Rabbits are pretty cool animals. They’re known for their long ears and big front teeth. And, of course, they run very, very fast. But there are so many other interesting facts about rabbits that set them apart from other animals. So get ready to brush up on your rabbit trivia with these unusual and shocking facts about rabbits.
1. Rabbits can live for 10 years
Yup, you read that right. Domestic rabbits have an average lifespan of about 10 years. But this can vary a lot depending on the rabbit’s breed and their living conditions.
Rabbits that are kept in a hutch outdoors have a shorter life expectancy than rabbits living inside. This is mainly due to the dangers that can stress a rabbit out when they are left outside. Predators can try to attack the rabbit, and bugs can spread diseases and illnesses. Rabbits are also sensitive to extreme changes in the weather, and do much better with climate controlled indoor temperatures.
Getting a rabbit spayed or neutered also significantly increases their chances of living a long life. Unaltered rabbits, both male and female, have a high chance of developing reproductive diseases.
2. Rabbits are not rodents
While rabbits may look similar to some of our other small and furry pets, they are not actually related. Rabbits are lagomorphs, in the order lagomorpha rather than the order rodentia, where rodents are classified.
There is a lot of confusion around this classification because rabbits and other rodents (like rats, squirrels, and guinea pigs) have a lot in common. They have similar breeding behaviors and chewing instincts, and many other anatomical features are very similar. In fact, until the early 1900’s, rabbits were classified as rodents. Due to significant differences in a rabbits teeth structure and digestion, they were reclassified in 1912 (along with hares and pikas) as the lagomorphs they are today.
3. Rabbit teeth never stop growing
Rabbits have what are known as open rooted teeth. This means that, just like our fingernails, their teeth continue to grow forever. It’s no surprise that rabbits have evolved to have teeth that keep growing to compensate for the wear and tear of their diet. A rabbits main diet of rough foliage can do a lot to wear down their teeth.
For those of us who have rabbits as pets, this unfortunately means rabbits have the tendency to chew on anything and everything. We need to rabbit proof our homes so that the rabbits can’t chew on anything, like wires, furniture, baseboards, and houseplants.
4. Rabbit’s can’t vomit
You never have to worry about cleaning up any gross rabbit vomit when you have this pet. That means no regurgitated dinner, and no hairballs to accidentally step in. Rabbits simply do not have the anatomy to enable them to throw up.
While this does limit the gross bodily fluids you’ll need to deal with as a pet owner, it also means rabbits have very sensitive and finicky digestive systems. Whatever goes in has to go all the way through the intestinal tract in order to come out. That’s why it is absolutely essential for pet rabbits to have a healthy diet consisting mostly of grass-based hay.
5. Rabbits will lick each other to show love and dominance
If you see more than one rabbit living together, you might notice that they will often lick each other. This is a grooming behavior for rabbits. They will lick each other to help out with mutual grooming, strengthening their bond as a rabbit family.
You may notice that one rabbit does significantly more grooming than the other in a bonded pair. This is because rabbits have a hierarchy in their relationships. The dominant rabbit will expect to be groomed more and will do less work to help their partner in return.
Rabbits will also lick people sometimes. This is their way of trying to help out and bond with the people they trust. So if your rabbits licks you, thank them by petting them. This means you’re participating in the mutual grooming behavior that your rabbit understands.
6. Rabbits can turn their ears 180 degrees
Rabbit ears can do more than just hear long distances. They can also rotate so that the rabbit can listen intently in whatever direction they want to. Since rabbits are prey animals, this has played a very important role in helping them stay alive and evade predators.
By swiveling their ears, rabbits can hone in on any sounds they hear, so they can know danger is coming long before they are seen by predators. A rabbit’s best defense is their ability to run away, so detecting danger early is very important for their survival.
