Rabbit Body Language – Understanding and Communicating With Rabbits

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Rabbits do make a certain number of noises but the huge majority of their communication is achieved through body language, therefore it is very useful to learn this so you can understand your rabbit better. General posture and signs given by ears, eyes, nose, tail and mouth all work together to tell you what your rabbit is saying.

Posture

When a rabbit is at rest or sleeping, it is likely to be in a ‘loaf’ position, feet tucked under the body, ears inclined along the back and eyes half closed. They sit in a similar position when in pain, but it is more of a crouch and the rabbit may be shifting its weight and be unwilling to move around freely.

When a rabbit is curious about something but cautious, it will have its weight balanced equally on all four legs, its nose outstretched, ears pricked forward and tail extended.

To accept or request grooming from you or another rabbit, a rabbit may settle down with its head on the ground.

A very relaxed, happy rabbit will roll on its side or back – the ‘bunnyflop’. A variant of this is when the rabbit lies down with its back legs extended behind or to one side.

Rabbits turn their backs to indicate disapproval or disinterest and may move away flicking out their hind feet as they go.

Ears

At rest, a rabbit’s ears will be lying along its back but not clamped down. A scared rabbit will flatten its ears to its body to make itself less conspicuous. Rabbits point their ears forward when startled or curious about something. Frequent shaking of the ears may indicate a health problem but rabbits often give a shake of their ears accompanied by a little hop to invite you to play or to indicate excitement e.g. if you are about to feed them.

Eyes

Wide open, staring eyes are a sign of fear. Rabbits may narrow or completely close their eyes when sleeping but can also sleep with their eyes open.

Nose

Rabbits twitch their noses between 20 and 120 times a minute – faster when excited or stressed and slower when sleeping or relaxed. A rabbit may nudge you gently with its nose to get your attention or nudge you more forcefully to ask you to go away or stop stroking it.

Tail

When a rabbit is at rest, only the tip of the tail can be seen. The tail will extrude further when a rabbit is curious about something or about to attack and they may twitch it from side to side. When excited or wanting to mate, a rabbit will lift its tail up higher and run around at speed.

Mouth

If a rabbit licks you, it is a sign of affection as it is effectively ‘grooming’ you. Rabbits may nip gently to get your attention or ask you to move out of their way; this is quite different from a proper bite which is usually caused by fear, boredom, loneliness or sexual frustration. A rabbit will rub the underside of its chin on an object to scent mark it and claim it for its own; you may even find yourself being ‘chinned’ one day!

Copyright 2011 Hannah Davis / Bunnyhugga.com All Rights Reserved

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Source by Hannah E Davis

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