Why do Rabbits have white tails and how do they use their tails?


A rabbit has eye-catching, short, and fluffy tails! It may be difficult to see this animal’s tails’ function as it is small, and it is like cotton fluff. Is a rabbit’s Tail just for show?

A rabbit’s Tail is not just for decoration. It actually has two purposes:

  • A rabbit’s Tail signals other rabbits of any imminent danger.
  • A rabbit’s Tail helps in the escape from predators.

The underside of a rabbit’s Tail is pale when it runs, distracting predators who are chasing it. This gives the rabbit some time to escape.

Rabbits in the wild are known for their flashy, bright, and whitetails when running away from predators. The bushy and soft rabbit tails have fascinated many people for many years.

A rabbit’s Tail may vary in color, but in most instances, they are white. Take a look at some of the not so well-known yet fascinating facts about a rabbit’s Tail.

A Lump of Flesh

A rabbit’s Tail is called a ‘scut,’ just like a deer’s Tail. The term ‘cut’ refers to an old adjective that means ‘short.’

A rabbit’s Tail is not just a lump of flesh and fur. A rabbit’s Tail has a small, extremely fragile bone connected to its spine. Even just a small jerk could dislocate or break this fragile bone, and a rabbit’s Tail also has some muscles.

The Need to Survive

Many people think a rabbit’s Tail is useless. The fact is, its Tail is exceptionally crucial to the survival of rabbits in the wild. A rabbit’s Tail may be small and fragile, yet it is the most flexible extremity in its body.

A rabbit can use its Tail to communicate, escape danger, and send signals. While the last two uses of a rabbit’s Tail are not for domestic rabbits, using their tails to survive is rooted as in instinct in all wild and domestic rabbits.

Domestic rabbits do not use their Tail to escape. Instead, its Tail is used to communicate and show feelings to you and other rabbits.

A Rabbit’s White Tail

The white flashing of a rabbit’s Tail has a purpose. Not all rabbits, though, have whitetails.

To a certain extent, wild rabbits have white tails while domesticated rabbits have small or long tails that are often of the same color as their coat.

How Rabbits use their Tail

As has been mentioned, rabbits use their Tail to escape danger and to communicate. A rabbit’s Tail can do this because of its shape and color. A rabbit’s white and bright tail underside may be out of place.

Most rabbits have grey and brown coats so they can blend with the plants and shrubs. On the other hand, rabbits’ whitetails can be eye-catching, and that is a good thing.

In the past, biologists thought rabbits use their conspicuous tails for territorial signaling or mating rituals.

Today, scientists revealed rabbits use their tails for these unique purposes:

  • The constant flashing of a rabbit’s white Tail when running can confuse a predator, thus working to the rabbit’s advantage.
  • The flicking of a rabbit’s white Tail allows it to communicate signs of danger with other animals within the vicinity.

A rabbit in the wild flees when they spot humans. As they flee, their Tail will point in your direction. This is their way to signal other rabbits that a potential threat is in the direction its Tail is pointing at.

A rabbit flashing its Tail does an involuntary action. However, it can be used to have a dramatic effect. A rabbit flashing its Tail disorients predators. It confuses the predator as to where the rabbit is heading, giving the rabbit more time to escape.

Signaling with its Tail

Escaping from a predator is not a concern of domesticated rabbits. However, you need to be aware of what your pet rabbit wants to communicate with you by flashing its Tail. It flashes its Tail because it is signaling. 

If you are a pet owner, you need to understand what your rabbit is communicating with you through its Tail. When you do, your rabbit will be safe.

  • Stretching out its Tail

Your rabbit may be stretching out its Tail farther than what is expected. It may not flash it but just stretch it. Stretching its Tail means your rabbit is communicating with you. Stretching its Tail is a rabbit’s form of body language. 

A rabbit stretching its Tail means it is investigating something or is relaxing. When your bunny is simply perched on its belly, stretching its spine, legs, and Tail, it means it is simply relaxing.

When your rabbit is stretching its Tail while sniffing on an object, it means it is ready to flee if what it is about to discover is not to its liking. You may not see your rabbit’s tense muscles under its coat, but you can see its Tail.

  • Wagging its Tail

It is a common habit for animals to wag their tails. There are many reasons animals wag their tails. Irritated and defiant rabbits tend to wag their tails. Rabbits also wag their tails when they interact with other rabbits.

