There’s no denying that the cutest feature on a rabbit is its short fluffy tail. Does a rabbit tail serve a purpose, or is it all aesthetics?

The rabbit’s tail does indeed have a purpose, three important functions to be exact. In short, a rabbit uses its tail as a survival mechanism in the wild, to signal an alarm, and to communicate.

Did you know that a rabbit’s tail can easily be injured? We will explain and discuss how fragile your rabbit’s tail is and the type of injuries that can occur. We’ll also look into why rabbits bite their tails and why they scream when you touch their tails. We have the answers to all your rabbit tail-related questions. 

What Is the Purpose of a Rabbit’s Tail

 

What Is the Tail of a Rabbit Called?

“What is a rabbit tail called?” is one of the most frequently asked rabbit-related questions on the internet. A rabbit’s tail is called a scut, which means a short, erect tail. The rabbit shares the term with deer, bears, and goats. Although the term is rarely used, it is commonly called a cottontail and scuttlebutt.

 

Rabbit Tail Anatomy

Rabbit’s tails are more than just a little round nub covered in fur. Depending on a rabbit’s breed, the tail is made up of 15 or 16 bones called the caudal vertebrae or coccygeal. The individual bones are connected to the rabbit’s spine. These bones, much like the rabbit’s spine, are incredibly fragile.

The bones of a rabbit’s tail are surrounded by muscles and nerves that aid in movement. Care needs to be taken when handling your rabbits, as their tails can be easily broken. An injury like this can leave your rabbit in excruciating pain.

 

Why Do Rabbits Have Tails?

The tail of a rabbit seems so harmless, yet it’s critical to their chances of survival in the wild. In the case of domesticated rabbits, they use their tails to communicate their emotions with you and other rabbits. So what are rabbit tails for?

Survival Mechanism

The most important purpose of a rabbit’s tail is to help it escape from potential predators. Wild rabbits run in a zig-zag motion using the white underside of their tail to confuse the predator. The predator ignores the body of the rabbit, following and focusing only on its tail.

A biologist at the University of Göttingen, Dirk Semmann, theorizes that the wild rabbit’s fur carefully conceals them. The white underside of the rabbit’s tail is what makes them easy to spot by a predator, which the rabbit uses to its advantage. 

When a rabbit makes a sharp turn, this confuses the predator. If you have ever watched your rabbit play, when it makes a quick, sharp turn, its tail moves in the opposite direction. Dirk Semmann further adds that a predator will slow down, which gives the rabbit a few seconds to make its crucial escape. 

Signaling

Rabbits by nature are territorial. If danger is near, a rabbit will use its tail to signal another rabbit of the impending danger. They will flash the white on their tails or thump the ground with their hind legs to warn others in their colony. 

What’s interesting about this technique is that the rabbit is more concerned about saving the other rabbits more than it’s worried about attracting a predator’s attention. 

rabbit tale

Communication

Rabbits also use their tails to communicate with you and each other. Unlike a dog, when a rabbit wags its tail, it’s communicating resistance. A rabbit’s tail that is down is usually a sign of hesitancy. A raised tail is your rabbit’s way of communicating aggression or confidence. 

Along with the wagging or raised tail, an unhappy or angry rabbit will thump its hind legs. Your rabbit’s body will be tense, its head tilted, and it will show its teeth.

 

Are All Rabbit Tails White?

While all wild rabbits have the distinct white tuft of fur on their tails, not all domestic rabbit breeds do. This is certainly the case with certain black rabbit breeds. Unlike the rabbit in the wild, domestic rabbits have no worries with concerns of falling prey to prowling predators. 

 

How Long Is Rabbit Tail?

The Riverine Rabbit, also known as the Bushman’s Hare is a rare breed with one of the longest tails. The Riverine Rabbit’s tail is between 2.7 and 4.2 inches long.

The European rabbit with long tail has the second-longest tail. The bushy tail ranges in length from 1.5 to 3.75 inches.

The tail length of the average domestic rabbit and the cottontail is similar. The small tails of these rabbits average 2 inches in length.

 

How Does a Rabbit Lose Its Tail?

A rabbit can easily lose its tail. The bones in a rabbit’s tail are quite fragile, which means that a rabbit can get injured without meaning to. 