7. Cottontail rabbits are not the same species as pet rabbits
Did you know the wild cottontail rabbits that are often seen in gardens across America are not the same species as domestic rabbits? Our pet rabbits are actually descended from wild European rabbits who were known for living together in their underground burrows and have since become an invasive species in Australia and other places in the world.
Wild cottontail rabbits, on the other hand, have a lot in common with wild hares. They do not dig burrows and generally live alone, rather than in groups. They often take shelter in abandoned burrows or warrens of other animals, and only dig small nests for their own young.
8. Rabbits will jump for joy when they are happy
Have you ever seen a video of a rabbit doing a weird jump and twist in the air? That’s what rabbits do when they are very happy! This jump for joy is called a binky.
When a rabbit performs one of their happy binkies, it will usually be accompanied by some high speed zooming around the room. The rabbit is just so happy that they can’t contain all the energy they have. If the rabbit isn’t feeling quite as high energy, they may do what I call a ‘mini binky.’ This is when the rabbit starts to do a binky, but never comes all the way off the ground. In the end, only their head does a little happy twitch.
9. Some breeds of rabbit can weigh more than 20 pounds
Rabbits come in all different shapes and sizes. The smallest rabbits, Netherland Dwarfs, can weigh only 1 to 3 pounds as full grown adults. The largest rabbits, Flemish Giants, typically weigh 15 to 22 pounds, but there have even been records of Flemish Giant rabbits weighing as much as 55 pounds!
Most rabbit breeds, however, are still a little bit bigger than people expect. An average sized rabbit will weigh anywhere from 5 to 10 pounds. Generally only dwarf rabbits will fit the idealized tiny rabbit that people imagine when they think of a typical rabbit.
10. Wild rabbits live in warrens
Wild European rabbits live in groups and burrow underground. These burrows create a network of tunnels, called warrens, where rabbit groups live together. Female rabbits, called does, will dig extra tunnels connected to the warren when they are ready to nest. Rabbits are extremely defensive of their territory and will fiercely fight off any animal or other rabbits that does not belong to their group.
Domestic rabbits have inherited this behavior and are likely to become aggressive toward any new rabbit entering their space. Pet rabbits also have the tendency to dig into the corners of rooms to try to dig tunnels, like they would in the wild.
11. Rabbits are high maintenance pets
Many people believe that rabbits are easy beginner pets. They’ll get a rabbit for their child, only to realize it is way too much responsibility. That is why many rabbits are brought to a shelter in the months following Easter. Or worse, they will be ‘set free’ outside to become prey to the many dangers of the outdoors.
As pets, rabbits have a very specific diet they need to follow. They also need to have plenty of space and exercise time. They’ll need to be litter trained, and the house will need to be rabbit-proofed. While a pet rabbit doesn’t need to be taken for walks like a dog does, they still require almost as much work to take care of.
12. Rabbits can be litter trained
Like cats, rabbits are very clean animals and can easily be litter box trained. It takes a little bit of work to help your rabbit figure out where they should go to the bathroom, but once they use the box consistently, it’s a lot easier to take care of their poop and keep the house from smelling.
Being litter trained also means the rabbit can have more freedom in the house. You won’t have to worry about finding accidents all over the place. Many people even choose to let their rabbits have free range of the house, just like a cat or dog, after they have been litter box trained.
13. Rabbits are not nocturnal
Many people notice that their rabbits sleep a lot during the day. They assume that this must be because rabbits are nocturnal. But instead, there is a third option that governs rabbits and their sleeping behavior. Rabbits are crepuscular.
Animals that are crepuscular are most active during the hours surrounding dawn and dusk. So our pet rabbits are awake during the early morning and the evening hours. This has occurred in rabbits largely as a defense mechanism. During these dim-light times in the day, daytime predators have already started to settle down for the night, and nighttime predators are only just starting to wake up.
14. Rabbits can see in (almost) all directions at once
Rabbit eyes are located on the sides of their head for a reason. It gives them the ability to see in all directions at once. This includes the area behind them and above them, making it very hard to sneak up on a rabbit. The only blind spot in a rabbits vision is the area directly in front of their nose. But luckily they have a strong sense of smell that helps them to know what’s in front of them.
