In contrast to the hare, which is still unjustifiably lumped together with the rabbit, the rabbit lives sociably in groups. It is a true pack animal and, accordingly, its behavioral and communication repertoire is very broad.
After all, a certain order must prevail in a rabbit group, because this is necessary for the survival and security of its own kind. Also the communication among each other is of course different than in a typical loner. He does not communicate extensively, but goes his own way. The rabbit is different, as it “converses” very extensively with its conspecifics.
The rabbit language, however, is less focused on verbal communication, but rather in the area of body language to look for. However, body language in itself also occupies only a minor place in the rabbit’s “language use”. One must not forget that rabbits spend most of their time in the dark burrow, so body language would not be very useful to them. Thus, rabbits communicate with each other mainly through olfactory markings.
Rabbits smell well
Although communication among rabbits mainly takes place via the nose, or the corresponding scent markings, the behavioral repertoire is not exactly small. This is of course a blessing for us humans as rabbit owners, because we simply lack too many olfactory buds to learn “rabbit language” on the basis of scent markings. Rabbits, like dogs, belong to the so-called macrosmates. In contrast to us microsmats with a maximum of 30 million olfactory sensory cells, the long-eared rabbit with its 100 million olfactory sensory cells sniffs five times as well as we do.
Good hearing they also have
…but how well, that depends strongly on the breed. Otherwise, the highly perfused ears of the rabbit act as an air conditioner, so they are of immense importance for heat regulation. In contrast to the wild rabbit, many external characteristics have changed, sometimes seriously, in the different breeds. Not only fur color and weight, especially the ears have been “domesticated” at the same time.
The outer ear, the rabbit’s long spoons, actually only carries the sound to the inner ear, where the actual hearing organ is located. The larger the spoons, the better this transmission works and the better one hears.
In the wild rabbit, the ears are funnel-shaped and relatively large, while in some domesticated domestic rabbit breeds only small spoons remain, such as in the ermine rabbit. Incidentally, both ears can be turned independently, so that 360-degree omnidirectional hearing is easily possible without turning the head.
The frequency range of the rabbit is between 60 – 49,000 Hertz, in comparison, humans hear with 20 – 20,000 Hertz rather in the low frequency range.
What is also remarkable about rabbit ears is that the ambient temperature has a direct effect on the length growth of the ears. Sounds incredible, but it’s true. The warmer the rabbits are when they are raised, the longer their ears grow! Breeders of certain breeds, where particularly long or short ears are important, naturally like to take advantage of this.
Rabbits can talk
Actually, prey animals avoid making too much noise. Their communication among themselves has found other ways that do not necessarily draw the enemy’s attention directly. Nevertheless, rabbits also have a certain “language repertoire”. For example, rabbits, when they feel comfortable all around, start cooing, which sounds like the purr of a cat.
Also the hissing of a rabbit reminds of the hissing of a cat and signals similar: Caution, I am really irritated! However, hissing is also used as a warning to conspecifics, to signal that danger is imminent.
The greatest danger is when rabbits scream – and they can do that very loudly. However, this really only happens when there is great danger or when the rabbit is scared to death.
Another warning for the other pack members, by the way, is the rhythmic drumming of the hind legs on the ground. This has also earned the rabbit the nickname knocker.
Teeth grinding is also used to communicate with each other. For humans, the two types of grinding are a little difficult to tell apart at first, but one should try to learn the difference quickly. For good reason, because on the one hand the grinding of the rabbit’s teeth means that it wants to be left alone. On the other hand, it can also be an expression of pain or, but then a little quieter, express well-being. Here again the whole observation and interpretation of the rabbit plays a role. If it lies relaxed on its side and grinds its teeth, it feels great. If it wants to be left alone, the body is clearly tense.
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