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PetPALS Rabbit Behaviors

Rabbit Behaviors

Below are some examples of different behaviors rabbits display when they communicate with people, other rabbits, and other animals. A rabbit does not express all of these behaviors in each situation. Remember to observe the complete picture within the rabbit’s environment when interpreting these behaviors. Variations between individual rabbits, as well as between breeds, must be considered when interpreting behaviors.

Relaxed Posture
  • relaxed rabbitSilent
  • Purring or soft clicking noise
  • Quiet grinding of teeth
  • Head protrudes forward
  • Ears at ease
  • Lays on belly 
  • Lays on side, stretched out (almost appears dead)


alert rabbitAlert Posture
  • Head up
  • Ears forward
  • Sits up noticeably on all fours
  • Sits up on hind feet
Playful Posture

playful rabbit

  • Jumps
  • Bounces
  • Leaps
  • Twists in air
  • Kicks to the side


startled rabbitStartled Posture
  • Eyes wide open, sclera visible
  • Ears up, pushed together Head up
  • Alert
  • Sitting position
  • Sits up on toes


Active/Passive Submission Posture
  • submissive rabbitLies close/crouched down close to ground
  • Appears small and non-threatening
  • Ears pinned back or one ear up with one ear down
  • Avoids eye contact and/or indirect eye contact
  • May push throat out


Fearful Posture
  • fearful rabbitSilent
  • Screams if extremely frightened (or in pain)
  • Rapid breathing 
  • Ears pinned tightly back
  • Facial muscles very tight, making eyes bulge, appearing to pop out of head (can see sclera)
  • Posture very similar to submissive rabbit 
  • Body pressed to ground
  • Appears to freeze in position
  • Signals warning by thumping hind feet
  • If fleeing, raises hindquarters, displaying white underside of tail
  • Kicks high and straight back


Aggressive Posture
  • aggressive rabbitLoudly grinds teeth, grunts, growls, hisses
  • May bite
  • Ears pinned tightly back
  • May shake head
  • Stiff-legged
  • Scrapes ground with front feet
  • Kicks with hind feet
  • Chases
  • Dominant male may spray subordinate male rabbit