A rabbit’s eyes are its greatest asset when facing predators. Convex, located at the top of the head, can cover a visual field of more than 300 degrees around and a large part of the space above. Such a wide field of vision safeguards against attack from the ground and air.
Unfortunately, the downside of such a field of vision is the “blind spot” just in front of the nose. A rabbit can often fall for food lying in front of its muzzle since it has the worst vision up close. When wanting to look at something, the rabbit will often position itself sideways to improve its range of vision.
The miniature rabbit is a popular pet, being a domesticated European rabbit. It is descended from the wild rabbit that originally inhabited Spain. Work on its breeding began in the 20th century, focusing on obtaining a small animal with a friendly character. How do rabbits see the world, and how does the miniature rabbit see it? Can they see well at night? How is the rabbit’s eye constructed?
Sight is one of the most essential senses in a rabbit, guaranteeing its survival in its natural environment. To perform this function, the rabbit’s eyes are positioned on the side of the head and have a large size and appropriate convexity. Distinguishing individual colors is a matter of debate among scientists.
Still, the rabbit is suspected to see somewhat blurry, grainy, and predominantly black and white, although it can perceive blue, yellow, red, and green. Rabbiteye pathology includes diseases such as glaucoma, cataract, conjunctivitis, corneal ulceration, and blockage of the tear ducts. All these diseases require the immediate intervention of a veterinarian specializing in ophthalmology.
The eye of a rabbit
It is large, round, convex, and positioned laterally on the head. Due to this eye placement, the rabbit has a field of vision of over 300 degrees but has trouble seeing objects close to its nose (blind spot). To stay alert, these animals blink only a few times per hour.
A distinctive feature of rabbit eyes is the presence of a shutter (third eyelid), which additionally protects the eyes and ensures proper lubrication. The rabbit’s pupils are not adaptable, so they are not the best at seeing in full or very low light.
Color vision in the rabbit
Although many people have wondered what colors the rabbit perceives, to this day, no clear answer is known. Most scientists advocate the position that rabbits can distinguish between blue and yellow and red and green, but they see primarily black and white the world around them. The image they perceive is blurry and grainy.
You will probably want to learn more about rabbit anatomy. The eyeball of the rabbit is giant and spherical in shape. Its structure is identical to that of the eyeball of many other animals. It is located in orbit and is connected to the brain by the optic nerve. Inside the eyeball are refractive agents (lens, vitreous body, contents of the anterior and posterior chambers), sheaths, and nerves with vessels.
The eyeball includes 3 eyelids. These are the traditional upper and lower and the second eyelid, which is located at the inner corner of the eye. The third eyelid is necessary to protect the sebaceous glands. The lacrimal gland is located in the temporal corner of the eye.
Seven muscles are responsible for eye movement: 4 straight, 2 obliques, and 1 retractor of the eyeball. There is a thick coating on the eye’s surface that helps moisturize and preserve the apple. Thanks to this coating, rabbits rarely blink.
Night vision in the rabbit
How do rabbits see at night? How does a miniature rabbit see during the day? The dominant photoreceptors in the rabbit’s eye are the rods, thanks to which these animals can see well at dawn and at dusk in the so-called half-light. They are definitely less good at seeing in daylight and at night.
However, it is not precisely accurate to say that your rabbit has excellent night vision. While they may have better eyesight than we do, it’s not exactly difficult because we see absolutely nothing due to being daytime animals that don’t sleep during the day.
The truth is that a rabbit’s day and night vision are probably of similar quality, and the structure of their eye makes the piggy side appear grainy or even blurry at night. However, they can also use their other senses to gather more information about their environment.
There is a scientific explanation for these differences in their vision. As in all animals, the quality of a rabbit’s vision is determined by its rods and cones. The cones choose the quality and color at which our eyes excel, while the rods assess sensitivity to the piggy side.
Rabbits have more rods, which makes their eyes better than ours at night, allowing them to pick out blurred shapes and movement, but worse during the day because they have to deal with glare.
