It can be truly fascinating to learn about the movements of a rabbit. They are naturally equipped to flee deadly situations and dodge their predators in a brisk encounter with death. Technically speaking, a rabbit hops rather than running. It can be easily noticed if you observe them in action carefully.
The speed of a rabbit differs according to species. Several factors weigh in and enable them to reach their top speeds. Where wild rabbits are generally faster and can reach an incredible speed of up to 45 mph, domestic rabbits tend to be slower at 30 mph.
If you are a rabbit owner, you might have been surprised at how fast your rabbit sprints around or comes to a halt abruptly. It’s truly wonderful.
What Enables Rabbits To Run Fast?
A rabbit’s survival depends upon how fast it moves. This is no exaggeration as they tend to be natural prey with many predators, which is why they have to move as quickly as they do. There are several factors which aid in their fast movements:
They are built to be fast. So, if you were to look closely at their structure, you’ll understand why they are capable of being fast. Their hind legs are longer than their front legs. These allow the rabbit to accelerate fast from a still position. You must have noticed how they are capable of hopping fast yet halting almost abruptly.
Furthermore, their hind legs also aid in quickly changing directions. Thus, as a general rule of thumb, one can say that the longer their hind legs are, the faster they’ll be. Hares are an excellent example of this as they tend to have longer hind legs than rabbits.
Rabbits tend to have excellent acceleration times. This essentially means that they can reach their fastest speed in less time. Thus, not only are they fast, but they can reach their top speed faster. Rabbits are preyed on by many animals, some of which are pretty fast themselves.
In the wild, short acceleration times give them an advantage over such animals. It allows them not only to be faster and quicker than their predator but also to escape their vision before they can take lethal action.
Animals have two types of locomotion, which are Plantigrade locomotion and Digitigrade locomotion. The former is when the animal moves with the sole of their feet touching the ground, whereas digitigrade locomotion is when the sole doesn’t touch the ground, and the animal moves on their toes. The latter is considered to be faster and more efficient.
Rabbits have digitigrade locomotion, which is why they can move so efficiently. They are capable of using their energy to move fast rather than being heavy. Some other animals which have digitigrade locomotion are cats, dogs, lions, etc. You’ll notice how these animals tend to be pretty fast as well.
Size and Muscle Strength
The smaller size of a rabbit doesn’t directly affect speed, but it contributes to making them more agile. Their small size allows them to be less heavy, which is why they can put their energy into quick movements.
Furthermore, it aids them in hiding and being difficult to get a hold of. Muscle strength is one of the major factors why rabbits can run as fast as they can. All animals have a mixture of fast and slow-twitch muscle fibers. Where the former is attributed to acceleration and speed, the latter provides stamina and endurance.
A rabbit tends to have a higher proportion of the fast-twitch muscle fibers. Furthermore, a rabbit has fast-twitch glycolytic fibers that are capable of making energy from glucose or sugar much faster than oxidative fibers.
Different Rabbit Speeds and Breeds
According to the American Rabbit Breeders Association, there are about 48 different types/breeds of rabbits. The speed depends greatly on the breed of the rabbit. Here’s an overview:
Cottontails is a pretty common breed of rabbit and feature 20 subtypes. The cottontail rabbit has an inbuilt ability to evade its predators due to its favorable speed and size.
Most cottontail rabbits tend to run in a zigzag motion and reach the speed of 18 mph. However, some species might be able to reach30 mph. Their signature zigzag movement allows them to survive in the wild by providing greater momentum.
Jackrabbits are also called hares. They are considered to be the fastest rabbit species known. As compared to other rabbit breeds, they tend to be much larger and have stronger hind legs, which aids in reaching the top speed of 45 mph.
Jackrabbits are known to jump as high as ten feet in a single go. However, they can’t reserve energy for long; therefore, they fail in keeping up the speed for an extended time.
Snowshoe rabbits are present in the North American mountain ranges and are called so due to their large furry feet. They are capable of moving fast in the snow.
Their hind feet are shaped like a snowboard, which allows them to stay on top of the many layers of snow. They keep their weight evenly distributed to prevent sinking. As compared to other rabbit breeds, they tend to be slower and only reach a speed of 27 mph.
Rabbit vs. Other Animals
There are many animals faster than rabbits. However, you’d be surprised to find out how many animals a rabbit can match up to in terms of speed. Let’s take a look:
|Greyhound dog||39.5 mph|
|Domestic Cat||29 mph|
|Polar Bear||17 mph|