Basic Rabbit Facts

Did you know

Rabbits have complex digestive systems. Food is passed through their gut and this is how caecotrophs are produced, rabbits then eat the caecotrophs and the food is re-ingested.

Biological Data

  • Life span: 8 – 12 years (but can be 12+)
  • Puberty: 3+ months in smaller breeds, 5-8 months in larger breeds
  • Litter size: average 5-8 kittens
  • Birth weight: 40-100grams
  • Eyes open: 7-10 days
  • Weaning: 4-6 weeks

Rabbit Physiology

The rabbit comes from the European rabbit. Rabbits are prey animals, so they have evolved to be very alert, lightweight and fast moving.

Rabbits have a very efficient digestive system, this makes sure that they spend less time above the ground and stay away from predators. The skin of rabbits is very similar to dogs and cats, but their skin is much thicker as is their fur. They don’t have any sweat glands, but only on the edge of their lips which means they don’t get as much heat stress.

Rabbits have glands under their chin, that they use to mark territory and female rabbits use that to identify their offspring. Rabbits also rely on a strong sense of smell to communicate.

Around their lips there are small hairs that act as sensors, they aren’t able to see the food that eat once it is under their mouth so the sensors help to get the food to their mouths.

Rabbits don’t have foot pads like dogs or cats, but thick fur giving them protection and grip when they are running. 

The ears represent a large part on the total body surface, much more than you would think approximately 12%!

Their ears are fragile and sensitive, so rabbits shouldn’t be lifted by their ears as it will cause serious injury and distress. There is a good blood supply that helps to regulate the temperature, which is why rabbits have a large number of arteries and veins of the ears.

Rabbit Skeleton

The rabbit skeleton is light, and it makes only 7-8% of their bodyweight (cats have 13%), that means they can easily suffer from fractures. They have short front legs with delicate bones, but their back legs are quite powerful.

Rabbit Digestive System

The digestive tract is adapted to digest a large amount of fibre. Like horses, rabbits rely on bacteria that ferments fibrous food and convert it into nutrients. They have a unique system that redigest this food – a process called ‘caecotrophy’. Rabbit’s teeth are continuously growing, so they need to be eating grass or hay to wear them down. The food is sterilised in stomach, the bacteria is killed before it passes to the small intestine and reaching the colon. The food is then passed into two different directions at the same time, passing out waste material as normal hard pellets.