When we were thinking about getting rabbits in our home, our kids had a lot of questions.
One of the biggest ones was: Do rabbits run or hop?
Rabbits don’t run; they hop. Their powerful back legs and agile front feet help them to burst into motion to escape from predators. Everything from their toe positions to the make-up of their joints helps in hopping quickly when needed.
Of course, kids being kids, I heard a lot of other questions about how bunnies move, so I decided to tackle a lot of the common questions I hear.
Table of Contents
Why Do Rabbits Hop In The Air?
Over many years of evolution, rabbits have developed hopping as the best and quickest way to escape their natural predators. By hopping instead of simply running, they are better able to avoid other animals like hawks, dogs, cats, and foxes.
By hopping up into the air, they foil their predators’ plans of catching them.
It also helps them clear obstacles that may otherwise block the ones chasing them.
Their front legs are built to help them land, balance, and redirect their path, while their powerful back legs send them flying through the air.
Rabbit Hopping Meaning
A rabbit hopping has several meanings, and knowing which one your pet is showing is key to helping them if needed. Reasons rabbits hop include:
Agitation or nervousness comes into play for many reasons.
Bunnies are naturally more nervous than many other pets. After all, they’re strictly prey animals.
In the wild, agitation happens when they feel in danger or notice a predator.
At this point, they’ll often do short, quick hops and thump the ground with one of their back feet.
This is a sign that there’s danger to other rabbits and prey in the area.
It’s not a pure run or flight. They’ll only hop a bit to get the attention of their friends.
If they bolted, it might trigger the predator’s chasing instincts.
It’s better to gradually get as much distance as possible before running.
As a pet, agitation comes when an environment is too noisy or too much going on near them.
They’ll take short hops away, hide, and may even thump their feet.
Keep everything as calm as possible by your furry friend. Consider putting its hutch in a low-traffic area of your house.
When rabbits are pets, you won’t usually see hopping for anger unless you keep them with another bunny.
There is some dominant structure to a bunny herd (or fluffle as it’s adorably called). Don’t be surprised to see males and older females challenging each other.
This usually shows up as aggressive hops and then standing on their hind legs to look taller.
They’ll sometimes then fight with their front legs.
Read more about fighting in our detailed article: do rabbits fight to the death?
You shouldn’t see this too much, especially if you spay or neuter your pets, as most rabbit experts and veterinarians recommend.
Different animals have their mating rituals, and rabbits are no exception.
During the mating season, it’s not uncommon to see females (does) hopping about randomly when they know a male is in the area. This signifies their willingness to mate.
Male rabbits (bucks) will hop in response to the doe.
If there’s another buck nearby, there may be a fight over the doe.
Small hops with twists in the air are another special type of hopping, and one many bunny owners will (hopefully) see a lot of.
This behavior is called a “binky.” It’s super cute once you learn to recognize, and it’s generally considered a signal of pure joy, comfort, and happiness.
Here’s a video of what a binky may look like:
Of course, fear is a big motivating factor when hops happen, as we talked about above.
If a rabbit is terrified or feels chased, it’ll use those back legs to their full potential and hop surprisingly fast over and across the terrain to get to safety.
More on rabbit speed is coming up.
How Strong Is A Rabbit’s Kick?
A rabbit has a strong kick, roughly equal to the force of three times its body weight. Since most rabbits are around 5 lbs, this means they can kick with the equivalent of 15 lbs in force. This is a lot for such a small limb!
A rabbit’s hind legs are the most powerful muscle group in its body.
Their kick is used both to lift themselves off the ground for a hop and deter predators or other bunnies bugging them.
This same kick is used to lift them to 3 feet (1 meter) off the ground at times, depending on the species and need for vertical motion.
After researching the force needed for jumping, I found a cool discussion on Physics Forum where the general agreement was that anything needs to exert around 3x its weight to jump 1 meter off the ground.
Since rabbits only jump 1 meter on average, this means their kick needs to exert a force 3x their body weight.
How Fast Can Rabbits Run Or Hop?
Rabbits run between 25-45 mph on average, depending on species and size. Domestic rabbits tend to run on the lower and middle ends of the spectrum, while hares and wild rabbits go faster. This is faster than the fastest human!
Rabbits can’t keep this pace up for very long. They get tired quickly, using up so much energy.
Consider them sprinters rather than marathon runners.
But this makes sense in the wild. They don’t travel too far from their warrens or shelters, so all they need to do is get to some cover or back home to be safe from predators.
They don’t need much room to get to this speed either.
Their fast-twitch muscles respond and give out a ton of energy in a short period of time.
Here’s a quick list of rabbits types with their average top speed:
|Type Of Rabbit||Top Speed On Average|
|European Rabbits||45 mph|
Do Rabbits Walk?
Rabbits can walk by moving one foot at a time. This is usually done if they are exploring a new area and feel nervous. Some rabbits tend to talk more than others simply based on personality.
A rabbit’s typical mode of transportation is to hop, but walking isn’t unheard of, especially in pet bunnies.
Pet rabbits often have to explore new places, which is when you’ll usually see slow-walking like this.
For more info on walking, check out our detailed article on why your rabbit is walking instead of hopping.
Can I Walk My Rabbit On A Leash?
Walking a rabbit on a leash is possible, but it doesn’t offer the right exercise they need from free playtime. Rabbits need to be trained and eased into using a leash and make sure it’s a rabbit-specific leash, or they may get hurt or escape.
Rabbits aren’t like dogs, who’ve been trained over generations to follow humans.
They don’t like being tied down at all; it isn’t natural.
In the bunny world, leashing is kind of controversial. A lot of folks think it’s a terrible thing to do for your rabbit.
While I don’t think it’s terrible, it may not serve the purpose you want it to.
In order to get proper exercise, rabbits need to run and hop and explore. They can’t do this on a leash.
Even when trained with a leash, they won’t move fast enough to get their hops out.
If you do insist on leashing your bunny, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Earn your bunny’s trust first without the leash.
- Get the right kind designed for rabbits.
- Use it indoors first to get them used to it.
- Start with short periods and then lengthen your walks.
- Let the rabbit lead; they’re not a dog, so they don’t understand the master-pet relationship.
- If they panic, don’t keep them on the leash.
Can A Rabbit Hurt Themselves When Hopping?
Rabbits don’t typically hurt themselves from hopping normally. Even when running from predators, they have great balance and instincts. The danger from jumping comes with falling from a height of 5′ feet or more. In this situation, they may get hurt.
In your house, there’s most likely no way for them to get hurt while hopping unless you have a balcony or you place them on something tall.
Even when panicked, rabbits are great judges of distance and height and will almost always change directions before hitting a wall or twist to land on their feet.
Rabbits do have a great memory, though. So if they do get hurt hopping from a height, they will remember the place and the height and be nervous and reluctant to jump.
Never put your bunny on a tall surface. You don’t know when they’ll hop off.