Everyone knows that dogs and cats are smart and need mental stimulation; otherwise, you come home to find your curtains shredded and furniture destroyed. What about small domestic pets like rabbits that are generally easy prey animals? Are they intelligent and do they need mental stimulation? And just how intelligent are they?
Domesticated rabbits are often seen as timid and introverted, so it’s very easy to overlook their intelligence. The truth is that rabbits are very smart. These fluffy mammals see cues and can react to them, solve problems, and even memorize various things. They can also be trained to do various tricks.
Does that mean rabbits are more intelligent than your other domestic pets, like cats and dogs? Are there some rabbit breeds that are smarter than others?
The American Rabbit Breeders Association recognizes 49 different rabbit breeds; however, tallying up all the breeds in the 70 countries worldwide where you can find rabbits equals 305 breeds.
Let’s learn all about rabbits and their intelligence.
Are Rabbits Intelligent?
Yes, rabbits are highly intelligent. Your fluffball is able to adapt to your routine, and if something changes or is different, Mr. Bunny will pick up on it. This means that rabbits intellectually recognize the change.
Pet rabbits understand phrases and commands. They can even associate meanings and actions with words, like if you give them a treat when they behave well and you say something like “good bunny.”
Bunnies also show their intelligence by how they interact with you—their owner—and other rabbits. If you have one rabbit, for example, that you are petting, the other might come and nudge your hand, indicating it wants to be petted too. This is a sign of emotional intelligence; one bunny is jealous of the affection another gets from you.
Are Rabbits Smarter Than Dogs?
If you own and love rabbits, you may believe that your pet bunny is way smarter than a dog, and the same is true for a dog-loving owner too. Dog owners believe that dogs are smarter than rabbits.
The answer for which animal is smarter between dogs and cats is not straightforward. After all, it isn’t like you can give your bunny and dog the same tests and see who scores higher.
In general, each animal has a different type of intelligence and level of smartness. As such, dogs are more intelligent when compared to rabbits if you look at traditional doggy behaviors, while rabbits will be smarter than dogs when it comes to rabbit behaviors.
Like the old adage: You can’t call a fish stupid just because it can’t fly or climb a tree. And you can’t call a bird stupid because it can’t swim.
Back to the intelligence of dogs and rabbits. Both of these animals:
- Are socially intelligent
- Can understand human language
- Understand time
Dogs and rabbits can express their emotions, recognize their owner, form close bonds with their owners, and can tell when you are feeling blue. They can also learn and respond to their names and learn tricks. However, dogs can learn more complex commands when compared to rabbits.
Rabbits are crepuscular animals, and thus, most active at dawn and dusk, and they’ll know when it is feeding time and you have been out and about. Dogs are the same.
One thing rabbits excel at is digging and building impressive burrows and networks of tunnels underground. While your dog can dig a hole, it can’t build warrens and tunnels underground.
Another difference is that dogs aim to please their owners; rabbits don’t. Bunnies are more reward-driven, so treats come in handy when you train your rabbit.
Are Rabbits Smarter Than Cats?
It’s been proven that dogs are smarter than cats since they have twice as many neurons in their brains. If you follow this logic, then cats are smarter than rabbits.
Just like we learned above in the intelligence debate between rabbits and dogs, it isn’t fair to make this assumption since rabbits will pass with flying colors when they need to do rabbit stuff and cats will excel in doing things that cats do best.
Rabbits may be more socially intelligent than cats since they are more sociable. But again, this doesn’t outright prove that they are smarter. Both animals can be trained, come when you call their name and get jealous if you pay more attention to another bunny or cat.
Rabbits may be more driven to please you than cats, but dogs will win this battle. However, both cats and rabbits are quite independent and don’t generally like to be smothered with attention and affection.
Bunnies are prey animals, while cats are cunning predators. Both prey and predators need to be smart to outthink the other in order to survive. Predators need to prey on animals so they can eat their next meal, while prey animals need to get away to survive.
Smart Rabbit Breeds
Even though there are 305 rabbit breeds all over the world, there are some breeds that are just that bit more intelligent than the others.
Here are the smartest rabbit breeds:
The personality traits of Netherland Dwarfs are a good indicator of just how intelligent these bunnies are. They are mischievous and curious. Netherland Dwarfs look very naughty and like they can get into a lot of trouble if you let them.
While these rabbits are the smallest of the lop breeds, they are very smart.
Mini lop rabbits are very easy-going. As a result of inbreeding 7 purebred rabbits, have a distinctive genetic makeup that tells you how intelligent this breed of rabbit is.
This type of rabbit breed was bred during the 1800s. Belgian hares are a mix of wild and domestic bunnies, so they are highly trainable and alert.
Even though these rabbits are big, they are quite laid back and mild-mannered. They are easy to train and are known for being smart.
Harlequins are known to be crafty and can easily escape from their hutches or cages. Like Netherland Dwarfs, they are also quite mischievous and curious.
Are Wild Rabbits Smarter Than Domestic Rabbits?
Wild and pet rabbits each possess different types of intelligence. Rabbits in the wild need to survive, so their intelligence is based on how adept they are at making it. While your domestic rabbit may survive a few days in the wild, it will struggle because it is dependent on you to take care of it.
That being said, pet bunnies are trainable. On the other hand, if you caught a wild rabbit and tried to domesticate and train it, it might not go well since these bunnies are genetically “trained” to survive.
Are Rabbits Intelligent Enough to Be Trained?
Rabbits are certainly smart enough to be trained. You can train your rabbit to do tricks, use the litter box, learn their name, and so much more.
Your bunny may not be as eager to please you as your puppy, so is it best to use repetition and positive reinforcement. You also need patience when training a bunny and you need to continue to encourage your fluff ball to act in the desired manner by giving it rewards.
What Kind of Tricks Can Your Rabbit Learn?
Your long-eared fluffy pal can learn to:
- Follow you around your home or garden
- Walk around your legs
- Jump up or hop onto your lap or couch
- Shake a paw, or give you a handshake
- Come or stay
- Fetch small items
- Walk on their hind legs
- Complete an obstacle course
- Use a litter tray
Do Rabbits Recognize Their Owners?
Yes, rabbits do recognize and form close bonds with their owners. This is a sign of social intelligence.
A rabbit recognizes you by sound, smell, and voice. If you call them, they will come to you.
When you enter a room, you may notice that your bunny looks happy to see you. See how their ears perk up and how they sniff the air?
It is normal for a rabbit to follow their owner as they walk through the house, from room to room. You will also find that your Ms. Fluffles hops onto your lap when you call them.
Rabbits are famous for how cute and fluffy they are, and thus, it is easy to overlook how smart they are.
If you’ve ever wondered how smart a bunny is, now you know. While we can’t compare a rabbit’s intelligence with that of a dog, cat, or other animals, bunnies are smart.
They can learn tricks such as coming when you call their name or go through an obstacle course. Pet rabbits also learn to recognize you, comfort you when they sense you are sad, show displeasure when they are jealous or indicate when they want affection, and so much more.
Understanding how intelligent your bunny is ensuring that you can mentally stimulate your fluffy bestie by training them, buying them toys at a pet store or on Amazon that give their mind a workout, and more. Rabbits that can explore, play, and learn are happy pets.