problem we need to understand where the danger is coming from and the best way
to tackle each situation in a unique and targeted way. For you can’t ward off a
buzzard by building a fence.
Let’s take a
look at what our poor rabbits have to contend with and find the best solution
for each threat.
Top 10 Common Rabbit Predators
many predators; they are sadly one of the lowlier of prey species.
predators vary depending on where in the world you are, but there are some
general ones to look out for and be wary of.
The Stoat - One of the top 10 rabbit predators
Domestic pet rabbits don’t always get along with other domestic pets so the
list includes some of these too.
Depending in which part of the world you live, will determine the most likely
predators you need to be aware of.
Most Common in Reverse Order
This list is
in reverse order of commonality and reported attacks:
10. Crows / Rooks
8. Pet Cats / Wild Cats
7. Pet Dogs / Wild Dogs
5. Badgers / Raccoons
3. Stoats / Weasels / Ferrets
2. Birds of Prey (Buzzards, Hawks, Eagles, Owls, Kestrels, Falcons)
The Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) is the largest of the true foxes.
A deadly bite to the neck of a wild rabbit by an adult stoat.
Rabbit Supervision & Protection
Rabbits grazing inside a fenced area.
It has long
been suggested that rabbits are to be supervised at all times and given a
secure run of strong wire on all sides with some kind of roof mesh or wire
protection above. And indeed this will protect your rabbits from most predator
attacks including a strike from the air.
‘experts’ say that when not under constant supervision, rabbits should be kept
inside a safe run and hutch area as they can have a heart attack just from the
smell of a predator.
course, is very sound advice indeed, however given the proper surroundings and
freedom to create their own habitat, rabbits are extremely adept at moulding
their surroundings to serve their natural instincts to escape and protect
Animal Welfare Act
Did you know that providing adequate shelter and protection for your rabbits is a requirement of law in the UK?
Under the animal welfare act of 2006 domestic pet rabbits should be given both a large living area and a safe place to
Good shelter for your rabbits should provide a number of things, including:
Protection - from predators, weather and disease.
Refuge - to escape to in times of stress.
Safety - from accidental harm.
The Big Shocker Statement…
Dwarf pet rabbit enjoying the freedom of his garden.
confined to a run and hutch for hours on end are NOT less stressed or safer than
rabbits that are given the freedom to roam.
everyone writes in to Just Rabbits in a fit of rabbit-panic and frenzied
confusion over that last statement, let me just explain…
are allowed the freedom to create their own environment, their stress levels
are far lower than if they were confined to a meshed-in run and rabbit hutch.
This is because rabbits feel they have no control in a situation like this.
and I know they are safe, but they do not.
A carefully tended rabbit hole. In a domestic pet environment females prefer to burrow, while the males take on this role in the wild.
that they have not built, created, moulded, dug or crafted their hutch or run
themselves. Therefore, they do not know for sure the security of it and they
are naturally in a constant state of awareness and stress.
They are afraid when
they see, smell or hear a predator because they feel they cannot escape to an
area of assured safety. This is why so many rabbit owners with rabbits in a
hutch and run outside, report their rabbits dying of heart attacks when
predators are about.
Natural Rabbit Predator Protection
If you have
the space because you live in the country or have a large garden area, then
providing a natural habitat for your pet rabbits is relatively easy.
that follows is for indoor rabbits too, as house rabbits need to get out and
exercise, forage and breathe fresh air just as much as their outdoor
Shelters, protection chambers and tunnels are all crucial safe havens for rabbits.
7 Surprising Ways to Offer Protection
following points are just a few ways you can allow for a more natural outdoor
Leave all of the options out for your rabbits and let them decide which of the shelters they prefer.
Double or triple fence your entire property and land
area. This will deter about 60% of
most predators and while it may be costly, the freedoms it will afford your
rabbits is priceless.
Lay deep concrete foundations on outer fence panels. Where territory borders back up to areas beyond your
control such as a neighbour’s property, field or main road, where danger lurks
from all directions, try to make the fences tall and as deep as possible.
Grow or plant shrubs and bushes. These allow for under branch shade and
like an umbrella certain bushes are perfect for shade, cover and protection,
especially those with thick branches that would allow a bunny through but not a
Provide adequate areas of clear lawn or grass. This is so rabbits can freely
access escape routes from a grazing position. Given enough space rabbits will jump
around and ‘binky’ in these ‘free-space’ areas to practise their escape routes.
Allowing them to do this makes them feel safe, less stressed and relaxed.
Let rabbits burrow underground within a safe boundary. Given enough time a rabbit can
create an elaborate underground tunnel system which is amazingly safe for them
to bolt to in times of danger or fear. This is part of their natural behaviour
and should be permitted if circumstances in your garden will allow.