Rabbit’s won’t lose their tails without external influence, such as a human or other rabbit pulling it off. They may also bite it off themselves.

The bones of a rabbit’s tail are attached to its spine. Losing its tail will be a painful experience for your rabbit. They will bleed profusely should this injury not be handled with care. Seek emergency medical attention from your vet should your rabbit accidentally lose its tail. A rabbit’s tail loss will not be fatal if it is managed correctly and quickly. 

Can a Rabbit Bite Its Own Tail Off?

It’s highly unlikely and rare that a rabbit would bite its tail off, but it’s possible. A medical issue could be the reason your rabbit may try to bite its tail. Parasites, mites, skin irritation, allergies, or even stress can be the reason. In the case of disabled rabbits, nerve pain might be the reason they could harm themselves. 

Medical Reasons Rabbits Can Lose Their Tail

Cheyletiella parasitovorax is a skin mite that causes itching and painful crusty skin in rabbits. These skin mites cause your rabbit to lose patches of fur. Although other areas of your rabbit’s body can be affected, skin mites are typically found just above a rabbit’s tail.

In the case of an allergic reaction, rabbits could bite their tails off to relieve themselves of severe itching. A rabbit’s skin is quite sensitive, and tearing can easily occur. One reason could also be Dermatophytosis, better known as ringworm. This is a fungal infection of the skin.

Another factor to consider is self-mutilation. Compulsive self-mutilating behavior has been linked to a genetic predisposition in certain breeds that could cause rabbits to excessively groom themselves to the point of biting off their tails. Scientists have linked environmental factors such as boredom as the cause of self-harm in rabbits.

When grooming your rabbit, be sure to do so carefully. As mentioned earlier, the skin of rabbits is sensitive, so take care when brushing matted fur close to your rabbit’s tail. Although rare, owners and groomers can accidentally rip off the rabbit’s tail without realizing it. 

Luckily, each case mentioned can be treated. A veterinary expert will diagnose your rabbit and establish the correct treatment moving forward. 

Diseases That Affect a Rabbit’s Tail and Bottom

Rabbits are prone to a disease called flystrike. This disease is caused by flies laying eggs on the surface of your rabbit’s skin. Once the eggs hatch, the maggots will feed on the skin of the rabbit causing open wounds and sores. The worst affected areas are a rabbit’s tail, belly, and back. Seek immediate medical attention with a vet.

Wet tail is quite literal in its meaning. When a rabbit has a wet bottom and tail, urine scalding can occur. The urine burns your pet rabbit’s skin, causing hair loss around its belly and tail. Urinary tract infections, bladder sludge, and bladder stones can cause urine leakage. 

In severe cases, wet tail can cause flystrike and a bacterial infection called moist dermatitis. The skin and fur of a rabbit will be accompanied by a foul odor. Signs of moist dermatitis also include matted fur and uneaten cecotropes. 

Treatment for wet tail can include surgery to fix the direction of urine flow in rabbits that are unable to lift their hind legs. In a severe case like this, this particular surgery would involve the amputation of the rabbit’s tail. 

rabbit on grass

 

Rabbit Tail Behavior

Why Does My Rabbit Chase Its Tail?

Dogs are known to chase their tail for fun or out of boredom. When a rabbit does it, the reasons can have a different meaning. 

Your pet rabbit will chase its tail if it is bored. Boredom in rabbits can take a toll on their health. Issues like obesity caused by overeating and hairballs can occur. Stimulating your rabbits can prevent tail chasing, obesity, and hairballs.

Tail raising and tail-chasing could be a sign of arousal in rabbits. When your rabbit is interested in mating, it will run in large circles and wag its tail. Tail wagging, raising, and chasing its tail will be accompanied by other vocal cues when rabbits are in heat. 

Why Does My Rabbit Scream When I Touch Its Tail?

Although handling your rabbit’s tail should be done with care, rabbits don’t like it when you touch their tails. They will attempt to wiggle their way out and could injure their spine in the process. They will also show signs of aggression by either biting you, growling, and wagging the tail.

A stressed-out rabbit could scream if you touch its tail. Rabbits are naturally prey animals. Touching your rabbit’s tail could indicate extreme fear or severe distress.  Socializing your pet rabbit can help it overcome fear. 

