I asked my rabbit what I should write about. He suggested rabbits. So here are some things you might not realize.
- Rabbits can’t breathe through their mouths; they can only breathe through their noses. If a rabbit gets stuffed up, it’s very very serious.
- Rabbits can’t vomit either. Digestive blockages are bad.
- Despite what you’ve read in Watership Down, rabbits are social but they aren’t very hierarchical. They enjoy hanging out with each other (and with humans if they’ve decided you’re cool), but they don’t defer to each other much. In particular, if a rabbit gets a good treat, it will grab the treat and run away to eat in private. Sharing is for suckers.
- Rabbits are coprophagous. In other words, they eat some of their droppings. Why? Because their principal food is grass, and grass just isn’t very nutritious. Big animals that eat grass (e.g. cows) have extra long digestive tracts and sometimes multiple stomachs to derive as much nutrition as possible from each mouthful. Rabbits have long digestive tracts relative to their size, but that’s still not very long. By the time a mouthful of grass gets all the way through, it still has a fair bit of nutrition left. So rabbits just put it through again. In practice, this means they actually have two types of droppings: soft (which have only gone through once) and hard (which have gone through twice). They re-eat the soft ones.
- Rabbits don’t really have eyelids. They can squeeze their eyes mostly shut by scrunching the muscles above and below the eye, but they can’t close their eyes completely. This is why (ugh) they’re used for testing cosmetics—they can’t shut stuff out of their eyes.
- You probably know this one, but rabbits aren’t rodents. They’re lagomorphs. The major difference is in their teeth: rodents have only two incisors (one on each side), while lagomorphs have four (a pair on each side).
For other interesting rabbit facts, check out the web site of The House Rabbit Society, an organization of people who like having rabbits around the house.