Provide a selection of rabbit safe boxes. Shelters, protection
chambers and tunnels are all crucial safe havens for rabbits. Leave all of the options out for your rabbits and let them decide which
of the shelters they prefer. You will see a few constant favourites being
chosen every day. Anything that is
not used consistently, get rid of. It will only cause an obstruction.
Workouts, exercise and building muscle. This is a vital aspect of keeping your rabbits safe
and protected. It is only with exercise that your rabbits will function to
their best ability when faced with any perceived danger. Plus, a rabbit that
has been allowed to move at least 2 football pitches every day will have a
properly functioning gut (digestive tract) that will keep them fit, healthy and
The 1 Surprising Rabbit Predator Deterrent
There is one
factor that is always overlooked when it comes to a rabbit’s ability to protect
itself and survive in its chosen environment.
surprising, element is… camouflage!
fur of all wild rabbits have elements of every colour within each hair shaft.
Wild rabbits blend to their environment, natural selection in each generation allows for the correct camouflaging for their habitat.
have adapted very well to their setting over the years, whether this be grassland,
scrubland, woodland, sandy cliffs or snow covered heathland.
Wild cottontail rabbit well camouflaged against the backdrop of a snowy heathland.
Depending on their environment, natural selection allows for the correct
camouflaging colour to prevail over every generation.
The Snowshoe Hare is an expert in the art of camouflage, changing it's coat throughout the seasons to blend in to the environment.
Pet Rabbit Advantage
domestic rabbits don’t get a choice on coat colour in relation to their
surroundings as many owners choose their rabbits based on much different
qualities, but the advantage of choosing a pet rabbit based on colouration is definitely worth future consideration or at least a slight
pause for thought.
However, based on reader reports and recent research, it seems that there is a paradox at play here...
Many owners of small, single colour rabbits such as fawn and grey, and agouti coloured rabbits, have reported predator attacks from birds of prey, foxes and stoats.
of small, single colour rabbits such as fawn and grey, and agouti coloured
rabbits, have reported predator attacks from birds of prey, foxes and stoats.
Is this because these predators naturally prey on wild rabbits with this colouring and they have honed their attack skills on this type of colouration?
Or is it that our domestic counterparts with wild rabbit colouring are trapped inside man-made environments that they cannot escape from, thus making predator attacks easier?
Perhaps it is a combination of the two.
But it could be nothing to do with colour and more a case of what predators are in that environment.
White rabbits lose their lives to owls, bears, wild cats, wolves and ferrets - these are the predators that lurk in the cold icy shadows of wintry environments.
white rabbits often lose their pets to owls, bears, wild cats, wolves and
ferrets, as these are the predators that lurk in the cold icy shadows of wintry
However, owners of black and white patched and butterfly patterned coated
rabbits report their bunnies lay about their gardens like cats, seemingly
unfazed by birds, sudden movements or strange noises.
Black and white bunnies like to impersonate cats and cushions!
It's almost as though there’s
something in their DNA that’s telling them it’s OK, you look like a cat, not a
Black and white rabbits lay about their gardens like cats, seemingly unfazed by birds, sudden movements or strange noises.
This is mere
speculation at this juncture, but a study into this phenomenon may warrant
Rabbit Predators and Protection at Night
Even in their own burrow, rabbits will still be vulnerable to night predators especially in winter, severe weather, or when predator food is scarce.
your rabbit stay out at night. Even in their own burrow or shelter of choice
they will still be vulnerable to night predators especially in winter, severe weather,
or when food is scarce for any reason.
Predators will get bolder if they are
feeding their own young too, so it is best to be vigilant at all times.
Keeping rabbits in cages should be a temporary living solution for transportation, separation or recovery etc.
and wire cages offer little or no protection from a rabbit predator on a
mission. Even a rat can gnaw its way through a solid wooden hutch in less than
owners prefer to house their rabbits indoors at night or at least provide protection
with them being housed inside the solid walls of a garage, basement or
Converted garden sheds that have been adapted inside, with various
levels and cat-flap style doors, are very popular too.
The Human Threat
beings are the biggest threat to rabbits, wild and domestic, and we have been causing
harm, death and fear to rabbits of all breeds for hundreds of years. And while
the threat of danger, destruction and death have been consistent, the reasons
have been varied and diverse.
Top 7 Reasons Why Humans Are Rabbit Predators
1. The Meat Trade
1. Meat Trade –
This is the most disturbing act on the killing fields, as the cruelty endured
by meat rabbits before they are slaughtered is usually beyond comprehension.
Be aware this video contains scenes of a distressing nature.
For some reason breeders think that because these rabbits are going to be
killed for meat anyway that they do not warrant any kind of quality of life.
