How Fast Can A Rabbit Run?

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There are many species of rabbits all over the world and each has its top speed separate from the other, but how fast can a rabbit run? A rabbit can run anywhere between 18 to 45 mph depending on the breed. According to the American Rabbit Breeders Association, only 48 breeds of rabbits are recognized and the speed is also different for each breed.  

Rabbits have strong and powerful legs that make them run fast and leap high into the air. But besides these two functions, rabbits use their legs as a defense mechanism and also to communicate. As a self-defense maneuver, the rabbit will give a kick when it feels threatened by a predator. It is a warning kick that makes the predator stay away.  

Also, the rabbit uses its hind legs to thump hard on the ground as a warning to other rabbits if a predator is near. Sometimes domestic rabbits exhibit these qualities even when they know it is near impossible that they will be eaten by another animal. 

How Fast are Rabbits When Running Uphill? 

An average speed would still range between 18 to 45 mph. Rabbits have large hind legs that allow them to reach top speeds when running uphill just as they run on flat ground. There is no standard measure of a rabbit running uphill therefore no true way to measure the speed. Compared to most animals that have a difficult time running uphill than down the rabbit is comfortable on any terrain.

Because of the rabbit’s unique anatomy, it has a high advantage when running fast uphill. The hind legs are longer and this helps with both hares and rabbits to leap easily uphill and on inclines.  Some researchers suggest that there is a possibility that rabbits are faster uphill than downhill but there is no way to test this theory yet. As defensive maneuver rabbits always tend to run uphill if they want a chance to evade a faster pursuant and make it to safety.  

How Long Can A Rabbit Run at A Fast Pace?

It is unknown how long a rabbit can maintain its pace as they do not use it for marathon running but evasive top burst speeds and maneuvers. We have already established that rabbits have strong muscles that are both impressive and designed to make them fast. A rabbit’s muscles are considered to be more powerful than that of a cheetah and that is in comparison to the fastest animal on land. 

Therefore, rabbits can also hop or leap higher into the air and cover great distances as well with a single hop. Rabbits are hyped as pacey because they use the fast-twitch muscle fiber. Rabbits also use muscles that take energy from either oxygen or glucose. These are glycolytic fibers, which derive their energy glucose or sugar, hence they can burn energy much faster than oxidative fibers. 

The fast-twitch glycolytic fibers also allow rabbits to accelerate quickly and reach greater speeds at a shorter time covering a great distance as well.

How are Rabbits Able to Run Fast?

Despite the small size of rabbits, not so many animals in the wild can match its speed as they have powerful hind legs. Rabbit also has muscles that have evolved to enable them to sprint fast. Rabbits are able to run fast because of their long feet and strong backs. 

Other species like the bunny are known for their hopping as they leap forward by pushing off from both powerful hind legs at the same time. Sometimes bunnies can jump as high as four feet and a distance of around ten feet with a single hop

Rabbits Have the Best Locomotion

There are two kinds of locomotion in animals. Some that plant the soles of their feet in the ground and others that move by only using the toes. 

Plantigrade Locomotion

Applies when an animal moves with its soles touching the ground, much the same as humans.

Digitigrade Locomotion

It is the movement of animals with only the toes touching the grounds.

Of the two movements, the digitigrade locomotion is the one considered stealthier and faster as compared to the plantigrade locomotion. It is no surprise that rabbits are digitigrades as this allows rabbits to be highly efficient moving around. 

As digitigrades rabbits put all their energy to be fast as opposed to heavy. Other examples of digitigrades include cats, lions, and dogs. 

A Rabbit has the Right Anatomy

The morphological shape of rabbits is designed to make them fast. The obvious take is from the shape of its hind legs which are always longer than the front legs. Generally, if a rabbit has longer hind legs it is much faster compared to one with shorter hind legs. An example is a hare, which is the largest rabbit and has larger feet than most rabbits and hence moves much faster.

The Small Size of a Rabbit

Most people assume that rabbits are fast because of their small size. However, size does not help to make a rabbit fast but rather it helps with agility. Because of their small size, rabbits are more challenging to capture and hold. In the wild, the rabbit uses its small size to hide from predators and tuck into small spaces and burrows that predators cannot fit in.

Also because of its small size, a rabbit is not heavy and therefore burns less energy when running as the muscles do not need lots of power to propel them further. It, therefore, makes the rabbit spend less time on acceleration.

