Do Rabbits Hibernate in the winter?

By Link the Bun March 19th, 2021

You’ll often hear about wild animals migrating for the winter, this may seem to make sense for hares, but what about rabbits? Do bunnies move from one location to another due to seasons?

Do wild Rabbits hibernate or not?

No. Wild Rabbits do not hibernate, nor do house rabbits or garden kept rabbits. Wild Rabbits (Commonly known as hare), will still in the same location regardless of summer or Winter.
Whilst you may see less rabbits/hares during winter this is likely due to a population decline or hiding in burrows taking shelter.

Do house Rabbits hibernate?

The purpose of hibernation in the animal kingdom is to allow animals to reserve energy due to the lack of vegetation and food available on the surface. During hibernation the animal will have a lower temperature, their heart rate and breathing will slow down and their metabolism will drop.

This means they will need to have stored this energy prior to going into hibernation which is not a trait rabbits carry.

Rabbits need to maintain a constant body temperature to avoid fatal illness, your rabbits temperature should not fluctuate outside of 101.3 and 104ºF (38.5 and 40°C). In the wild, this simply wouldn’t be possible as they would enter a state of hypothermia and then death.

Rabbits are not build to have this slowdown in bodily function, especially as a rabbits digestive system needs to constantly move to avoid fatal issues such as GI Stasis. Pair this with your rabbits need to constantly poop or graze and you have yourself an animal that simply doesn’t fair well in hibernating states.

How do Rabbits & Hares survive in the winter?

How do Hares survive in the winter

Given that rabbits don’t migrate for winter, they will have pre-created burrows much like we have our own homes that they will have made adjustments to allowing them to keep warmer.

During this time, wild rabbits will often change their diet and how often they expel energy to avoid becoming poorly. This can be as extreme as eating bark from trees and bushes.

Will my Rabbit try to migrate?

Simply put, no, your rabbit will not try to migrate as migration only happens to specific animals and your rabbit will most definitely prefer your home/garden!

Whilst birds will fly south for the winter, rabbits actually spend their entire lifespan in the same area as they will create their own territory. During mating season they may expand this area, however, there are no cases of mass migration with rabbits.

Do Cottontail Rabbits hibernate?

Cottontails do not hibernate, however, they are unable to dig or live in rabbits and as such you will only find them in areas like North America. As such, you’ll often see Cottontail rabbits in shallow holes or in bushes, much like a hedgehogs.

Cottontails are a very common kind of rabbit, and you will find them all over North America. They belong to the family ‘leporidae’ which consists of hares and rabbits.

Why is winter difficult for rabbits?

Why is winter difficult for rabbits?

We know that rabbits are capable of slowing their metabolism in the winter. We’re also aware that they have the ability to collect and store a lot of fat. Both of these things help wild rabbits survive through the winter months.

However, despite these changes, it’s still hard for rabbit populations to deal with long stretches of when little to no food is available. Populations of wild rabbits also fluctuate quite a bit in the winter season. This sometimes leads to a shortage in food sources for the survivors that are left.

Bunnies love to eat. Whether it’s grass, leaves, vegetables, or hay, these furry animals enjoy every-single-bite of the plant life that they can find. While some rabbits may be picky about what they eat, the truth is most rabbits will dine on just about anything making winter a little easier on themselves.


Don't forget to share this post!