This is by far man’s most abhorrent endeavour, and unfortunately it extends
beyond that of the rabbit meat trade.
2. Population Control
Wild rabbits on the edge of woodland enjoying happier family moments.
2. Population Control – Millions of wild rabbits have been culled in an attempt to curb population
with the ultimate goal of deterring destruction to crops or areas of protected
natural vegetation. Unfortunately, the methods used are highly irresponsible,
sanctioned by those that do not understand the true nature of certain diseases
nor the way in which rabbit’s function, and carried out by careless death
squads that have allowed killer diseases to infect the domestic rabbit
A man-made virus called myxomatosis was introduced to the wild
rabbit population, but ironically the vast reduction in rabbit numbers caused a
decline in the number of foxes, buzzards and other predators which drastically
affected the growth of vegetation, so plants such as gorse, bramble and coarse
grasses grew to excess.
So, that one deed a few decades ago, that purposeful decision to infect some wild rabbits with a man-made virus, that one
deathly, uneducated act, is still killing rabbits, painfully and tortuously, in their thousands every day.
3. Fashion Industry / Fur Trade
The fashion industry is responsible for the deaths of millions of rabbits globally.
3. Fashion / Fur Industry Demands – The fashion industry and the company owners that approve
the idea of rabbits providing fur and skins in the name of beauty, are
responsible for the deaths of millions of rabbits all around the world.
not just the obvious breeds such as the Angora that are at risk either, the
Rex, Silvers and Chinchilla breeds are also still used for clothing items such
as hats, coats, gloves and even handbags.
Ironically, some rabbit breeds became extinct when the fur industry demand fell. This beautiful Alaska Red Fox being one of many breeds that are sadly no longer around.
Rabbits are the 2nd most commonly used animal for product testing and research.
4. Research & Testing - The
rabbit is the second most commonly used animal in product testing and research
purposes because they are generally sociable, timid and non-aggressive, making
them easier to handle, either for restraining or when administering test
chemicals or drugs etc.
They are the most commonly used species in research
protocols involving pain with analgesic, anaesthetic and tranquillizer drugs.
They are also commonly used in skin and eye irritation studies for cosmetics,
personal care and household products.
Experiments on a pregnant does are also
common to judge if products will harm a developing foetus.
experimented upon, rabbits are often locked into full-body restraints to
prevent them from touching eye or skin sores.
These tests are not very
reliable either, and increasing attention is being paid to the development of
alternatives to replace the use of rabbits for these categories of toxicity
Despite the availability of more modern, humane, and effective
alternatives, rabbits are still tormented with chemicals dripped into their
eyes, causing redness, swelling, discharge, ulceration, haemorrhaging,
cloudiness, or blindness.
Even though internationally accepted non-animal methods exist, in skin
corrosion tests, rabbits’ backs are shaved and corrosive chemicals are applied
to their raw skin and left there for up to two weeks. These chemicals often
burn the skin, leading to tissue damage.
Research rabbits are given no pain relief
during all the excruciatingly painful tests, and sometimes they can be continually tested on for months at a time. After the testing of one particular experiment is complete, the rabbits are killed and destroyed to make way for new batches of bunnies to begin their short lived tortuous existence.
The rabbits are killed after experiments are over.
Show rabbits and breeding pairs can be very valuable and susceptible to theft.
5. Theft –
Domestic rabbits, especially show rabbits or breeding pairs can be quite
valuable and just like a valuable pooch many bunnies have been stolen for a
Although, while many show rabbit
breeders look after their rabbits exceedingly well, there are many owners that
do not raise their rabbits in the best of conditions. Often leaving them for most of their lives confines to sheds, cages and small hutches, either at the bottom of gardens, in allotments or outbuildings. It is therefore not uncommon for these breeders/owners to be targeted time and again by true rabbit lovers, that are not actually
'stealing' (officially they are), but are instead, performing rescue
missions to save these rabbits, show bunnies or not, from a life of confinement and exile.
6. Predator Food
The unknown side of the pet shop trade is that some rabbit breeders sell their unwanted kits as live predator food.
6. Predator Food
– Baby kits and very young small breed rabbits are often sold as live food for
snakes, birds of prey and other large predatory mammals.
This is the unknown
side of the pet shop trade and rabbit breeders sell their unwanted kits as live
Young rabbits are often sold as live food for snakes, birds of prey and other large predatory mammals.
To a certain extent this would happen in the wild but unscrupulous
breeders are using this trade to make additional income and many kits that are
perfectly healthy are sold off for predatory enjoyment. In fact, it is not
uncommon to see announcements in classified adverts online and in local papers
freely publicising baby rabbits for sale and the people who post them do not
care where these babies go or for what purpose they are intended for.
