Watership Down author Richard Adams dies at 96

Richard Adams, the author of classic adventure novel Watership Down, has died aged 96.

Adams wrote Watership Down, which follows the life of a group of rabbits who possess their own language and culture, in 1972 aged 52.

Having sold millions of copies, it was turned into an animated film six years later in 1978 before being converted into a television series -starring Stephen Fry and Rik Mayall - that ran between 1999 and 2001.

Adams' death was confirmed via statement on the book's official website.

The statement, issued on Tuesday, said Adams "passed away peacefully" on Christmas Eve.

Rik Mayall (centre-right) starred in Watership Down's TV series Credit: PA

Born in 1920 in Berkshire, Adam's Watership Down was initially turned down six times by publishers, all concerned that older children would not want to read about rabbits.

In the novel, the rabbits attempt to establish a new home as their warren is destroyed.

But the book, described by Adams as suitable for those aged "8 to 88", garnered international acclaim almost immediately after it was published.

It sold over a million copies within the first few years of publication, quickly going on to become a modern literary classic.

The novel's theme song, "Bright Eyes", sung by Art Garfunkel, itself became an enduring family favourite - a number one hit for six weeks in 1979.

Art Garfunkel (l) sang Watership Down's theme tune Credit: Reuters

In 1996, Adams published a sequel, Tales From Watership Down.

A remake of the original film by the BBC and Netflix was announced in April and it is expected to air over four one-hour parts in 2017.

The author won two of Britain's most prestigious children's book awards for his efforts: the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize.

A statement on the book's website said: "Richard's much-loved family announce with sadness that their dear father, grandfather, and great-grandfather passed away peacefully at 10pm on Christmas Eve."