BEHAVIOUR Miscellaneous

The Rabbit Survival Instincts and Senses

rabbit survival instincts and senses

Have you ever wondered how these cute and adorable animals, the rabbits, manage to survive into the wild? For sure predators won’t give in to their cuteness, so rabbits should have some instincts and senses that their survival depends upon. For most people, rabbits look defenseless, but they are in fact some of nature’s most prolific survivors. So let’s find out which are the rabbit survival instincts and senses that their lives depend upon into the wild.

Now you might think that a domestic rabbit is the one cute and defenseless and the wild one is the only one who needs to rely on these survival instincts and senses to stay alive, but the reality shows different. Your hopping furry friend living indoors with you still keeps these instincts and relies a lot on his senses to interact with the – tiny – world he happily lives in now.

The Rabbit Survival Instincts and Senses which Help Him Stay Alive

The Senses

Rabbits are prey animals, which means that if they don’t want to become a tasty lunch for a wild predator, they must rely on sharp senses to detect such threats before it’s too late.


Probably the most important sense in a rabbit’s world is hearing. We bet you love those large flappy ears of your bunny, but have you ever thought about how efficient they are in detecting sounds? Well, a rabbit’s ears are large and able to swivel independently, which gives their owner a key advantage. They can detect sounds from a very long distance and from every direction. And their sensibility is far better than that of us, humans. The hearing range of a rabbit is between 360 and 42,000 hertz, as compared to ours, which is only 64 to 23,000 hertz. Yeah, those cute funny ears of your bun aren’t there to please your sense of cuteness.


As with their ears, you probably haven’t asked yourself why rabbits have their eyes on the sides of their head. Well, that gives them a very good range to their peripheral vision, which helps them watch and guard a very large part of their surroundings while, you know, chewing on some grass. Most other animals, and especially predators, have their eyes on the front side of the head, giving them a binocular vision and the ability to focus on something, like the bunny they’re after.


You’ve probably noticed how you little bun is almost always twitching. What they do is sniffing out everything. That helps them sense nearby predators or identify their human owners. Rabbits pick up scents from the air or smell the grass or other plants they eat.


Rabbit’s don’t use their tiny paws to feel the world around, but their whiskers and the hair on their bodies. The whiskers give them the ability to sense everything in front of them, and that’s especially important underground in their burrows. Or, under your couch, where they might often hide.


The taste is probably one of the least used senses of rabbits, but they do taste their food to know what to eat and what is not so good to eat. Usually they don’t pick up plants that are bad to them, unless they have no other alternative.

The Instincts

While the senses are the tools they use to detect dangers and predators lurking in the shadows nearby, the instincts are a rabbit’s response or reaction to those situations.

The Orienting Response

The orienting response is what tells the rabbit to turn his head when he detects some danger in his vicinity. By using the senses we mentioned above, the rabbit will detect anything that’s unusual in his surroundings and turn his head toward whatever triggered that reaction. If there’s nothing there and all is well, he’ll go back to what he was doing, but if there’s some danger, he’ll be able to react.

The Freeze Response

The freeze response is very useful if the rabbit detects a predator before the predator detects him. If that’s the case, bunny freezes and remains completely still, helping him blend in with the environment. This tactic is very helpful because most predators rely on spotting movement to find their next dinner.

Flight Response

If plan A doesn’t work and bunny is eventually detected, they will rely on their next tactic and that is running away from danger. When the flight response activates, there are some changes occurring inside the rabbit’s body. All senses heighten, heart is pumping faster and more blood is sent to the muscles to increase the bunny’s endurance and agility. Ok, bunny flees, but where? That’s where his next instinct comes into place.

Hiding Response

The hiding response kicks in as an aid to the flight response. While outrunning a predator is a good enough tactic, it’s even better to use another trick, hiding. If bunny is at home and knows his territory well, he’ll probably know plenty of holes in the ground where he could hide, which is a better way to end the chase in his favor.

Fight Response

The fight response is a bunny’s last resort. When all other plans fail, such as when he’s cornered and has no way out, confronting the predator might give him the advantage he needs to get away. For that matter, rabbits can use their powerful hind legs to kick the predator and stun him, giving bunny a chance to make his escape.

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