Should you touch your rabbit’s tail, your rabbit screaming could mean it is experiencing severe pain. Rabbits don’t show they are ill, since showing weakness puts them at risk of becoming prey. Seek medical assistance if you suspect your rabbit has any pain. 

Why Does My Rabbit Stretch Out Its Tail?

A rabbit with an outstretched tail is usually a sign of contentment. A relaxed and happy rabbit will be stretched out on its belly, spine, legs, and tail stretched out in a carefree position.

Rabbits that are exploring their environment will have their tails upright and quite tense. Your pet rabbit is preparing to flee if it senses any danger. Although you may not see it, your pet rabbit’s body will be tense. The white underside of its tail will be visible and in an upright position. This should be your cue that your rabbit is ready to escape. 

Do Bunny Tails Grow Back?

Once a rabbit loses its tail, it’s permanent. The tail is considered a functional limb with bone, muscle, and nerve endings. Once the tail has been amputated, the fur will simply grow over. Rabbits can live a happy and healthy life without a tail. 

What Does It Mean When You Find a Rabbit Tail?

If you have a dream about coming across a rabbit’s tail, it signifies you are concerned about the future. The rabbit tail meaning in your dream could also be a metaphor for spiritual reflection. It’s possible that you’ve been saying things about someone that are hurtful or disparaging.

In actuality, finding a rabbit’s tail indicates that the bunny has been involved in an accident and has lost its tail. The tailbone of a rabbit is connected to its spine. Finding a rabbit’s tail is a serious matter, and the rabbit will require immediate medical attention from a veterinarian.

 

FAQs

What Are Rabbit Tails For? 

In the wild, rabbits use their tails to escape from predators, alert rabbits in their colony of danger, and communicate with each other. A domestic rabbit will use its tail to show you its emotions.

Why Does My Rabbit Wag Its Tail at Me?

Tail wagging is never positive. If your pet rabbit is wagging its tail, it is a warning sign to you to back off. Your rabbit could be angry, unhappy, and can bite you if you do not pay attention.

Can a Rabbit’s Tail Fall Off by Itself?

A rabbit’s tail will never fall off on its own. The bones in the tail are attached to the spine of the rabbit. Should a rabbit’s tail break, it will still be attached to the skin. If however, the tail does come off, it is usually accidental. Your rabbit will be in excruciating pain and bleed profusely. Seek emergency medical care should this happen. 

Why Do Rabbits Bite Off Their Tail?

There are medical issues that could cause your rabbit to bite its tail off. Skin mites, parasites, skin irritations, and allergies could be the cause. A vet will diagnose the issue by scraping a skin sample and will treat the issue accordingly.

What Other Issues Can Affect a Rabbit’s Tail?

Issues like wet tail, flystrike, and moist dermatitis can affect the skin around your rabbit’s bottom and tail. Your rabbit will lose patches of fur in this area. Your rabbit’s urine will burn and irritate the skin. Be sure to take your pet rabbit to the vet for immediate treatment.

 

The Final Word

A rabbit’s tail is essential to its survival in the wild. The white tuft of fur not only makes them an easy target for predators, but the rabbit uses it to its advantage. It can outsmart the predator by running in a zig-zag motion before making a sharp, quick turn and a swift getaway.

Rabbits also use their tails as a signal. It flashes its tail to warn rabbits in their colony of impending danger. It also uses its tail to communicate with you and other rabbits. 

Care should always be taken when handling your pet rabbit’s tail. It can easily come off, causing immense pain to your beloved pet rabbit.

 

 

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Sarah Logan

Sarah Logan is the Editor here at The Bunny Hub. Sarah is a long-time bunny lover having kept pet rabbits since early childhood. With over 35 years of experience caring for fluffy-tailed, lop-eared friends, Sarah wanted to create a space dedicated to providing expert advice on not only general care, but proper nutrition, and, the best products and accessories every serious owner needs. Here you will find everything you need to make informed decisions in all aspects of becoming a proud rabbit owner. We do all the hard work for you. We research and test out the latest products, then we tell you about our discoveries. From choosing the right breed of bunny for your family, to making purchases you won’t regret for the important things like a hutch for your fur baby to live in. We’re here to make sure you have all the information you need to give your bunny and happy and healthy life.

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