Bunnies are iconic symbols of fertility. They are often used during Easter Sundays or simply kept as pets as they both furry and cute. They are also very easy to take care of and need a good amount of attention and care to thrive. They are also known to be scrappy and would almost eat anything. They mature fast and are ready to reproduce a few months after they are born.
You would immediately think since they have almost the same characteristics as mice or rats, they must be rodents. If you think about it, they eat almost the same food as mice. They breed fast, just like mice, and they are often very convenient to take care of, just like your pet mouse. You would come to the conclusion that rabbits come in the same family as rats or rodents.
In this article, we delve deeper into the facts that will discuss and answer if rabbits are indeed classified as rodents.
Rabbits and Rodents: Know The Difference
Before we begin to discuss if rabbits are indeed rodents, we need to determine what is classified as a rodent so we can identify later on if rabbits are indeed rodents or not.
Rodents make up about a third of the mammal species of the planet. They are the most successful animals in the mammal order that you can find a rodent in almost all continents except for Antarctica. In fact, you can even find a rodent in the most isolated places on Earth.
When you think of rodents, you would immediately imagine filthy sewer rats that lurk in dark, smelly places. Rodents are a huge classification of animals, and they differ from each other. These animals are not isolated to dirty sewer rats. Beavers, squirrels, and chipmunks are great examples of rodents.
Rodents are very flexible and acrobatic. They can squeeze in tiny holes. They are also known to reproduce rather quickly. A female mouse can produce up to 20 litters in just a year. It can even get pregnant again within 24 hours of giving birth.
While the most common rodents are seen as dirty pests, they are also known to keep themselves clean. It may come as a surprise since they tend to live in damp, dirty areas; however, they do try to clean themselves, especially their tail, where it helps keep them cool.
Rabbits are small mammals with short tails, long whiskers, and recognizable long ears. Some rabbits can grow up to the size of a cat while some species of rabbits only grow around eight inches and weigh less than a pound.
These animals were originally found in Europe and Africa; however, they have occupied almost all regions except for a few like Madagascar, southern South America, and some areas in islands of Southeast Asia. They are very social creatures and live in groups called colonies.
One of the fascinating features of a rabbit is its 360 degrees eyesight. This allows them to look behind them even without turning their heads around—the only area where they cannot see if below their chin.
You might still be confused if rabbits and rodents are the same; however, there are major distinct contrast between the two animals. Here are some of the definitive differences between rodents and rabbits.
A rodent is an animal that has a single pair of incisors at the top and bottom jaw. The teeth are wider at the base and have sharp edges that fully resemble a chisel. This allows the animal to gnaw on hard materials for food. Rodents are also known to be omnivores. Rodents primarily eat plant materials; however, they are known to also eat meat-based food when the situation calls for it.
Rodent’s incisors are known to continuously grow or also known as indeterminate growth. This is one of the reasons why most rodents keep on gnawing hard materials like wood to maintain the quality of their teeth. This also keeps their front teeth sharp.
Food and Digestion
One of the main differences between rabbits against rodents is the food that they eat. Rabbits tend to eat plant materials; hence their digestive tract is different than rodents. A certain part of their large intestine functions differently than a rodent as they are full of good bacteria that help break down and ferment the cellulose of plants. Often you would also find rabbits eating their waste. The process is called coprophagy, where they re-process their waste to absorb the nutrients that were not processed during the first time it went through the digestive tract.
Another main difference between rabbits and rodents is the rabbit’s ability to mate just shortly after giving birth. This means that while the rabbit is still nursing its young, it can be pregnant with another litter. Rabbits are known to breed up to five times a year and produce more than 30 babies. Rodents are far less productive with their breeding.
Anatomy and Physiology
Rabbits have larger ears and longer hind legs with shorter tails than the typical rodent. This is also the reason why hedgehogs and moles are not classified as rodents as they do not share identical anatomy with the typical rodent. Rabbits may have familiar features just like your pet mouse, but they differ vastly in terms of anatomy and physiology.
Both rabbits and rodents share an impeccable sign of intelligence; however, they vary in terms of their usage. Rodents are highly cognitive animals and are commonly used in laboratory testing due to their advanced cognitive capabilities. They are known to have a cognitive bias in which they process information based on their current state. Rats are also known to metacognition, where they acknowledge their mistakes and learn from them. The only other animal that shares this kind of ability is primates and humans.
Rabbits, on the other hand, are considered intelligent and can construct a complex network of tunnels. They are also very receptive to a stimulus; thus, they can keep a lookout for predators. Rabbits are also used to solve logic problems and are known to be taught tricks. Rabbits are great companion pets are they are also capable of learning a wide variety of human words and often learn through the process of repetition.
With all these differences, it is safe to consider that rabbits are not rodents. Rabbits were used to be considered as rodents until 1912 when they were moved into another order called Lagomorpha. With all the differences mentioned above, it is remarkably interesting that rabbits may share the same features with rodents but are different from them.
There is still a lot of general confusion with rabbits being rodents. One cannot blame others for such generalization as both animals share almost the same physical attributes. However, it has already been defined that rabbits are not rodents. They may look the same, but they vary in both anatomical and physiological features through the following:
- They have different sets of teeth.
- Rabbits tend to redigest their waste to further absorb nutrients.
- Rabbits reproduce faster than rodents.
- Both are highly intelligent animals but have different cognitive functions.
- Rabbits have different anatomical features than rodents.
With these clear definitions, you can now determine the difference between rabbits and rodents. These distinct features will help trump any misconceptions between these two animals.