When you return your rabbit to its hutch inside your home after some time in the garden, it will wag its Tail to tell you it is annoying and wants to go back to the garden.

A rabbit may also wag its Tail gently while interacting with another rabbit. Doing so is a way for a rabbit to annoy another rabbit. This action may not cause both rabbits to fight, but it leaves an unkind impression.

  • Its Tail is Up

Under normal conditions, only the Tail of your rabbit is exposed. An extruding tail means your rabbit is excited or curious over something.

  • Chasing its Tail

There are many reasons why rabbits have the habit of chasing their tails. A rabbit may chase its Tail to signal sexual arousal or interest in mating. This is a good sign that your rabbit is in good health. Repeatedly chasing its Tail, though, may also mean it is sexually frustrating.

A rabbit chasing its Tail could also be a sign. It needs more physical activity and mental stimulation. Domestic rabbits have high energies and are intelligent. Give it some toys. Toys will keep it busy and make it stretch its legs more often.

Chasing its Tail could also mean your rabbit is feeling some discomfort or itchiness due to the presence of ticks or fleas.

If your rabbit seems to be always running in circles chasing its Tail, it may mean that it is suffering from a severe illness. Watch out for the negative reasons it is chasing its Tail, a trip to the vet may immediately be necessary.

  • Biting its Tail

It may be far-fetched for a rabbit to bite its Tail off, but there are reasons why it would. It may be that it is uncomfortable with the presence of mites in its Tail. It may also mean that its hind or spine has been injured.

Do not ignore your rabbit always biting its Tail. A severe medical condition or a genetic attitude could be reasons it is biting or mutilating its Tail. Take it to the vet immediately. 

All in all, rabbits use their Tail to survive certain situations and as a form to express themselves. Although a rabbit’s Tail is short, small, and fragile, it is indispensable to its existence.

Domesticated rabbits may still be able to live a happy life even if they lose their Tail by accident. Rabbits in the wild, however, will be disadvantaged without their tails.

Losing its Tail

A rabbit can quickly lose its Tail. This can happen because its tail bone is fragile and the most delicate part of its body. It does not take much for it to lose its Tail. Losing its Tail is a painful experience for rabbits because they can bleed profusely.

If, for example, a predator grabs a rabbit by its Tail, it will most likely break, but the rabbit will be able to escape.

Since a rabbit’s Tail is fragile, it is possible for people, especially children, to harm a rabbit without intentions to hurt.

A rabbit may also lose its Tail if another animal bit it off or as a result of a severe infection. A rabbit may also lose its Tail if the rabbit bit it causing it to fall off.

A rabbit’s Tail does not just naturally fall off. It must be bitten or pulled off from its body. A rabbit’s Tail falling off is not a severe injury if you or the vet can control its bleeding. 

A rabbit losing its Tail is a permanent condition.  When the Tail of a rabbit has been amputated, the fur around it will grow back, and the wound will heal. A rabbit’s Tail that has been severed through whatever reason or when a rabbit is born without a tail will no longer grow back and function as it used to.

A domestic rabbit may not experience serious repercussions when it loses its Tail as long as it is treated well. A domestic rabbit only uses its Tail to communicate. 

For rabbits in the wild, losing a tail can be fatal because they may have an infection or experience blood loss. More importantly, without a tail, they will no longer be able to evade predators.

Sensitive Tails

A rabbit is extremely sensitive to its Tail. It does not like anyone touching its Tail. A rabbit may wiggle away, wag its Tail, growl, thump, or even try to bite you if you touch its Tail.

A Rabbit and it’s Tail

Rabbits are not born with tails. Newborn rabbits do not have any fur, too. The tuft of fur that is its Tail is yet to grow. When they get to be 9 or 10 days old, rabbits will start to look like the cute critters many people love. At this age, they will also have grown their tails.

All mature rabbits have tails. A rabbit is fragile, and its Tail is the most fragile part of its body. Its Tail may not be crucial for its survival because it can very well survive without a tail. A rabbit, though, will not enjoy losing its Tail.

If you have a pet rabbit, handle it with care, especially the Tail. A rabbit uses its Tail as a form of body language. You will be able to better care for and enjoy the company of your rabbit if you understand its Tail’s habits.

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