Rabbit communication: watch those ears!

So you’ve read about how rabbits talk to us, and how they use body language.  In order to really understand rabbit communication, you also have to watch those marvelous ears!


Rabbit ears are complicated.  They can be up, pointing partly sideways, sideways, partly back, fully back, and way way back.  The fold can be facing in or out.  All these things are messages…loud and clear, if you’ve done your vocabulary homework.


Lop ears can’t do all the things that standy-up ears can, but the intention is there.  So watch a little more closely, especially near the base.


rabbit ears, rabbit communication, rabbit body language

 photo credit: bunny on Flickr

Context is everything…forward facing ears can mean happy excitement, or can be at full attention trying to figure out if that thing is a predator or not.  Ears headed back can mean relaxation or anger, depending upon degree.  Read gestures taking into account the full environment and prevailing mood.

relaxed rabbit, rabbit napping, chill rabbit, chilly bunny


When sleeping, asking for attention, or just sitting around watching the world go by, your rabbit’s ears are most likely pointed backward, folds facing out, in a relaxed way.  Not pulled back tightly, not flattened, just at rest.


rabbit communication, rabbit body language, rabbit ears, relaxed rabbit, resting rabbit


When up on hind legs checking out the window for the produce delivery, those ears are most likely straight up, moving around and taking in every sound. 


 rabbit body language, rabbit behavior, rabbit on hind legs, rabbit on back legs


If angry, the ears go through several phases.  You may see your rabbit’s ears head off toward the sides, and move steadily down as displeasure increases.  If the situation does not improve, those ears start moving back, behind the head.  Ohhh, you are in trouble now. Watch the way the folds change from facing out to facing down.  Uh oh.  If you get to the point where the ears are flattened against the head, you are most likely hearing some grunting, and we advise backing away with your hands in the air and heading out to buy your rabbit a make-up gift.


angry rabbit, mad rabbit, scary rabbit, rabbit charging, rabbit ready to bite


Fearful rabbit’s will also have ears pulled back and close to the head, so you’ve got to read the situation.

If your rabbit’s ears are doing different things (one is heading off to the side and one is up, for instance), your friend is possibly unhappy.  Something is going on, and it is worth checking into what may be wrong.  Is she not feeling well?  Is he in pain?  Just having a bad day?  Some rabbits have “helicopter ears” – ears going off in different directions, as if one side is standy-up and one not so much.  Of course, this is perfectly normal for Hellies – they are a special case, and too cute for words.  Those helicopter ears do not mean there is anything wrong at all – in fact, let’s just send a shout out to all the adorable Hellies!


helicopter ears, rabbit with helicopter ears, rabbit ears, rabbit body language, rabbit communication

 photo credit: rabbitrehome.org

Don’t you wish we could telegraph so much information with our ears?  Wouldn’t it be fun to give someone the ear?