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A Guide To Rabbit Behaviour And Body Language

If your rabbit is acting abnormally and you have concerns please take them to a vet immediately.

Since rabbits are very rarely vocal, they mostly communicate through body language. If you’re unfamiliar with rabbit behavior, some things your rabbit does may seem weird or downright silly. 

In this article, we’ll decipher all types of rabbit behavior and what each sign means.  Before we look into those, note that not all rabbits are the same, so you may not see all these signs in your rabbits. For example, some rabbits are extremely affectionate, while others rarely like to be held or even touched. 

Keep reading to learn more about rabbit behavior and body language to learn how your rabbit is feeling!

Rabbit sleeping loafed

Rabbits In The Wild 

In the wild, rabbits are crepuscular, meaning they’re generally only active at dawn and dusk. They spend most of their time grazing and foraging in the meadows and digging in their burrows. 

Rabbits have a high flight or fight instinct. But, since they’re prey animals, they lean heavily on that flight instinct, reserving fight usually for each other or as a last effort of defense. 

Actually, they can be quite aggressive with each other, especially males in pursuit of a mate. You may find that your rabbit displays a lot of similar behavioral patterns with their wild cousins, both playful and aggressive.

Happy Rabbit Behaviour 

Happy rabbits are very noticeable. They’re active, curious, and sometimes, extremely affectionate. Here are some behaviors that you will typically find in a happy rabbit. 

Loafing / Bunny Bread

Brown Rabbit Loafing

Loafing is a sign of a content rabbit, this position is often used to either relax in or sleep. If your rabbit is asleep during a loaf you may find their head dropping slowly, this isn’t anything you need to worry about.

If your rabbit is in a load position, this is a good sign, it means they’re not cautious or worried about their surroundings but can still run away quickly should they need to.

Chin Rubbing

Rabbit Chin Rubbing

Chinning is a rabbit’s way of marking its territory. When a happy rabbit is exploring, they rub their chin on things, which is a little “mine” note on things like table legs and doorways, among many other household items.

Binkies

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A binky is a display of extreme joy or excitement in rabbits, where they hop and twist their bodies mid-air. It’s an acrobatic expression of happiness, and boy, it is ever a sight!

Binkies / Binkying is often paired with zoomies, super quick running often in circles or in the same pattern. If your rabbit isn’t particularly feeling up to full-on binkies, you may see them do miniature binkies which are usually shown by head flicking and spinning on the spot.

Playing

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If you have two bonded rabbits, they will play with each other. A common one that they share with wild rabbits is what I like to call the matador game. One rabbit runs at the other, and just when you think they’ll crash, the other rabbit jumps. They take turns until they’re tired.

Rabbit playing with puzzle

The Zoomies

An energetic and happy rabbit will zoom around at top speed if there’s enough room. If your rabbit has access to the whole house, he’ll dart from room to room, jumping up on furniture and racing back and forth. 

Affection

Happy rabbits that have established bonds with their owner will jump on your lap, sit with you on the couch, demand pets and cuddles, and may even run to you when you come through the door. If you have two, they’ll be happily grooming and cuddling with each other.  

Circling & Honking 

If your rabbit is really happy and wants to play, he’ll run circles around you or in between your legs, making a very low and quiet honking sound. This is a big indicator of wanting attention or playtime. Between rabbits, this can also be an indication of wanting to breed. 

Body Language To Look For In Happy Rabbits

Sometimes, happy rabbits don’t do much at all but graze. Here are some body language signs to look for in happy rabbits when they’re not being as active:

  • Relaxed V-shaped ears
  • Standing on their hind legs
  • Nose-twitching 

Relaxed Rabbit Behaviour

Rabbits really don’t do much when they’re relaxing, which I’ll be honest, is a lot of the time. Here are some things you’ll see your rabbit doing while he’s relaxing:

Grazing

Most of the day, you’ll find your rabbit grazing on hay or other greens that you’ve given him. This isn’t just important for relaxation, but also for digestion.

Flopping

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It may scare you a little to see your precious bun suddenly flop to the floor. But there’s nothing to worry about. This is what rabbits do when they’re tired and want to get comfortable. Males also do this right after mating, out of exhaustion.

You may believe your rabbit is poorly or struggling, but if you watch closely you should see them breathing still.

Flopped Rabbit

Grooming 

Rabbits are extremely clean animals. While relaxing, your rabbit will likely graze and take breaks to groom themselves or each other, if you have a bonded pair.

Body Language Of Relaxed Rabbits 

Relaxed Rabbit Posture

During this time, it’s not as much about looking for certain behaviors, as it is about looking for body language signs that show your rabbit is content and relaxed.  Here are some of the body language signs you’ll see in a relaxed rabbit:

  • Laying stretched out
  • Closed Eyes 
  • V-Shaped Ears: 
  • Nose-Twitching 

Scared Or Stressed Rabbit Behaviour

Scared or stressed rabbits are typically very noticeable. If it’s stress, be careful, as this could lead to illness and may even be a sign of illness in your pet rabbit.  Here’s what to watch for: 

Not Wanting to Be Touched Or Picked Up. 

