There are many things to adore about rabbits. There are their velvety-soft ears, which can be straight or lop, small or large. There is their cuddly soft fur, which gives them their eminently squeezable quality.
There are their twitching noses and finally, there are their fluffy tails, a signature part of their charm.
It’s easy to assume that a rabbits tail is just as it looks, roughly the size of a cotton ball, but appearances can be deceiving. If you’ve found yourself wondering, do rabbits have long tails, you may be surprised by the answer.
Do Rabbits Have Long Tails?
A rabbit’s tail is longer than it appears, but is still considered short when compared to most mammals. Although they vary in size depending upon the breed, the average domestic rabbit’s tail is about 2 inches long.
A rabbit’s tail was originally known as their ‘scut’, although the term is considered somewhat outdated today. A scut is defined as a ‘short, erect tail’.
A rabbit’s tail encompasses just 15 or 16 caudal vertebrae, otherwise known as tail bones. Cats, on the other hand, have 22 or 23, and rats typically possess 31 to 36.
Still, many people are surprised when they observe that rabbit’s tails are not, in actuality, the perfectly-round ‘pom pom’ we have grown accustomed to through common cultural depictions.
The common impression of rabbits having a small, round tail that resembles a cotton ball can be attributed to several factors. The cottontail variety of rabbits has a white underside to its tail, contributing to this effect.
Rabbit tails are also highly sensitive, and consequently, their full length is usually only witnessed when the rabbit is at rest. When a rabbit is in motion, they keep the tail close to their body to prevent injury.
Are Rabbits Tails Longer Than They Look?
Many pet owners have been shocked to discover that their bunnies’ tails are longer than they initially realized. There are countless videos on the internet of bunny owners documenting their discoveries by gently pulling on the little ball of fluff to reveal the tail’s full extension.
While we strongly discourage tugging on your rabbit’s tail (however gentle you may be), it’s understandable that so many people are excited by discovering something new about their furry friends.
The average tail length of a pet rabbit is 1.6 – 3.1 inches, with most said to be around the 2-inch mark. They are composed of 15 caudal vertebrae, or coccygeal, which link to the sacral vertebrae, forming the base of the rabbit’s spine.
Like the rabbit’s spine, these bones are perilously fragile, and many inadvertent owners and overzealous groomers are said to have accidentally caused tail breaks.
A rabbit’s tail is also made up of tendons, ligaments, nerves and muscles, which facilitate movement, but also contribute to the extremely delicacy of the appendage.
Like many animals, rabbits evolved tails for a myriad of reasons. They help them keep balance, signal their emotions, and can even serve as a device of distraction for predators. However, their delicacy also means that they needed to be protected, and so the tucked-under, hidden tail developed.
What Are Rabbits Tails Used For?
As we’ve just outlined, rabbit’s tails have a purpose (beyond contributing to their considerable cuteness). Notably, a rabbit’s tail exists to help it escape from predators.
The fur of the rabbit evolved to camouflage into their environment, while the small, contrasting tail serves to distract and confuse their pursuers.
Survival is not such a pressing concern for most domestic rabbits, but their tails are still a valuable asset. They help them keep their balance while in motion, for instance.
When a rabbit turns in one direction, it’s tail moves the opposite way, enabling them to spin even faster! Rabbit’s tails also developed to enable them to send subtle signals to other rabbits, namely their offspring and family members, to notify them of danger.
As with the tails of other mammals, a rabbit’s tail can also offer significant insight into their emotional state. A rabbit who feels bored or neglected will often chase its own tail.
A rabbit who is feeling uncertain may stretch out its tail and angle it towards the ground. An angry rabbit, or one seeking to mate, may flick their tail back and forth.
A rabbit chewing its tail may be suffering from an infestation of fleas or parasites.
Which Rabbits Have the Longest Tail?
Larger breeds of rabbits, such as the Flemish Giant and Continental Giant, naturally have longer tails than smaller breeds. The hare with the longest tail on record is a Continental Giant whose tail landed her in the Guinness Book of Records at almost 6.7 inches long.
Continental Giants were originally bred for meat and fur, but have become coveted pets for many owners delighted by bigger bunnies.
Other large breeds bearing comparatively long tails are the Blanc de Bouscat breed, the Hungarian Giant, the British Giant, and the Giant Papillion. No matter the size, a rabbit’s tail is a vulnerable appendage that can be easily damaged or even torn off completely.
This can be a great advantage in the wild. For instance, if a predator snatches a rabbit by its tail, they can make an escape often without incurring more traumatic injury.
Rabbit’s can survive without their details, but domestic rabbits have a far better chance of not sustaining serious complications if their tails are accidently removed.
While rabbits do not have ‘long’ tails by most standards, they are longer than they are widely assumed to be. The white fur underside of a rabbit’s tail serves to trick the eye, creating the appearance of a ‘pom pom’ or cotton ball shape.
In actuality, most domestic rabbits have a tail that extends to around 2 inches long. As rabbits’ tails are extremely vulnerable and easily broken, they have evolved to fold into the body, with their full length protected from elements that could cause injury.
Because a rabbits tail is more fragile than most might think, experts highly and unanimously caution against tugging on it, however tempting that may be.