But just because rabbits can see in all directions at once doesn’t mean they can see perfectly. Rabbits are farsighted, and they have trouble seeing anything that’s very close to them. This is because in the wild, it’s more important for rabbits to be able to detect predators while they are still far away.
15. Rabbits can make sounds!
Rabbits are very quiet pets, but they actually can make sounds. They will make a little oinking or honking sound when they are happy or excited. They will also growl or grunt if they are upset or trying to scare someone away.
The loudest sound a rabbit makes is when they thump their strong hind legs against the ground. This thumping sound is a sign that the rabbit is scared, or it’s your rabbit letting you know they disapprove of something you are doing. Rabbits are also capable of screaming, but they usually don’t unless they are in a lot of pain or are extremely scared and believe they are going to die.
16. Rabbits should not eat a lot of carrots
Even though rabbits in movies and cartoons eat a lot of carrots, this is actually not very healthy for pet bunnies. A healthy rabbit diet should consist mostly of grass based hay (such as timothy hay), and fresh leafy greens. Rabbit dry food pellets should only make up a small portion of a rabbit’s diet, and sugary food (including carrots!) should only be given in very small amounts as treats.
Rabbits have a very sensitive digestive system, and too much sugar can easily upset the balance of bacteria in their gut. This can cause a number of serious health issues for a rabbit. To avoid this, be sure to keep your rabbit on a high fiber diet, no matter how much they beg you for more sugary treats. Learn more about common rabbit diet mistakes to avoid!
17. Rabbits are very territorial
Rabbits are usually very gentle creatures, especially if they have been spayed or neutered. But they can sometimes get territorial if they feel that their space is being invaded. Normally rabbits will only be aggressive towards other rabbits that are trying to enter their territory, But every once in a while, they will go after other animals and people too.
If a rabbit is displaying aggressive behavior, they will pull their ears back and growl at you to warn you. It’s rare for a rabbit to attack anyone out of the blue. While rabbits will attack each other ferociously, they will usually only bite a human if they feel scared and corned, or if they are trying to get you to leave their property.
18. Milk is not good for rabbits
Rabbits should not be given milk as a part of their diet. Instead they should be given an unlimited supply of fresh water. While having milk once or twice is not likely to have an immediate negative effect on a rabbit, milk and dairy products will cause significant gastrointestinal problems over time.
Even baby rabbits, who drink milk from their mothers, should not be given cow’s milk. Cow’s milk does not have the correct nutritional makeup to be useful to rabbits. Even an orphaned baby rabbit should be given kitten or puppy formula, and never milk.
19. Rabbits sleep with their eyes open
Unless you know rabbit behavior very well, it’s difficult to know when they are sleeping. This is because rabbits usually sleep with their eyes open. They’re not even always laying down when they sleep.
This rabbit behavior has evolved because of a rabbits need to be alert and run away fast at the first sign of a predator. By keeping their eyes open, they can detect changes in the light around them and become alert much faster than if they slept with their eyes closed.
20. You can let a house rabbit roam your house
Rabbits make great companion pets, like cats or dogs. Many people even choose to let their rabbit freely roam the house. This makes for a very happy rabbit, and gives them more time to be integrated as part of the family. You can also take the steps to let your rabbit have free roam of your home!
This is a great option if you can prepare your home for rabbits. But there is a lot to think about before you make this choice. You’ll need to make sure your rabbit is litter box trained, and you’ll need to take steps to make sure your home is fully rabbit proofed, so your little bun can’t get into any trouble.
21. Rabbits can be trained like dogs
Rabbit’s are very intelligent animals. They can be trained to know their name or do cool tricks, like give you a high five. Rabbits can even be trained to walk on a leash for some exercise outside.
