Betsy Vanderbun

The Language of Lagomorphs

Marvin Underfoot

Yippie Skippie!

Most rabbits of all ages like to play, at least at times. In fact, rabbits exhibit some of the silliest antics and outright goofiness of any companion animal. They can be mighty wacky beasts.

Rabbits have several ways to indicate playfulness, and there are lots of things most rabbits like to do as play. Rabbits like dancing in pairs and solo (more about the latter later). You may receive an invitation to pair dance, as evidenced by your rabbit running in circles around you. This means the rabbit is basically crazy about you, and terribly happy to see you, and is a very common enthusiastic greeting. A polite response is to wait patiently for a circle or three, and then do some dancing yourself, with a little spinning, walking back and forth in front of the rabbit, or circling around it. As described later, a few hops or head-flicks are also acceptable. Note that some rabbits don't like being circled by a graceless hulk, and will get nervous, in which case you should probably just accept the dance as a gift. Dances should be concluded by offering a little grooming to your partner.

Some rather aggressive rabbits will circle you with joy, and also bite your ankles! It's worth noting that these rabbits really think a little nip is a sign of affection, and you need to train the rabbit that it's not acceptable by letting out a loud shriek and then saying "No!" This is best followed by indicating you are insulted, in a form the beast will understand (i.e. turn your back). In truth, a rabbit that bites your ankles while circling to show happiness is no different than the human dance partner who grabs your butt, thinking it's a sign of affection. Remarkably, the exact same approach works well with both species.

Another popular form of play is with toys. Acceptable play toys come in many different forms, and you'll simply have to try a lot to find out which any particular rabbit prefers. Some of the ways rabbits like to play with toys are: tossing, rolling and nudging, nibbling, shredding, climbing, digging, tunneling and burrowing. While most rabbits enjoy playing with toys, for some rabbits they're essential. If they don't have interesting toys to play with, they'll simply use whatever's around, which usually means your rugs and furniture.

Although it's not quite play, rabbits do rather enjoy eating their food. Some rabbits indicate happiness by grunting and snorting like a pig when they eat. That seems only right. Lots of rabbits toss around their hay while eating, probably because they're looking for the best bits.


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