If you would have asked the question “are rabbits rodents?” before 1912, then you would have been given a resounding “yes” as your answer!
However, in 1912, rabbits were re-categorized. While they do share similar traits with rodents, there are a couple of differences that resulted in their classification being changed.
Are Rabbits Rodents?
Rabbits are not rodents, but perhaps the best way to talk about the classification of a rabbit is to understand what a rodent is.
Rodents have two continually growing incisors and are mammals. That is it. Most rodents are going to eat both plants and meat, although this is not really worked into the classification of what a rodent actually is.
Common domestic animals that come under the ‘rodent’ classification include rats, mice, hamsters, and guinea pigs.
Why Rabbits Are Not Rodents?
As mentioned previously; up until 1912, rabbits were classified as rodents. Scientists figured that rabbits had evolved in the same way as other rodents (i.e. a common rodent ancestor) and, therefore, bunnies were rodents.
We now know that this is not the case. In fact, rabbits are not really related to rodents at all. Well, beyond the fact that they are mammals.
Yes, there is a common ancestor thrown into the mix, but this is a common ancestor shared by all mammals.
Basically, rabbits are related as closely to primates as they are to rodents. Yes. We know this can seem confusing, because rabbits do look like other rodents, but there are some differences.
Differences Between Rabbits and Rodents
Remember what we said earlier about the incisors? Well, one of the main differences between rabbits and rodents is that a rabbit will have four incisors. They are still continuously growing, though.
That is a similarity. However, the four incisors fit the diet of a rabbit a bit better. This is because rabbits are strictly herbivores. This means that they are going to be eating a lot of grass and plant material.
Having four incisors placed in the way they are means that the rabbits are able to grind up their food a little bit better. Basically, they wouldn’t be able to graze anywhere near as well as they do if they only had two incisors like a rabbit!
There are also differences in the way in which the food is digested by a rabbit. In fact, the way in which a rabbit digests its food will be closer to the way in which a cow digests its food than other rodents.
There are also a few differences in the way in which the reproductive organs work. However, we are not going to get too technical on either of these aspects.
It is quite scientific, and it probably isn’t something that you are going to need to know too much about if you are keeping a rabbit as a pet.
If Rabbits are Not Rodents, What is a Rabbit Classed As?
Rabbits are classified as lagomorphs. This is the same as hares. In fact, to get a little bit more specific, rabbits are lagomorphs, which is further split down into two categories. You have Leporidae and Ochotonidae.
Rabbits, along with hares, fall into the Leporidae category. Rabbits fall under the Leporidae category for several different reasons.
Perhaps the main is the way in which their feet and legs are built. Rabbit feet are hairy, which provides them with a better grip when they are running.
In addition to this, there is a lot more power in the rabbit leg which allows them to jump and kick, which is going to be useful for all manner of different jobs out there in the wild.
Does This Influence Owning a Rabbit?
Probably not. Perhaps the only thing that you need to be aware of is what we mentioned earlier. This is the fact that rabbits have a special diet due to the way in which they digest their food. Rabbits are herbivores.
The way in which their legs work also means that they are going to need a lot of exercises. Remember; they can hop about, which means that if you do have them in an enclosed area, they need to be ‘closed’ in at the top (or have very high walls), or they are going to escape.