Rabbit tails are without a doubt one of the softest and cutest little balls of fur out there. Whilst extremely cute, do they actually have any benefits or purpose? Whether it’s balance, changing direction from predators or simply looking cute. Let’s dive in!
Why do rabbits have tails? Rabbit tails are designed to help avoid and escape predators. Whilst you or I may not be able to quite understand it, the color difference of the white underside actually helps confuse their predator as they zig-zag to escape. Alternatively, it is use to signal other rabbits in the area of danger and is used as part of their body language in general.
There’s plenty of purposes to a rabbit tail and we’re not just talking about the age old rumor of being lucky. Rabbit tails are generally best seen to keep their family group or pack safe. This is through the use of signalling, turning quickly & confusing their predators.
Think of this like a small boat motor, you’ll turn from the back and it changes the direction of the boat quickly. This is fairly similar as their tail will help them keep balance as they take sharp turns in a new direction.
When your rabbit is running around binkying you’ll notice they often turn their tails in the opposite direction to where they’ll sharp turn. This is to help them balance out their speed and direction. It’s pretty genius!
It seems bizarre, but rabbits use their tails to signal other rabbits in their group / area. This is very subtle to us but rabbits are constantly looking for one another. Rabbits will send soundless information and commands via flicking their tail in a certain direction.
Unfortunately rabbits aren’t designed to save themselves when it comes to a group as they make a lot of noise when alerting through thumping. Rabbits also give away their positions by showing the white of their tail before hiding as it confuses the predators as to where they are as they run around.
All wild rabbits and hares are camouflaged fantastically, so why would they have a big flash of white pop up and down? It’s actually quite genius.
Imagine you have a field of rabbits running away from a predator, they’ll take a sharp turn and another rabbit will flick their white tail up to signal to the predator where they are. The chase resumes and either a different rabbit elsewhere flicks up their tail or they’ve managed to gain some distance, the predator has to now decide whether to chase the new target or look for the camouflaged counterpart.
The whole animal is turning around, you don’t see the tail anymore.Dirk Semmann
One rabbit potentially sacrifices its safety for its family, something we can all admire!
Rabbit tails used to be called a “Scut”, however, as this is quite an old word it’s not used often anymore. This word originates from Middle English and is no-longer used outside of cooking and medical practices.
Underneath all that fur you’ll find a little nub of flesh, it’s rather cute if your rabbit lets you find it but it’s not what you’d expect. The phrase “A cute scut” doesn’t quite roll off the tongue though.
To be clear, touching your rabbits tail won’t hurt them and it’s not dangerous. But rabbits do tend to be extremely protective over them. You’ll often find if you touch your rabbits tail they will jump round and look at you or lunge to show disapproval.
Some rabbits do like being gently grabbed on the bottom for playing and chasing, although this really depends on your rabbits personality. If you want to make your rabbit known that you love them stick to petting them on the head and scratching gently under and behind their ears.
Accidents happen, whether it’s by you or the mother etc, unfortunately tails simply don’t grow back after they’ve been removed.
Luckily, domesticated rabbits don’t really need their tails as they don’t need to let their colony know of impeding danger. However, rabbit tails are extremely sensitive and are filled with nerves.
This means if you rabbit does lose their tail or it is harmed, they can be in a lot of pain and every go into shock. If this happens, we suggest going to see your veterinarian who can provide some pain killers to help with the natural healing process.