society on Watership Down
- Photos of the first American edition of Watership Down
- Amazon Online Reader entry: presents the text of Chapter 1