Studies using the European rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus contributed to elucidating numerous fundamental aspects of antibody structure and diversification mechanisms and continue to be valuable for the development and testing of therapeutic humanized polyclonal and monoclonal antibodies. Additionally, during the last two decades, the use of the European rabbit as an animal model has been increasingly extended to many human diseases. This review documents the continuing wide utility of the rabbit as a reliable disease model for development of therapeutics and vaccines and studies of the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying many human diseases. Examples include syphilis, tuberculosis, HIV-AIDS, acute hepatic failure and diseases caused by noroviruses, ocular herpes, and papillomaviruses. The use of rabbits for vaccine development studies, which began with Louis Pasteur's rabies vaccine in 1881, continues today with targets that include the potentially blinding HSV-1 virus infection and HIV-AIDS. Additionally, two highly fatal viral diseases, rabbit hemorrhagic disease and myxomatosis, affect the European rabbit and provide unique models to understand co-evolution between a vertebrate host and viral pathogens.