How Well Do Rabbits See?


Photo of white rabbit

Rabbits have large eyes on the side of their heads but I wanted to find out how well they see.

Rabbits have a wide range of vision due to the eyes being on the side of the head.  They have poor depth perception up close but can see objects further away clearly.

It made sense to me that a rabbit would have to be able to see dangers further away, but I wanted to find out more.  If you want more information on what your rabbit can see, then read on.

Large Eyes

Rabbits have large eyes that are high on the side of their head.  This gives a rabbit an almost 360-degree view and can see far above their head.  Without moving their head, the rabbit has a large field of vision, giving them excellent vision against predators such as coyotes and wolves. 

Rabbits eyes have developed to detect from almost any direction predators quickly. The rabbit is very good at working out an escape route from where it is located at all times.

The rabbits eyes are just one way that they survive in the wild. If you would like to find out some more ways, I have written an article here.

Photo of rabbit

The two large eyes can be blue, brown, blue-grey, marbled, or red.  They can be almost any color except green.  As the rabbit’s age, the color of the eye darkens. 

Can Rabbits See Well At Night?

Rabbits have eyes that are like humans. However, the rabbit can see better in low light. 

Among other things, rods and cones make up the eye.  The rods help to see in low light levels (night) whereas cones see in higher light levels (day). 

The rabbit has far more rods than cones, allowing it to see better than humans in the dark.  This increased vision comes at a cost as the image is not as high a resolution as a human.

The rabbit is not a nocturnal animal but also does not like to sleep at night and stay up all day.  Rabbits are crepuscular, which means they are most active at dusk and dawn.

Their eyesight is particularly good for this time of day as their vision is not suited for either bright day-time or dark night-times.

Can Rabbits See Close Distances?

Rabbits have a blind spot under their chin and in front of their nose.  As the eyes are placed on the sides of the head, about 30 degrees of their field of vision overlaps, with 10 degrees in front of them being the blind spot.

The blind spot is approximately 10 degrees in front of their nose.  This leads to minimal three-dimensional sight for the rabbit.  The rabbit uses a similar system to birds called parallax to determine the distance of an object. 

This involves bobbing their head up and down while looking at the distant object.  The closer the object is, the more it moves.  This is also called eye scanning.

Photo of rabbit

As the rabbit does not see very well in three dimensions, the world is very two-dimensional to them.  The rabbit would not know at first look if a fox was 100 yards away or 10 yards away.  The world to the rabbit is almost like looking at the screen you are reading this on.

If you place a treat in front of your rabbits’ nose, then it will not be able to see it, but it will use its smell and taste to find it and what it is.  Rabbits have sensitive lips and mouths, and very sophisticated taste buds to select their food.  Their whiskers and sense of smell also help to choose the correct food.

Now you know why your rabbit is looking at you funny.

Are Rabbits Color Blind?

The rods and cones that makeup part of the rabbit’s eye tell us if the rabbit can see in color.  The cones contain pigments that give the ability to see color, whereas the rods do not have the color vision pigments.

The eyes of a rabbit hold more rods than cones; reaching 300,000 per square mm compared to 18,000 cones per square mm. 

The cones are not sensitive to red light; however, they are sensitive to green and blue.  Most of the retina is made up of sensitive green cones, but there are also areas where there are just blue cones.

While they can tell blue and green apart, other colors are seen as grey by the rabbit.

If you have ever seen a rabbit jump and twist its body, you may have wondered what it was doing and why. I have written an article on this here.

How Well Can Rabbits See?

Rabbits have eyes that are similar to humans. However, the rabbit will see with lower quality, granular vision.

Rods and cones, among other things, are what make the human eye. The rods help to see in low light levels, whereas for higher light levels the cones are used. The rabbit has far more rods than cones, allowing it to see better than humans in the dark. 

This increased vision comes at a cost; however, as the image is not as high a resolution as a human with more cones in their eyes.

This gives the rabbit a vision that is easier to see in the dark but gives a low quality effect.

This can mean that when you are carrying a shopping bag or lifting an object, the rabbit may get scared as it doesn’t recognize you when you are carrying something.

What Color Are Rabbits Eyes?

Some rabbits have red eyes, and this is caused by albinism.  Albinism was bred into rabbits intentionally to have a line that would produce white rabbits all the time. 

Albino rabbits have no pigmentation within their bodies.  This reduces the coloring of the iris, which is the colored part of the eye.  There is also no color in the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye.

By looking into their eyes, the red color you see is the red blood in the back of the eye.  Albino rabbits are sensitive to sunlight and will often move to shade to comfort their eyes.  Remember if you have an albino bunny that the eyes and skin are very sensitive to direct sunlight. 

How Many Eyelids Do Rabbits Have? 

The rabbit has a third eyelid also known as a nictitating membrane.  This membrane keeps the eye clean so that they can be more aware of approaching predators.  Rabbits sleep with their eyes open to help with this.  Although rabbits blink approximately 10-12 times an hour, the third eyelid does not blink. 

When the globe is retracted into the socket, the membrane covers the cornea.  Although the third eyelid will partially close with sleep or under anesthetic, it never closes more than two-thirds past the cornea.

Conclusion

We have seen that rabbits have an excellent range of vision due to the eyes being on the sides of the head.  We now know that they see well in low light conditions, although not pitch black.  They can see the colors of green and blue due to the rods in their eyes.

Bryan Harding

Bryan has spent his whole life around animals. While loving all animals, Bryan is especially fond of mammals and has studied and worked with them around the world. Not only does Bryan share his knowledge and experience with our readers, but he also serves as owner, editor, and publisher of North American Mammals.

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