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12 Unique Characteristics of Rabbits

Rabbits, often called bunnies, are small mammals found all over the world. They are members of the Leporidae family and there are 29 different rabbit species that inhabit every continent except for Antarctica. These little creatures have several unique characteristics from their long ears to their strong hind legs, that make them recognizable and special.

What is a characteristic?

Characteristics are features or qualities that an animal has. This is not to be confused with adaptations, which are when an animal’s characteristic changes over time to help them better survive.

12 Characteristics of Rabbits

There are many wild rabbits, but they are also very popular pets in many parts of the world. This list will detail twelve characteristics that make rabbits unique.

1. Long Ears

Resting rabbit in a grassy field
Resting rabbit in a grassy field | Image by David Mark from Pixabay

Rabbits are known for their long ears, but the long ears of rabbits aren’t just for looks. Their ears can rotate 270 degrees to help the rabbit monitor its surroundings.

Rabbits have a lot of predators, and the long ears help them detect potential danger from far distances. The ears also help with thermoregulation. The long ears contain many blood vessels that swell and contract to help maintain the rabbit’s temperature.

2. Short Tails

Most rabbits have short, fluffy tails, many of which are white at the tip. Rabbits use their tails to signal to other rabbits when danger is near.

When they sense danger, they hop away quickly, flashing the white part of their tail to the other rabbits nearby. Rabbits can also communicate their emotions to other rabbits using tail movements.

3. Strong Hind Legs

Rabbit brown hare
Rabbit brown hare ErikaWittlieb from Pixabay

Rabbits have strong hind legs they use for hopping. They can hop short distances, but the hind legs are so strong that they can also jump between two and four feet into the air and up to 9 feet across.

When holding a pet rabbit, it is important to hold them tightly by the legs because if not, they will use their hind legs to jump out of your grip and potentially hurt themselves.

4. Continuously Growing Teeth

Rabbits have a total of 28 teeth in their tiny mouths. These teeth include long incisors and shorter cheek teeth.

Their teeth never stop growing throughout the rabbit’s life. The incisors can grow up to 2.4mm per week, and the cheek teeth grow up to 1mm per week.

5. High Reproductive Rate

Family of rabbit eating together
Family of rabbit eating together | image by Eugene Obrezkov via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Rabbits are known for their extremely high reproductive rate. A rabbit’s gestational period (the period during which they are pregnant) is only 30 days. The babies stay in the nest for about three weeks, after which the female can reproduce again.

Female rabbits can have a new litter of kits every two to three months. If something happens to her litter, she will breed again even sooner.

The female babies can start reproducing on their own after two or three months. This quick maturation and gestation period mean rabbits can have a very high reproductive rate.

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6. Three-Petaled Mouth

Rabbits have a three-petaled or three-flap mouth. The three-petaled mouth allows the rabbit to lift its lips away from its teeth for better access to the grass and other vegetation it is eating. It also makes watching a rabbit eat an adorable experience.

7. Undeveloped Sweat Glands

Rabbit in the backyard
Rabbit in the backyard | image by Robobobobo via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Rabbits have a few sweat glands in their mouths but have undeveloped outer sweat glands. They are unable to sweat to help control body temperature. Instead, they use panting and their long ears to stay cool in the heat.

8. Herbivorous

Rabbits are herbivorous eaters, meaning they only eat plants like herbs, grass, and vegetables. They often steal into gardens and much on various plants and vegetables.

They also enjoy fibrous vegetation like straw. Most of their diet consists of grass and hay, though.

9. Excellent Sense of Smell

Marsh Rabbit
Marsh Rabbit | image by Everglades National Park via Flickr

If you ever noticed a rabbit’s nose twitching, you might not be surprised to hear they have an excellent sense of smell. With over 100 million scent cells, rabbits have an even better sense of smell than hearing. They can often smell a predator well before they hear or see it.

10. Panoramic Vision

Rabbits have a nearly panoramic vision, which means they have a nearly 360-degree view of the world. This means they can see almost everything around them at any given time.

They can see behind them without turning their heads. This helps them to detect predators in a timely manner.

11. Fast Chewers

Rabbit eating grass
Rabbit eating grass | image by Rodel Bontes via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Rabbits are extremely fast chewers. They use their teeth to chew up to 150 times per minute. This allows them to consume food quickly and also chew fibrous vegetation more effectively.

Chewing is also a fun and natural activity for rabbits, which explains why you can so often find them doing it.

12. Crepuscular

Crepuscular animals are most active during the times when day turns to night and night turns to day. Rabbits are crepuscular, so you will likely see them hopping around and feeding around dawn and dusk.