Rabbits Have Well-Built Muscles

The muscles of the rabbit are what make it to promote movement and force that enables it to evade its predators. The rabbit’s muscles are made of two types of fibers, namely, the fast-twitch muscle fibers, and slow-twitch muscle fibers.

Fast-Twitch Muscle Fibres

These are good for acceleration and speed and what makes sprinters run very fast. However, there are also two kinds of fast twitching muscles. 

Fast-Twitch Oxidative

These are the red muscles that use oxygen 

Fast Twitch Glycolytic

These are the white muscles which do not use oxygen. Among the two kinds of muscles, the fast-twitch glycolytic is the fastest muscle 

Rabbits when compared to hares have a higher proportion of the fast-twitch glycolytic muscle fiber. Sometimes up to 50% of fibers in rabbits are fast-twitch glycolytic 

Because hares have more endurance than rabbits, they have more than 55% of fast-twitch oxidative fibers.

A rabbit’s small size is not suitable for long-distance running, and that is why they are excellent sprinters. Judging by the rabbit’s top speeds, there are no sustainable numbers as they often have bursts of speed to outrun predators as they try to find a place where they can hide.

What this means is that rabbits can reach top speeds fast but because their legs produce immense energy, they cannot run very far

Slow-Twitch Muscle Fiber 

Slow-twitch muscles are suitable for stamina and endurance. They are the kind of muscles that would benefit a marathoner and not a sprinter. 

All animals have a combination of both slow-twitch and fast-twitch muscle fibers. However, rabbits tend to have a slightly higher proportion of fast-twitch muscles than other animals. 

What are the Top Speeds of Different Rabbit Breeds?

It is evident that some breeds of rabbits run faster than others. Therefore, to determine the speed of a particular rabbit you must match it with its breed. Below is an average list of speeds for the most popular rabbit breeds.

Snowshoe Rabbit

The name derives from its large and furry feet. The snowshoe rabbit is natives of the Northern American mountain ranges and is popular for their snow-white winter coat, which will turn brown in spring.

Also, from its name you can tell that it is built to be fast on snow. The snowshoe rabbit has large hind feet that are somewhat shaped like a snowboard to make it stay atop many layers of snow. It is also quick and nimble, a characteristic that makes it great at hiding in undergrowths and brushy ground layers of the forest cover. Other breeds of rabbits are faster but the snowshoe rabbit can at least manage top speeds of 27mph. The reason is that on snow they cannot utilize their greatest strength which is the digitigrade locomotion. 

Cottontail Rabbits

Cottontail rabbits inhabit large areas around the world and are therefore the most studied breed of rabbits. Within the group of cottontail rabbits, there are 20 different species of rabbits. These rabbits are smaller than most rabbit breeds and weigh between 2-4 pounds only. The top speed of cottontail rabbits is about 30mph. But because they never run in a straight path rather than a zigzag motion they mostly attain a speed of only 18mph. 

Jackrabbits 

Most people see the jackrabbit as the fastest recorded species of rabbit. But this is not true as Jackrabbits are a species of the hare and not rabbits. Even though hares also belong to the digitigrade locomotion as rabbits they are the largest and have proportionally stronger and bigger and stronger hind legs of the rabbit family. It is why most species of hare can easily outrun rabbits. 

Jackrabbits can therefore reach a maximum speed of around 45mph and can also register higher leaps of about 10 feet. Similar to rabbits, hares do not have endurance and can only maintain top speeds at short bursts of speeds for only a shorter period of time. If hares cannot find safety and hide before they tire, they usually get overrun by their predators that have more endurance.

European Rabbits 

Most of the domestic rabbits are direct descendants of a rabbit species native to Europe. European rabbits are slightly bigger compared to cottontail rabbits.  

Domestic Rabbits

Domestic rabbits are found in homes and are raised in a protected environment hence most have no fear of predators. There are many breeds of domestic rabbits as they have a popular strand of genetics that unify them. Most of the domestic rabbits are also larger than cottontails and faster as well. They can attain speeds of up to 35 mph. 

However, because they are domestic animals, they never have to reach these speeds as most of the domesticated rabbits prefer to lounge and play inside their cages

Conclusion 

Rabbits are no doubt fast runners however they never rely on speed to evade their predators. They mostly use eyesight and sense of smell and sensitive ears to avoid being caught by their pursuers. 

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