by Jenna Spain
When you think of rabbits, rabbits’ ears are one of the first things that come to mind! A bunny’s ears are probably its “signature” body part and serve three important functions for the rabbit.
If you have been around a rabbit with “stand up” ears, you’ve experienced radar ears. Rabbits have very mobile ears that can swivel 270 degrees, open up, and tilt to pick up the smallest sound in a specific direction. They can even move both ears independently to listen to different sounds on either side of them.
When you’re living with a rabbit, it is important to remember that they are prey animals, and in the wild would need to pick up on as many sounds as possible to avoid predators and other dangers. Even when a rabbit has been in your home for years and should “know” that they’re safe, a sudden noise can still make them bolt! The most pampered bun still has these survival instincts.
Rabbits who are eavesdropping are sometimes very obvious.
Built in A/C
Have you ever seen a sweaty rabbit? I didn’t think so! Rabbits don’t sweat like humans do, or pant like dogs. Even their feet are covered in fur! So they need another way to regulate their temperature so they don’t get overheated. Rabbit ears have a lot of blood vessels running through them, with thinner skin and less fur than the rest of their body. When a rabbit lifts its ears, heat radiates through its ears and away from its body. Of course some bunnies still appreciate modern air conditioning.
Bunny body language is sometimes a little more subtle than other household pets, at least until you spend more time with your bunny and learn to understand what they’re saying. Typically, a rabbit who is alert or curious will have their ears up and facing forward or to the side. A rabbit who feels nervous or threatened will point its ears straight back and appear more stiff. Rabbits who are very relaxed will have their ears resting down behind their head - or flopped over completely.
This bun is clearly not worried about anything... not even his diet plan.
But what about lop eared rabbits? It shouldn’t be surprising that lop eared rabbits aren’t found in the wild. Their ears are still functional, but have been bred for more looks than for work. Lop eared rabbits can lift their ears away from their head to listen better and indicate interest, and tilt their ears back to indicate stress. However, their body language can be harder to spot than buns with radar ears. Since lop ears lay closer to the rabbit’s body, they also release heat less effectively through their ears. Lop eared rabbits require a little extra attention to keep their ears clean and their body temperature regulated - but I’m sure they would argue that’s just part of what makes them special.