Since most rabbits are highly treat motivated, many of the same techniques that are used for training dogs can be used to train rabbits. This includes clicker training and luring techniques. It can be a great way to have fun and bond with your pet rabbit.
22. Rabbits don’t like to be held
While everyone wants to pick up and cuddle with their adorable pet rabbit, most rabbits absolutely despise this. Rabbits prefer to have their feet on the ground at all times. This gives them the option to run away whenever they need to.
As prey animals, rabbits have survived by being able to run away and hide whenever a predator got near. But when they are being held or cuddled, a rabbit will feel trapped and scared because they are unable to run away.
This is why rabbits will often struggle and scratch when they are picked up. If you have a habit of picking your rabbit up every time you interact with them, they’ll learn to be scared and run away from you. So instead, try petting your rabbit while they are still on the ground, that way they will still feel safe and comfortable.
23. Rabbits shed a lot
Rabbits have four shedding seasons during the year, but sometimes it seems like they never stop shedding. There is always fur flying everywhere creating clouds of dust bunnies.
Twice a year rabbits will have a particularly heavy molting season. During these times the rabbit will be shedding their winter or summer coat and there will be an enormous amount of fur flying. You may wonder if there is something wrong with your rabbit, but the answer is almost always ‘no, that is perfectly normal.’
24. Rabbits have an adorable cleaning routine
Rabbits are very clean animals and have an extensive cleaning routine. They will spend hours in a day licking themselves all over, like a cat, to get nice and squeaky clean. When they clean their ears and face, they will lick their paws and wipe their face. It’s the cutest thing you will see today.
During heavy shedding seasons, it’s important to help your rabbit out a little bit by brushing them. All that licking means your rabbit is ingesting a lot of extra fur. By brushing your rabbit, you can help keep them from developing a hairball blockage in their stomach.
25. Rabbits can purr
Rabbits purr by grinding their teeth together, making a soft vibrating sound. It’s not exactly the same mechanism as a cat’s purring, but it means the same thing. When a rabbit grinds their teeth together, they are telling you that they are happy and content. Sometimes it can be very difficult to hear, but if you put your hand on top of their head, you’ll feel a slight vibration. You can also watch to see if their whiskers are moving.
You’ll usually notice this behavior when you are petting a rabbit. They really enjoy when you give them a nice massage, and will let you know by purring.
26. Some rabbits only have one lop ear
Most rabbits you come across will be either lop-eared or uppity-eared rabbits, but there are actually some rabbits that have one uppity-ear and one lop-ear. These rabbits are known as half lop rabbits. While uncommon, these half lop rabbits where recorded and illustrated as early as 1862.
Nowadays, most half-lop rabbits are a result of breeding between an uppity-eared rabbit and a lop-eared rabbit. Sometimes if you see a young rabbit with only one lop ear, it’s actually because the other ear just hasn’t fallen yet. Lop rabbits are also born with up-ears. They will eventually fall one at a time as the lop rabbit reaches 2-6 months of age.
27. Rabbits have very sensitive digestive systems
A rabbit’s digestive system is very finicky. It is very easy to upset and throw out of balance. This means that rabbits often suffer from gastrointestinal illnesses.
Even if the issue doesn’t seem directly related to the rabbit’s gut, when a rabbit gets stressed out or is in pain it can cause their gut to slow down or stop. This is a condition known as GI Stasis, and it’s a very dangerous situation for a rabbit.
If a rabbit hasn’t been eating or pooping for more than 12 hours, this is an emergency situation and the rabbit should be brought to the vet immediately. Learn about other symptoms of illness in rabbits, so you can get help for your rabbit early.
28. Rabbits will try to chew on everything
Because rabbits have teeth that are continuously growing, they need to chew on things to keep their teeth from becoming overgrown. Rabbits will chew on everything from blankets to cardboard, baseboards, and even electrical wires.
