Most animals no matter how docile, timid, and friendly are capable of defending themselves.
Although it seems unthinkable when you look at them, even a wonderfully soft and fluffy rabbit is capable of hurting you if it is scared or injured.
You probably already know that rabbits have some pretty sizable teeth, and this naturally begs the question: do rabbits bite?
Yes, rabbits can and will bite to defend themselves, if they’re feeling territorial, or sometimes if they’re trying to get your attention. They typically avoid confrontation whenever possible.
Even though rabbits aren’t meat eaters, their sizable teeth combined with their well-developed jaw muscles means they can inflict a pretty nasty bite when they have to.
I know it sounds unthinkable that your precious, cuddly pet rabbit would ever do that to you, but you don’t want to find out otherwise, and you definitely don’t want to find out the hard way.
Keep reading I’ll tell you everything you need to know about how and why rabbits bite…
Do Rabbits Just Bite to Defend Themselves?
No. Rabbits use multiple defensive strategies as part of their overall survival strategy, both in the wild and as an inherited instinct in the case of domestic rabbits.
Generally, a rabbit prefers to avoid confrontation, especially with predators, at all costs. They typically do this by hiding, freezing, and remaining completely motionless in an effort to avoid detection.
If that doesn’t work, they will then resort to speed in order to dash and make their escape.
But in the case that a rabbit cannot or is not willing to run, or if they are settling things between themselves, they will fight.
Part of this is biting, but rabbits also swipe with their front paws and kick with their rear legs.
None of these strategies are particularly effective, but they are enough to settle scuffles or, with a little luck, scare off an attacker or intruder.
Can a Rabbit Bite Draw Blood?
Yes. Just because rabbits are plant eaters and prey animals that doesn’t mean their teeth can’t do some good work on defense.
A rabbit, particularly a mature rabbit of a larger breed, can definitely draw blood with a bite.
A rabbit’s incisors are long and sharp, and if they catch you with them, you’re probably going to bleed.
If the nail you on a soft part, such as on the base of your hand or the inside of your arm, you might have a decent little wound to deal with.
The point is you shouldn’t underestimate them, and don’t take it for granted if you have to deal with an angry or injured rabbit. Make sure to protect yourself…
Will a Wild Rabbit Bite?
Yes, definitely. Assuming you are able to corner and then lay hands on a wild rabbit, you can expect it to bite ferociously until it goes into shock or gets away.
Will Your Pet Rabbit Bite You?
Yes, although they have a variety of reasons for potentially doing so. Even the gentlest, tamest rabbit you raised from a baby bunny might still bite you.
You should never, ever assume that a rabbit is so tame and friendly that it won’t bite, just like any other pet.
Note that your rabbit might not be biting you out of an urge of self-defense, necessarily.
And understanding domestic rabbit behavior will better equip you to avoid being bitten, and to know what kind of bites are genuinely problematic…
A Pet Rabbit Might Not Bite Out of Fear or Anger
The first thing you should know about a pet rabbit biting you is it isn’t necessarily doing it out of fear or anger. Pet rabbits will use their teeth for all kinds of things, not just desperate defense.
Female Rabbits Will Bite When Pregnant
Female rabbits sometimes get “bitey” when they’re pregnant. If you notice a female starting to nip at other rabbits in the vicinity, generally trying to avoid your touch, and especially avoid being picked up, she could be pregnant.
Once she is very far along in her term, it is hardly unusual for females to start lashing out and lunging in order to drive you away.
Although this isn’t 100% a symptom of pregnancy, and could indicate other issues that are stressing her out, it is a pretty reliable one. In any case, be careful and watch your fingers!
Male Rabbits Bite to Protect Their Mates
Males, surprisingly enough, are rarely as destructive overall compared to female rabbits with one notable exception: males tend to get very possessive over their females once they are sexually mature and starting to mate.
Your male rabbit might likewise not want you to touch him, and he might nip and scratch at you if you’re trying to get at his chosen lady.
It’s also worth mentioning that this behavior is usually curbed significantly when a male is neutered, though those instincts do die hard.
Pet Rabbits Nibble to Show Affection or Get Attention
Most rabbit owners that are very close with their pets already know that some feisty rabbits tend to nibble in order to get your attention or to show affection.
This biting is more like gripping with the teeth than it is a genuine bite, and though some rabbits might nibble a little too hard this will rarely inflict injury of any kind.
If a rabbit starts nibbling on your hand or fingers when being held or cuddled, it is usually feeling content and loved.
But, if you’re annoying, and your rabbit is in the mood for your attention, don’t be surprised if it starts nibbling on your shoe, foot, hand or anything else that can reach to get you to pay attention!
It is possible to curb this behavior via gentle correction and reinforcement, but it’s rarely a big enough problem to be a genuine cause for concern.
Rabbits Sometimes Grind Their Teeth
Sometimes, your rabbit will grind its teeth. This doesn’t mean your rabbit is sitting there furiously angry and ready to lash out, but it is worth investigating.
A soft rubbing sort of grind is usually indicative that a rabbit is content or happy. A sharp clicking grind usually means there’s a problem with your rabbit’s teeth or mouth.
In the case of the latter, make sure you investigate carefully because if a rabbit is injured and in pain, it is more likely to bite you out of a misguided sense of self-preservation.
What Can You Do to Avoid Being Bitten by a Rabbit?
There’s not much you can do to truly avoid the bite of a rabbit if it decides to bite you.
Keeping your distance is, of course, the only sure way to do it. Holding a rabbit properly to keep it from struggling and twisting in your grasp will also help.
If you have to handle a rabbit that is prone to biting, simply wear thick leather gloves with long wrists… That should offer enough protection to prevent the rabbit from injuring you.
Tom has lived and worked on farms and homesteads from the Carolinas to Kentucky and beyond. He is passionate about helping people prepare for tough times by embracing lifestyles of self-sufficiency.