Learning Rabbit is in some ways like human cultural studies, but of course the subject individuals have much longer ears.
April 18, 2008 8:45 AM   Subscribe

Since 1999, The Language of Lagomorphs has been the foremost resource on the web for information about the body language of domestic rabbits. "It's been pretty amazing to see how many people, even those who live with rabbits, are outright shocked at just how communicative they really are once you learn to notice. The contrast between this reality and the popular misconception that rabbits 'just sit there' could not be greater."

The Language of Lagomorphs (n.b., Tim is wrong! they're not rodents!) goes into seriously fascinating detail about the subtleties of rabbit communication. Rabbits wiggle their noses a lot, right? There's a reason for that: "A rabbit's nose is like a thermometer for how interested it is in what's being observed." You may have seen photos of rabbits baring their big, pointy, nasty teeth in which they look foul, cruel, and bad-tempered indeed, but they're probably just yawning.

...ok, you got me: this is a post about cute bunnies. (Taking matters into my own hands.) I'm partial to bunny yawn #26, myself. You may have seen pictures of Herman the unbelievably fucking huge German giant before; he's for real, and he's also on Myspace. These guys look like they could give Herman a run for his money, but really they're just groomed that way for show purposes.
posted by clavicle (27 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
from the website:

If you offer a rabbit a pickle, it will be insulted. Too much vinegar.

Glad we cleared that up.
posted by ornate insect at 9:03 AM on April 18, 2008

That's very cute. It makes me miss my house bunny (Gosamer B. was a very frisky grey and white who would sometimes chase the cats around the house).
posted by kalessin at 9:03 AM on April 18, 2008

Fascinating. I had no idea how nuanced these little fellas are.
Oh-- many links down. Dang.
posted by Dizzy at 9:03 AM on April 18, 2008

Fun post! Don't forget Disapproving Rabbits. The disapproving look is my bunnies' favorite expression, second only to bewilderment.
posted by amyms at 9:04 AM on April 18, 2008

For some reason, I've always thought rabbits spoke with a Brooklyn accent and had a penchant for crossdressing. I'm not sure why.
posted by Bromius at 9:09 AM on April 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

My dog hopped up into the hutch of my very large house hare on time out of curiosity. I say she did it once, because after the shit-kicking she received, she was never curious about that bunny again.
posted by Pollomacho at 9:10 AM on April 18, 2008

Pshaw! Who needs "science" when you have a tenuous grip on your sanity! The wife and I spend way too much of our time asking our rabbits for their opinions and supplying them with answers. Each rabbit has its own life outside their cage:

Captain Grendel Anne Bunny works down at the ole Shoe Sorting Factory where she sorts shoes from one pile to another. She got this job after a long career in piracy where she robbed from the shod and sorted to the unshod. She speaks with a voice you'd expect from a diner waitress named 'Midge' and is always hungry, often for items that are not only inedible to your average rabbit, but your average junkyard goat as well.

Robocop has no fixed job. Though he is named after one of our greatest paragons of law and virtue, he earns most of his carrot money hustling pool down at the local Underground. He is clever, having graduated from Frostburg State and pretty curious. One of his recent hobbies is rape. This is just another signpost on the road to the moral degradation of society.

Dr. Beef Wellington, MD, aka "Beep-Beep" is a spaz. We suspect some sort of banana/uppers addiction began during his long nights in medschool. We would take him to rehab, but just look at his big bugeyes! Who has the bugeyes? You do, Beeps! Yes you do! . . . Ahem, sorry. Recently Beef had to close his private detective agency when he was arrested for vagrancy after peeing outside Grendel's cage. He got off with a nose rub and a suspended sentence.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:25 AM on April 18, 2008 [22 favorites]

My two rabbits hate each other and can only be let out of their respective cages to run around, one at a time. One day Gabe, the neurotic, crazy one, was out. She jumped onto the top of Iggy Pop's cage, positioned herself, and peed through the roof of his cage into his food dish, before we got her away. Fun times.
Yes, they sure are expressive though, and I stop and gawp whenever either of them yawns.
posted by arcticwoman at 9:27 AM on April 18, 2008

Rabbit language? Frith, what a load of hraka.
posted by darksasami at 1:48 PM on April 18, 2008 [4 favorites]

robocop is bleeding wins the April MeFi Bunny Naming Challenge, is all I'm sayin'.
posted by everichon at 1:57 PM on April 18, 2008

I can't wake up Mr. Fluffles.
Please advise.
posted by Dizzy at 2:08 PM on April 18, 2008

Aw, I never knew about binkies before. I once rescued a bunny that had been abandoned and had to take care of him for a little while until he got a new owner. One night when I was up writing a paper at 4:00 AM, kinda loopy from lack of sleep and overcaffeination, that rabbit was flipping out, running all over the place doing all sorts of spastic half-turns in midair. I thought the late hour was driving us both insane. But he was happy! Good to know.