To keep rabbits from chewing on things they shouldn’t, they should be provided with lots of chew toys to help them keep their teeth trim. There are lots of options, so try to see what your rabbit likes best. This will also keep them from getting too bored. If you don’t know where to start, check out my article all about safe toys for rabbits to play with.
It’s also important to make sure your rabbit has a healthy diet. Hay should be the main part of a rabbits diet and it’s also rough enough to help keep a rabbit teeth grinding down.
29. Rabbits will rub their chin against objects
Like many other mammals, rabbits have scent glands under their chins. When they rub their chins against something, called chinning, they are rubbing their scent onto that object. This is a rabbits way of claiming something as their own and marking their territory. Rabbits will rub their chin against all sorts of things to say “this is mine!”
30. Rabbits poop a lot
Because a rabbit’s health depends on their digestive system constantly moving, they poop A LOT. Even the smallest rabbit will produce upwards of 100 fecal pellets per day.
Luckily, rabbit poop is not very gross. Healthy rabbit poops are hard little balls of digested fiber. They don’t have a distinct smell and should not be squishy or slimy to they touch. Honestly, they look a little bit like cocoa puffs. When you have to clean them up, it’s really easy to just sweep them into a dust pan and throw them away.
31. Rabbits can run up to 45mph
We all know rabbits are fast, but did you know that they can run at speeds up to 45 mph. These top speeds are really only made by wild rabbits who’s lives depend on their ability to run fast. Most domestic rabbits are not in shape and wouldn’t be able to reach this speed. Pet rabbits can usually still run at speeds around 35mph though, and even slower rabbits can make it to 25mph. That’s certainly faster than I can run!
32. Rabbits need a lot of space
Pet stores and online shops will often try to sell very small cages to new rabbit owners, but rabbits actually need quite a lot of space to be healthy. Rabbits need to be able to move around to keep their digestion going and to keep from getting bored. The cage should be at least three to four times the length of the rabbit. And they will also need ample space for daily exercise outside of their enclosure.
I recommend getting a rabbit playpen rather than a traditional rabbit cage. Not only does it provide more space for a rabbit, but it’s also more versatile to set up and much easier to clean.
33. Rabbits are happiest as part of the family
Rabbits are actually very social pets, and they do best if they are made part of the family. When rabbits are left alone all day, they will easily become sad or depressed. They’ll also get bored and be more likely to act out and exhibit some destructive behaviors. But if you spend time with your rabbit and let them become part of the family, they will start to show their adorable and silly personality.
If you don’t have the time to spend with your rabbit, it’s very important to find a rabbit partner to bond with your sweet bun. Rabbits can do very well with another rabbit as their partner, just be sure that everyone has been spayed and neutered first.
- Cohen, Robert. “Speed of a Rabbit or Hare.” The Physics Factbook. 2001, https://hypertextbook.com/facts/2001/RobertCohen.shtml.
- Dotson, J. Dianne. “Facts About Cottontail Rabbits.” Sciencing, July 16, 2018, https://sciencing.com/facts-cottontail-rabbits-4869536.html.
- Illustration from London Journal of Horticulture ca. 1862, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rabbit_-_Half_Lop_Half-Lop_Lop-Eared_Lop_Eared_-_1862_London_Journal_of_Horticulture_1024x600.jpg.
- “Is a Rabbit a Rodent?” Lexico, Oxford, https://www.lexico.com/en/explore/is-a-rabbit-a-rodent.
- “Ralph, World’s Largest Bunny Rabbit, Weighs 55 Pounds And Eats $90 Of Food A Week.” Huffington Post, April 3, 2013, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/ralph-worlds-largest-bunny-rabbit_n_3006487.
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- Hay: Second Cutting Timothy Hay from Small Pet Select
- Pellets: Oxbow Garden Select Food for Rabbits
- Treats: Oxbow Simple Rewards
- Toys: Small Pet Select Natural Toys
- Enclosure/cage: A rabbit exercise pen
- Rabbit carrier: SleepyPod Mobile Pet Bed