Kindness – Vets have reported that over 90%
of domestic pet rabbit deaths are caused by environmental and dietary issues, and because
domestic pet rabbits rely on humans for both of these factors, it is with
sadness that the uneducated rabbit owner can actually cause the premature death
of their beloved pet bunny by sheer kindness alone.
Giving extra treats of
processed, and high sugar content food, on top of confining rabbits to small
enclosures to ‘protect’ them, actually inhibits their digestive system from
working properly, which in turn leads to disease and in most cases a
consequential, premature death.
How Rabbits Protect Themselves
Using Available Resources
Man covered in friendly wild rabbits on Japan's Okunoshima Island - Now unofficially renamed Rabbit Island due to being home to over 1000 friendly bunnies!
long since had a raw deal when it comes to interaction with humans, and it is
with astonishment that they still naturally want to associate themselves with
us at all.
Rabbits on Rabbit Island love human interaction and prefer to take food from the hand rather than from the ground. They will even chase tourists to get attention, proving just how social and forgiving they are!
The rabbits here have honed their survival instincts to appeal to the tourist trade - very clever.
Rabbit’s Evasive Manoeuvres
While the rabbits on Rabbit Island have the benefit of living in an environment completely devoid of predators, most other rabbits are used to being prey, and over the centuries they have developed very good coping
strategies to placate most ensuing scenarios.
As a prey species, rabbits must also stay out of sight and smell of predators.
With their acute vision, hearing and smell, a rabbit
can sense the presence of a predator, such as fox or a raccoon, from as much as 2 miles away and are usually very aware of swooping danger from the skies.
adept at evading predators by darting back and forth on a zig-zag path and
rabbits in the wild are often seen doing this. In fact, many domestic pet
rabbit owners report spending hours trying to catch their bunnies before
bedtime, and being given a good high intensity workout in the process.
But it may
beg the question, why zig-zag rather than go for a flat out run in a straight
It’s true it
is harder for a predator to catch a zig-zagging rabbit, but again, why is this?
After all, most predators can run pretty fast too.
rabbits have a limited ability to shimmy up a tree and can’t take to the skies
to escape. But they are good at using their strong joints and muscles in ways
that give them a real advantage. Their powerful hind limbs allow for
propulsion, while the front limbs help with directional force, and it is
these abilities that are utilized to their maximum potential.
hop as fast as 20 miles an hour and they can jump up to 10 feet clear across
the ground in a single hop. They are also very dexterous, with a very flexible,
speedy turning circle.
So with a complex combination of all of these movements with
a zig-zag pattern thrown in, they are able to outwit a predator, even in the
most concentrated of chases.
Rabbits can reach speeds of up to 40mph but cannot maintain it. They add in zig-zags to make the chase more difficult for their predators in hot pursuit.
theory is that the zig-zag manner of escape is to confuse a predator on their
scent trail. Being able to leap off the group for a long distance then change
direction to a less likely trajectory is definitely a life saving benefit.
zig-zagging, ‘binky’ show, complete with 180º flips in the air and tail-twitches
that we often delight in seeing a happy rabbit perform are really all an
elaborate ‘dress rehearsal’. It’s a practise moment, a safe run through of an
escape route. Just as we have a fire-drill at work or at school, so rabbits
have a life-saving drill at play.
Don't Forget the 'Friendlies'
you think of rabbit predators, you'd probably automatically think of all the wild
animals that attack for food and to feed their young, but it is important to be aware that in the mind of your rabbit, the neighbour's pet dog, the local domestic street cats, boisterous children
and visiting 'strangers' are all 'predators' as far as their stress levels are concerned.
While some of these newcomers may
come with friendly intentions and a desire to 'play', a
rabbit will not see it as anything but danger and get
extremely stressed out about it.
Sheltering from Rabbit Predators
Rabbits tend to hide when they are feeling afraid, stressed, unwell
or when they simply wish to withdraw from social contact (with other
rabbits or people) for a while. Make sure your rabbits have constant
access to safe hiding places where they can escape if they feel afraid.
Rabbits that are stressed are much more likely to become ill.
Rabbits are quite quick off the mark and can
sense danger from miles away. If your rabbits are roaming free in the
garden (as mine are), their natural instincts are always with them. But
make sure you give them plenty of easily accessible bolt holes and
escape routes, with safe and sturdy creature-proof housing. Provide predator-proof shelter suitable for the type of predators that are common in your area.
Good rabbit shelters provide easily accessible hiding places, or ‘refuges’ allowing rabbits to escape and hide quickly, which is an important part of their natural
behaviour. Rabbits need to be able to do it or they will get distressed. Providing constant
access to safe hiding places within your rabbits' home allows them to
perform this important coping strategy and should help them to feel
safer and more reassured.