I wish I could have kept my little lagomorph sidekick. He cracked me up, that little buddy.
posted by painquale at 2:11 PM on April 18, 2008

Disapproving Rabbits yay! They've been on the blue before, and since then, they've become a book.

I'm a past volunteer at the Great Lakes Rabbit Sanctuary, which I thought made this a little too self-linkish to go in the fpp, but I'm linking it here because it is so happy-making: a video of five hundred bunnies running around. They were part of a crazy huge bunny rescue from somebody's backyard in Reno. Most of them are basically feral and live in the outside run you'll see in the video, but the friendliest ones are gradually being brought inside and adopted out.

(ps, OMG SUPER NOSE RUBS to all three robo-bunnies.)
posted by clavicle at 2:21 PM on April 18, 2008

Rabbits are completely delicious. The benefit being that they breed like rabbits. mmm. always more rabbits.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 2:57 PM on April 18, 2008

Great post. I'll read it all after silflay.
posted by hifiparasol at 3:56 PM on April 18, 2008

All this attention to placating a sandwich
posted by Rubbstone at 4:36 PM on April 18, 2008

I too once though rabbits did nothing but eat, shit, fuck, and sleep. After getting married to someone with vast rabbit experience, that idea couldn't be further from the truth.

Ours is a highly-neurotic, happy little bugger, who goes nuts for any sort of personal attention from either of us, and will ruthlessly destroy anything in the living room if he does not receive it. And the little bastard is still cute when he's trying to tear carpet up. He actually has mellowed out quite a bit. though.
posted by cellphone at 5:52 PM on April 18, 2008

Goodness, I knew house rabbits were awesome companion animals, but I had no idea they were so - maybe "interactive" is the wrong word, but "initiative-taking"? Anyway, neato.
posted by bettafish at 6:52 PM on April 18, 2008

The more rabbit photos I look at, the stranger they start to look.
posted by Locative at 12:23 AM on April 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

Awesome video of the rabbits running free, clavicle! They looked confused at first, then happy! The rainbow in the sky at the end made me tear up a little.

Also: bunny eaters making me sad.
posted by Locative at 12:33 AM on April 19, 2008

Fascinating. I had no idea how nuanced these little fellas are.

There's a reason why Pikachu is a lagomorph.

But this is mighty interesting. Some decades ago, there was a book on the same topic in avians called (something like) "The Secret Life of Birds". The author had over years of observing birds noted dominance plays, crys for assistance, cooperation, and clear signalling - the sort of detail that could only be obtained from long, tedious observation. That rabbits also show consistent and reasonably sophisticated behavior makes me wonder what else we might be missing in other animals.
posted by outlier at 4:30 AM on April 19, 2008

It may be a shill for Microsoft, but if you can withstand the Bunny Blue and enjoy cupcakes, bunnies, Amy Sedaris, and organizing your finances with Office, you can go here.

Warning: There are bunnies typing and wearing chef hats.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:38 AM on April 19, 2008

My Hoover simultaneously approves and disapproves of this thread.
posted by tommasz at 10:22 AM on April 19, 2008

if you ate nothing but rabbit you would die of malnutrition. I learnt that on Q.I. In fact, trappers would quite often die after eating nothing but the rabbits they caught.
posted by seanyboy at 12:29 PM on April 19, 2008

Thanks for this, its exactly what I've been needing. We've got a couple of giants, probably heavier than Herman but not as fore-shortened. When you get right down on the floor to observe, you really get a sense of how much communication is going back and forth. They're quite vocal, too. I find it endlessly fascinating.

The offended thing where they face exactly away from you (if you move, they'll swivel on the spot to keep their backs to you) then glance over their shoulders to make sure you're paying attention... well, I see that every time I have to chase the female out of the bedroom. I call it the "how dare you, don't you know who I am?" pose.

The chinning is mostly a male thing - mine's got it down to such a fine art now that he can chin the back of my heel as I walk across the kitchen floor. Also, if I leave the door open while taking a leak he'll run in, nudge the back of my ankle, and run away giggling. Metaphorically.

"I've seen contented rabbits only with their ears up, and only dismayed, angry, or insulted rabbits with their ears folded against their head"

I'm not convinced by this - in my experience a rabbit lying down with its ears back is just happy and chilled. The legs are splayed out, the posture is relaxed, and the animal's pretending to be a doorstop. Ears back, when combined with tense muscles, feet tucked under and bulging eyes is a fear/panic thing, and looks completely different.

Nothing in here about herding a child into a corner and bullying it until it gives up its sandwich, though. Or launching yourself at anyone eating a pizza...

Damn things are roughly on a par with cats for intelligence, are they're very social. I hate to see them in pet shops, or hutches.
posted by Leon at 5:47 PM on April 19, 2008

I thought this post was going to be about Lapine. I am stunned no one has mentioned Watership Down.
posted by Sangermaine at 1:57 PM on April 20, 2008

I thought this post was going to be about Lapine. I am stunned no one has mentioned Watership Down.

Look again.
posted by Songdog at 6:03 PM on April 21, 2008

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