When it comes to sheer quickness in the animal kingdom, rabbits are near the top of the heap. Sure, cheetahs might be much faster and mongooses have faster reactions, but rabbits can accelerate to top speed and vanish almost instantly. They are famous for their speed!
And though it looks like none of us have any hope of catching one on foot, have you ever wondered just how fast are they? How fast can a rabbit run, exactly?
Rabbits have an average top running speed of between 25 and 30 MPH (40 to 50 KMH) running flat out on level ground. Most don’t run straight, however, and rely on a zigzagging motion to help throw off pursuers.
Well, it turns out that rabbits really are lightning-quick! Some of the fastest human beings on Earth can clear 22 MPH, but for your average, mere mortal we have no chance of catching a rabbit on foot.
Rabbits deserve their reputation for remarkable speed, but there’s a lot more you’ll want to know on the subject, and I’ll tell you about it down below…
Why Are Rabbits So Fast?
Rabbits, simply stated, are built for speed and every facet of their anatomy facilitates their incredible running abilities.
For starters, they have a disproportionately muscular but slender build. They have light bones, and the arrangement of their powerful hind legs lets them rocket to top speed almost instantaneously.
Because they’re so low to the ground, rabbits can accelerate and maneuver very easily and this facilitates reaching such high speeds. Put another way, they are natural-born sprinters and jumpers, as is obvious to any observer who’s ever seen them take off running!
How Long Can a Rabbit Run at Top Speed?
Not very long, although the endurance of rabbits has not been extensively studied in laboratory settings.
I mentioned above that rabbits are natural sprinters, and that is worth some explanation. Well, they cannot maintain top speed for very long…
They expend tremendous reserves of energy and oxygen to reach these speeds and their survival strategy hinges on getting a pursuer to give up in a relatively short period of time over a short distance.
In essence, rabbits want to break contact as quickly as possible…
Chances are if you saw one that you were chasing take off at a sprint and start weaving through the undergrowth into the forest, it will be out of sight in no time.
You would, probably, soon give up hope and the chase. That’s what the rabbit wants!
If a rabbit didn’t have anywhere to hide or any way to break contact with the pursuer, most animals, including people, could outlast it in a chase.
Are Wild or Domestic Rabbits Faster?
Wild rabbits are typically faster than domestic rabbits, although again there have not been many studies performed comparing the top speed of different breeds and species.
It’s speculated that wild rabbits can reach speeds of 35 MPH compared to the theoretical top speed of the quickest domestic breeds at around 30 MPH.
Are Some Rabbit Breeds Faster than Others?
Yes. Compare the various breeds of domestic rabbits: some are larger, some smaller, some pudgier, and others more athletic. It doesn’t take much in the way of logical reasoning to see how some rabbits are naturally much faster than others!
A tiny dwarf rabbit might seem very quick as it races around your apartment during playtime, but it will not compare to a truly athletic breed like a Mini Rex in a race.
Also, wild rabbit breeds show variation in their top speeds as well. But compared to our domestic pets, wild ones invariably depend on their speed and agility for survival and accordingly, all of them are very, very fast.
Are Hares Faster than Rabbits?
Yes, they are. Hares and rabbits are not the same animal, though they’re very closely related and in the same family, taxonomically. But, if you stop to look at a hare you’ll see a couple of big differences between them and common rabbits.
They are taller, bigger, obviously more muscular, and have much stouter, longer, and stronger hind legs. All these physical advantages translate into a dramatically faster top speed compared to a rabbit, even a wild rabbit!
Wild hairs have been recorded as reaching speeds in excess of 40 MPH (65 KMH), and North American wild hares are speculated to have a maximum speed right around 45 MPH (72 KMH). Truly amazing, most of us don’t drive around town that fast!
But, the same as rabbits, hares don’t have the endurance to keep these speeds for a long period of time. If they can’t lose a pursuer quickly, they’ll run out of steam and be overtaken.
Do Rabbits Need to Run to Stay Healthy?
Yes, they do. Movement, and running periodically, are important for rabbits to stay healthy. For starters, movement helps promote good digestion in rabbits by getting food moving through their intestines.
Sessile rabbits are far more likely to experience intestinal blockage and slowdown which can potentially be fatal.
But more than that, running around helps them maintain a healthy weight, good circulation, and proper hormonal balance. Rabbits really do get the urge to run sometimes, even in a comfortable domestic setting!
Some people call it the “zoomies,” and maybe that’s what it is, but your bunnies will just feel the need for speed. That is all there is to it.
Rabbits that aren’t allowed to get up to speed every so often will start to get stressed out and feel cooped up. Leads to destructive behaviors like fur plucking, chewing, and other behavioral problems.
So no matter what kind of rabbit you have, and whether you’re keeping them indoors or out, do what you need to do make sure they have a safe, secure, and contained place to get out and run every now and then.
They’ll be happier, and your rabbits will thank you for the track and field time with a better mood and health.
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.