How to check if your rabbit can see?
If you suspect that your rabbit has a vision problem, visit a veterinary ophthalmologist. Only a consultation with a specialist can allay our suspicions and guarantee the best management of vision problems.
Rabbit eye diseases
The most common causes of eye diseases in rabbits are genetic factors, poor diet and care, and bacterial infections. Therefore, we should regularly give our pets vitamins and reach for high-quality food. We should also take care of the cage’s cleanliness so that bacteria and viruses do not develop there.
Nevertheless, eye diseases often appear anyway, including conjunctivitis, corneal ulceration, blocked tear ducts, glaucoma, and cataract.
- Conjunctivitis is caused by a bacterial infection and requires appropriately selected antibiotic therapy.
- Corneal ulceration is a painful condition caused by external factors (mechanical damage, foreign bodies) or internal (body health problems). It requires a visit to the veterinarian and pharmacological treatment.
- Blockage of tear ducts causes dental problems or inflammation. It takes some time before the vet treats the condition and the tears properly irrigate the eye
- Glaucoma is caused by increased intraocular pressure, which destroys the retina. It can lead to blindness. Antibiotic therapy or surgery are known methods that can successfully treat this condition.
- Cataract is the clouding of the lens due to genetic factors, a history of glaucoma, retinal diseases, diabetes, or even poor nutrition. Otherwise known as cataracts. Eye surgery is required for this disease.
Do rabbits prefer darkness?
While we’ve established that your rabbit sees similarly well in pitch-black darkness and midday on the sunniest day, it’s essential that we also consider what makes them happiest. This is a more complex question than you might think, as it can depend on the circumstances.
Each rabbit may also have its own preferences. Wild bunnies prefer dark spaces because they spend a lot of time in burrows, where they are safest. Darkness provides them with the cover they need to survive, so they probably associate it with peace and less anxiety.
Your house rabbit, however, will not have this experience. He will likely associate the piggy daylight side with spending time with you and being happy and safe.
Other senses of the rabbit
What is known about the other senses in a rabbit? Definitely very important for orientation and thermoregulation are the ears, the organ of hearing. The ears of a rabbit are of considerable size and, with minor exceptions (rams), stick upwards.
Hearing helps recognize danger and does so with extreme precision since its range is 33,000 Hz (in humans, it is 22,000 Hz). Another critical function of rabbit ears is thermoregulation – giving off excess heat.
The rabbit’s long, raised, movable ears are its most recognizable attribute. The rabbit’s ears can rotate independently and scan the environment in a wide circle. A slight rustle, the snap of a twig, is immediately picked up by the sensitive hearing instrument.
Rabbits can hear between 360 and 42,000 Hz. Breeds with drooping ears cannot boast equally good hearing, but these are primarily breeding species. In addition, long ears serve the rabbit for thermoregulation.
The rabbit’s nose is a susceptible instrument. By moving its nostrils, the rabbit breathes and recognizes odors and searches for potential sources of danger. A rabbit’s nose consists of 50 million receptors, ten times more than that of humans. The rabbit can recognize a predator by smell before discovering it by sight.
The nose is used by the rabbit to recognize terrain and airborne pheromones. Much of the communication within the species is done by smell. Extraordinary nasal acuity often interferes with a house rabbit’s life, as solid odors floating around can cause respiratory problems for the rabbit.
A rabbit’s sense of touch is mainly fulfilled by long whiskers located around the nose, near the cheeks, and eyes. The whiskers capture vibrations from the environment, informing the rabbit of obstacles. This is great for helping the animal navigate in the dark.
A rabbit’s sense of taste is based on 17,000 taste buds that allow it to distinguish between sweet, bitter, salty, and sour. Rabbits tend toward sweet foods, which do not always serve them well.
In the wild, they can discriminate between poisonous and edible plants, but this instinct no longer works in inbreeding. This is essential information for owners to be careful about the rabbit’s food when they are in the meadow.