Carolyn Crampton name
  rabbits in the wild / tradition  

the physical aspects

Rabbits are prey animals. Everything in the wild is trying to eat them. Rabbits survive by exceptional hearing, being very sensitive and running at the first sign of danger, social groups which thump on the ground to alert the other rabbits. Rabbits survive by avoiding the open where hawks and owls can catch them, and by being able to run quickly, make sharp turns and huge hops and squeeze into little spaces where other animals can't follow them. They can hop up and turn direction in the air.


They have eyes on each side of their head. Prey animals include horses, fish, some whales, and cows. Predators including dogs, cats, humans, racoons, hawks, owls, coyotes, foxes, and snakes have eyes in the front -- and they all eat rabbits. Because of their eye location they can see in back of them, as well as in all directions. Rabbit vision is based on movement. Any sudden movement means danger. If you think about hawks, any sudden movement from above or behind is very frightening to a rabbit. If you try to talk to a rabbit head on, they can't see you. Their eyes are best suited to dawn and dusk lighting. Rabbits can see more blues and greens than we can. Rabbits have a transparent third eyelid: they can wipe their eye while still seeing.


Rabbits hear pretty much in our range but also hear much higher pitched sounds which include rodents, bats, bugs, some bird noises and lots of mechanical or electrical sounds we can't hear. Rabbits can hear up to two miles away . Ears can be rotated to better collect sound. Ear position is important in rabbit language, even in lop ear breeds--watch their ears carefully. Rabbits love music but please, not when they are sleeping (daytime or nighttime) and only at low volume.


Like most animals, smell is the most important way of sensing the world. Let them smell your shoes when you come home.


Rabbits have something like 18,000 taste buds while we only have about 9,000. Rabbits can sometimes tell if someething is poisonous while they are eating it.

sense glands

Under their chin. You will see them rubbing their chin against the furniture. This marks their territory.


These have nerves in them such as our fingers. Do not cut their whiskers.


Rabbits live in a social group like chimps or humans and have a highly developed social order. They use sounds, scents and body language to communicate. They are extremely sensitive, extremely loving, but they also get angry like no other 'pet'. Rabbits will express anger. Your job is to figure out why they are angry. They will nip, and if they are afraid or mistreated, they will bite. If their nails are too long you can get badly scratched. If your bunny is angry, hold something up to his teeth that he can express his anger on such as a piece of newspaper, a towell or something. Let him vent for awhile. Wear gloves and sleeves if necessary and avoid the head.


Rabbits go through puberty somewhere around 6 months and that's when many become 'difficult'...when they are just becoming rabbits, of course. Male rabbits construct an elaborate nest with sticks and females hop over them into the nest when they are interested.

rabbits in the wild and the importance of tradition

Rabbits live in large dens under the ground. Some hares live above ground but like most rabbits, spend most of their life in the undergrowth. In the house rabbits will try to construct tunnels, underground dens and spend time under chairs and in other 'safe' places. Rabbits are not rodents but share a love of running around the perimeter of the room (and will knaw on any weeds or wires that are in their way). They like to live on high ground (in a marsh they can't dig underground) and they like all the trees to stay in the same position (no rearranging furniture). All dens and nests must have 2 exits even in the house.

Rabbits live in a group in which some of them are dominant rabbits and the others are the workers. The dominant ones eat first. I am convinced that rabbits are matriarchal (unlike in Watership Down) Some of the others are great diggers, some are great at knawing through tough branches. You will see this in your house. Some will drive you crazy, especially when trying to get your attention, with their chewing when you really should be proud of them. Give them something you want them to chew. Some are docile and some are born leaders and will stand up to you. Any rabbit who shows a sign of age or sickness will be harassed unmercifully, will be denied access to rare food and water, and will often die because of it. Watch out for this in your house rabbits too.

There is nothing more important to a rabbit than tradition. It must be a big part of how they survive in the wild. Perhaps knowing when it's safe to go to the meadow, or when a certain plant is in bloom. You must keep regular hours daily. A rabbit will respect the fact that he has to go back into the cage if you do it at the same time every day. At snack time they will go to the refrigerator or stand by the box of hay. Or sit near you staring at you. Or run around to get your attention. Or come over for a pet, or give you 'the poke'. They don't want a petting, they want you get back on routine. Same behavior at bedtime. If you watch your rabbit, you will see that he has a different place to sleep depending on what time of day it is.

the getaway

If a bunny wants to run around the perimeter of the room in the undergrowth rather than cross the middle of a room where a hawk could get him (naturally) then he will want to trim these roots and vines that are in his way (electrical cords). He needs to have a path with no obstructions in case of emergency getaway. This what a good rabbit does. Biting an electrical cord can kill him, ruin the appliance and burn down the house (though it can just causes a cut and a big spark). He will also tend to knaw away at any wood furniture that is too close to the wall to run behind. Same thing for a sofa...make sure one can run behind it. See Rabbitproofing.

rattling, loud chewing, ripping, tossing things around, clanging and making a racket

You may notice annoying behavior which often happens when you are trying to sleep in on the weekends. There are no weekends in the wild. In the wild one must get up at the same time every dawn to look for food. Rabbits forage at dawn and at dusk and sleep or rest the rest of the time. If they think you need to get up, they will be relentless.

returning to the 'scene of the crime'

I don't know why they do this, but you will find that after a traumatic episode of nail cutting or medicine administration, later they will hop over to the area the trauma took place. I cannot see how this could possibly be a safe behavior in the wild, but perhaps this is how they learn more about what they survived. It is almost like they are asking for another episode but they aren't. Rabbits are the most curious of animals.

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