Some rabbits never like to be picked up. But, if yours is always affectionate, and it suddenly stops or he turns aggressive, there’s definitely a problem.  

Flattening Or Crouching

A stressed, or scared rabbit will crouch down, flattening himself to the ground. His ears may also be flattened, held tightly back to their body. If your rabbit does this when you enter the room, try moving more slowly and speaking softly to him, or encourage him with treats.  

Hiding Or Running Away

If your rabbit is constantly scurrying away from you or hiding, then that’s a sure sign that it’s scared. Again, try moving more slowly and use a positive association with affection and treats. 

Thumping Their Back Feet 

When a rabbit is scared, they may thump their back feet. In the wild, rabbits use this as a warning call to others that danger is present. But, in domesticated rabbits, it’s more likely that it means “back off” or “get out of my space.”

Grunting/Aggressive Behaviour

Stressed rabbits may exhibit aggressive behavior towards you. They may start grunting, lunging, or even biting you. This is a clear sign of stress, and you’ll have to take measures to stop this aggressive behavior and get to the bottom of what is stressing them out. 

Body Language Of A Scared Or Stressed Rabbit: 

  • Freezing 
  • Ears straight up, alert
  • Still Nose or Flared Nostrils 
  • Grinding Teeth

Angry Rabbit Behaviour

It may surprise you to know that these cute and fluffy critters can actually get quite aggressive. Remember when I mentioned that rabbits reserve their “fight” instinct for other rabbits? Well, this aggressive behavior is usually due to territorial behavior or fear, which they may distribute to you. 

Grunting 

The first sign of an angry rabbit is vocalizations. If a rabbit is angry, they may grunt at you to tell you to get out of their space. You should give them their space, for now, and when you return, bribe them with a peace offering like some treats. 

Biting

There are different levels of nips. Your rabbit can sometimes nip you by accident when they tug at your clothes for attention. But angry biting is different. An angry rabbit will chomp down and likely break the skin. This is a sign of extreme displeasure, or if you have touched them somewhere they’re hurting. 

Boxing

In the wild, rabbits often fight each other, using a technique that looks a lot like boxing. If your rabbit “pets ‘em up” to you, he wants to fight. At that point, you should give him some space and refer to some bonding techniques. 

Kicking At You

This is a lighter form of aggression that rabbits often show after having their nails trimmed or if they’ve been picked up and they don’t like it. After you set your rabbit down, he will kick his back legs back at you to say, “screw you.” 

Lunging And Scratching 

An angry rabbit may lunge at you, as a means of territorial behavior. This usually happens when you try to pet them or refresh their food and water. To get rid of this behavior, you’ll have to try more bonding with your rabbit.  

Thumping 

Just like when they’re scared, a rabbit may thump his back feet on the ground as a means of telling you to stay away. This is an aggressive sign, usually caused by fear. Try moving more slowly and being gentle with your bunny to reduce this behavior. 

Spraying 

If your rabbit isn’t fixed, you’ll likely find spraying to be a problem. Like chinning, this is how they put their scent on this. It’s, however, a lot dirtier than chinning. The only way to really stop this is to get your rabbit spayed or neutered. However, if your rabbit is older, then it may not help matters much. 

Body Language Of An Angry Rabbit:

  • Tail-Flicking and Spraying
  • Ears Back
  • Flared Nostrils

Sick Rabbit Behaviour

Rather than displaying certain behaviors, a sick rabbit will have a lack of normal behavior. Instead of hopping around, they’ll be still and may display many signs of stress. Note that a depressed rabbit may show many of these signs as well. Here are some things to look out for in a sick rabbit:

No Appetite

If a rabbit is sick, one of the most noticeable signs is a lack of appetite. He will have no interest in their food, hay. Not even for his favorite treats. If this goes on for a while, you’ll also notice weight changes. 

Lethargy

Rather than having unusual behavioral signs, a sick rabbit is likely not to have any behavior at all. Lethargy is a huge sign of illness, as healthy and happy rabbits are well known for hopping around and being active. 

Body Language Of A Sick Rabbit:

  • Constant crouching or otherwise unusual posture
  • Teeth-grinding 
  • Ears back
  • Flared Nostrils and Heavy Breathing
  • Neck Stretched Out
  • Eyes closed more than normal

 Conclusion

Now that you know all the behavioral and body language signs of your rabbit, you can easily determine how they’re feeling and how you can make them happier. 

When things turn negative, you should always remain calm and never “just leave them” and never touch them again. That will only worsen any aggression that is there. 

If you notice any signs of illness in your rabbits, take them to the vets immediately, so your rabbits can get the care they need to get back to their happy rabbit behavior. 


Thank you for reading this post!
Link is an incredibly spoilt rabbit who lives completely free roam. When he's not jumping on his owners heads at 5am or digging at carpet he can often be seen loafed or eating copious amounts of hay.