Do Rabbits Hibernate? (11 Questions and Answers)

Rabbits belong to the family of animals called Leporidae. Rabbits are small mammals with a furry body, short fluffy-like tail, long ears and large hind legs.

It is not uncommon to see domesticated rabbits in the homes of people all around the world. Domestication of rabbits which are also called pet rabbits have been a common practice since 600 A.D. in which wild rabbits were thought to have been first tamed by French monks.

There are various breeds of rabbits and The American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA) officially recognizes 50 of these unique breeds.

Some of these include: American Rabbit, Belgian Hare Rabbit, Blanc de Hotot, Californian Rabbits, Checkered Giant Rabbit, and lots more.

Although all of these rabbits are distinguished by various physical qualities that they embody, a trait common to all rabbits is that rabbits do not hibernate.

Do Bunnies Hibernate In The Winter?

To best answer the question, we will first expand on what hibernation is. Hibernation can be said to be a state of prolonged inactivity and when this occurs, there is a significant slowing down of the temperature, heart rate, breathing, and generally, the chemical reactions in an animal’s body.

When animals hibernate, it is an involuntary biological process that occurs as a crucial survival mode during adverse weather conditions or lack of food.

The ability and need to hibernate differs amongst the different species of animals and varying breeds of animals.

Now, to answer the question of whether rabbits hibernate or not; rabbits do not hibernate and here’s why.

Rabbits do not hibernate because they have adapted well enough to know how to stay warm in winter and also find enough food to keep them active throughout this period.

However, just because they do not hibernate does not mean they roam about in the winter.  

Are rabbits forced to Migrate in the winter?

An amazing fact about rabbits is that they are not required to migrate during winter. As a matter, during winter, rabbits continue to inhabit the same places they lived in during the summer and they do not particularly change their living habits.

How can Rabbits Survive Winter Without Hibernating?

The sad truth is that not all rabbits can survive during winter. However, the ones that can survive during winter can achieve this by digging holes and inhabiting warm spaces such as bush piles, hollow logs etc.

In winter, rabbits also grow a thicker coat of fur which helps to keep them warm. Also, as long as they have enough food in their system, they can build a layer of insulating fat and thus, they are protected from the extreme cold.

This is their way of keeping themselves warm during the cold seasons.

Where Do Rabbits Go during Winter?

Perhaps you might be wondering “why don’t I see any rabbits during the winter season?”

This is not as a result of migration but because they need to shelter themselves away from the cold, even though this is different from hibernation.

Surprisingly, rabbits often remain in their home territory during winter. Typically, rabbits live within a 5-acre area, so during winter, they try to stay alive by keeping warm in their various holes or hollows.

How do Rabbits find anything to eat In the Winter?

First of all, it’s important to know that rabbits are herbivores. Thus, primarily, rabbits’ diet consists of a plant-based diet.

These include grass, clover, and generally, ground-level plants. In addition, rabbits also feed on seeds, fruits, buds, roots, Broccoli (stems and leaves only), Carrots, Chard, tree barks and a few pellets etc.

It is a fact that during the winter, these rabbits won’t be able to access these food sources because everything would be covered in ice and snow.

However, rabbits can survive these times by feeding on wood-based food sources such as twigs, tree barks etc.

One of their main food sources during winter is their faeces. Their faeces are a good source of Vitamin B for them.

How are Wild Rabbits able to Keep Warm In The Winter?

You might be wondering how wild rabbits who are more exposed to the extremes of weather survive in winter, unlike domesticated rabbits who may seem to have a better chance of a warmer shelter during winter.

The thing is that the fact that these rabbits are used to the wild and being more exposed makes them adapt better to extreme temperatures.

They are well aware of how to thrive during cold temperatures. They can cope by making underground hutches to stay warm and also by growing thicker fur.

What other ways do rabbits adapt to survive?

Apart from the usual survival mode of growing thicker fur or making underground holes to stay warm, rabbits also try to maintain body temperature by filling their nest with grass and straw to help keep warm.

Other ways of adapting are by reducing activities. Rabbits reduce activities by staying in one position for a long while, in order to preserve body heat.

They also burn fat in order to produce bodily heat.

What makes winter difficult for rabbits?

Just like human beings, rabbits prepare ahead for winter because they know it will get really cold.

Winter is difficult for rabbits because of the extreme cold that comes with the season. It gets really cold and when it gets cold, rivers, lakes, plants, even the ground turns to ice or is covered by snow.

This makes staying warm and finding food harder for them.

How Cold Can a Rabbits Tolerate?

One of the most common reason rabbits die during winter is because of exposure to extreme cold.

Cold temperature conditions are more tolerable to rabbits than hot weather ones. However, without proper care, they can easily die of frostbite and exposure.

Anything under 10 degrees will leave your rabbit searching for warmth.

The suitable temperature for rabbits is 10 to 21 degrees celsius.

Effects of Hypothermia in Rabbits

Although rabbits are generally known to be naturally cold-weather animals, without proper care they can easily suffer from hypothermia and die.

There are three levels of hypothermia in rabbits:

Mild (86 to 89 degrees Fahrenheit)

Moderate (71 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit)

Severe (32 to 47 degrees Fahrenheit) hypothermia.

Once the rabbit’s temperature drops the 100-degree rectal temperature threshold, it becomes impossible for it to produce internal body heat.

From then, the rabbit stops normal breathing and its heart rate slows down. In some cases, the rabbit may be able to survive if external heat is applied to it, however, there are also cases where the rabbits suffer irreparable damages to some of its appendages.

How can you help rabbits in the winter?

Now that you are more aware of all that rabbits go through during the winter, you might be thinking of how exactly you can make things better for rabbits during the winter.

Here are a few ways in which you can help rabbits.

First of all, ensuring you can provide the appropriate amount of warmth for the rabbit is the first step to take. You can do this by moving the rabbit to a location that you are certain can provide optimal warmth for the rabbit.

Another way you can help rabbits during winter is by making sure they have enough water and food.

If your rabbit lives outside, make sure you protect their home from the extreme weather by ensuring it is draught-proof and waterproof. Also, you can help make the inside of the rabbit hutch warmer.

Note that this only applies if the rabbit is a domesticated rabbit and not a wild rabbit.

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