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Do Rabbits Have Good Vision?

Rabbits being prey animals, have evolved with eyes on both sides of their head in order to see 360 degrees in any directions, including above it. This allows the rabbit to quickly see foxes, hawks, and other predators, and avoid being dinner.

Rabbits tend to see in greens and blues because most of their food is green stuff.  They are far-sighted and do not see very well up close. They have a small blind spot of about 10 degrees directly in front of their nose and just under the chin. Having this blind spot, their whiskers and smell are normally used to detect things in that area (and sometimes their teeth). This blind spot is also why a rabbit may take some time to locate a treat when placed directly in front of it.

Rabbits see things in two dimensions. They do not easily tell distance and have virtually no depth perception. This is why they tend to rely more on their hearing and sense of smell to alert them to danger around them. Their vision is important, but for up close work (like eating) they use their nose more than their eyes. Having no depth perception means they can see a dog, but cannot visually tell if it is ten feet or 100 feet away. Their vision can identify the dog, but they tend to use their other senses such as smell and hearing to determine how far away it is. Rabbits will use parallax to assist in determining the distance of an object. This is similar to what birds do; rabbits will bob their head up and down when looking at a distant object. The further the object the less it moves.

A rabbit has a 30 degree in front of it where it has depth perception. They see better at half-light conditions. Rabbits are crepuscular, meaning they are most active at dawn and dusk, and cannot see well at night. At night, its image of you will be grainy, but it can tell it is you by your actions. They will use not only their vision, but also listen for your voice, pick up clues from your scent, and become familiar with your movements. Indeed they can recognize you, but the visual picture is not as clear as ours. Rabbits have a “third eyelid” which is to protect the eye. This is why they blink a lot less than we do. When a rabbit wants to look at something, it’ll turn its head sideways (for the best look).100_0844

There is a common rabbit phenomenon called eye scanning.  It can be a bit disturbing the first time you see it and it consists of a rabbit kind of weaving and bobbing like a drunk person in order to look at something. Eye scanning is more common in red-eye rabbits like the New Zealand White, however, other non-red eye rabbits do it, as well. Usually the rabbit will be sitting upright and his head will kind of weave from side to side. If you look closely, you will see that he is eying or looking closely as something, switching from one eye to the other in his gazing at it. What he is actually doing is trying to get a better look at something, by using both eyes to view it. I think that for some rabbits, it helps them better gauge their surroundings. I think that they do it more when they are unsure of a location or curious about what is happening nearby.

Do you ever ask why some rabbits have red or pink eyes?  This is actually the result of albinism. It was intentionally bred into rabbits in order to have a blood line that would produce all white rabbits all the time. Called albinos, the rabbit will have pink or red eyes due to the complete lack of pigmentation within their bodies. Normally it is a mutation, but this mutation has been bred to exclude all other varieties, in rabbits. This is usually a recessive trait in most species and so when any genes are present to give color, the color is dominant and will be present. However, it is possible for a non-albino to give birth to an albino (all white with pink eye) offspring due to both parents have the recessive gene hidden in their DNA.

Albinos are sensitive to sunlight, due to their lack of pigmentation and red-eye white rabbits are no exception. They can find glaring bright sunlight a bit annoying and will often seek shade to comfort their sensitive eyes. Keep this in mind when taking your red-eye rabbit out and about. Their sensitive eyes and skin do not like hot direct sunlight.

So in conclusion, here are some quick facts about a rabbits vision:

  • It can see 360 degrees in any directions, including above it.
  • It sees colors differently than we do and is far-sighted.
  • Rabbits tend to see in greens and blues.
  • They are far-sighted and do not see very well up close.
  • They have a small blind spot of about 10 degrees directly in front of their nose.
  • They see things in two dimensions.
  • They do not easily tell distance and have virtually no depth perception.
  • They tend to see better at half-light conditions and don’t see as well at night.
  • At night, images to a rabbit may appear grainy.
  • If they have red or pink eyes it is due the complete lack of pigmentation within their bodies. This is called albinism.
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