Why Do Rabbits Stand On Their Hind Legs?

Categorized as Bunny Facts Tagged

Last Updated on July 29, 2022 by Rei Garnet

Wild rabbits stand on their hind legs in order to familiarize themselves with their environment and give their senses an extra boost to spot potential danger from predators.

Wild rabbits also stand on their hind legs whenever they want to fight. This is called “the boxing behavior.” Rabbits use this to intimidate rival rabbits who enter their territory.

While pet rabbits stand on their hind legs because they’re curious about a new smell.

Pet rabbits will also frequently stand on their hind legs whenever they want something from their owners—usually some food or treats.

Now that I’ve told you the gist of the article, read on as I explain in more detail why rabbits stand on their hind legs:

Common reasons why rabbits stand on its hind legs.

Rabbits that are standing on their hind legs are one of the cutest things rabbits do. But, it could also mean different things depending on the situation.

Here are the most common reasons why your rabbit is standing on its hind legs:

1. Your rabbit is familiarizing itself with the surroundings.

A wild rabbit standing on it's hindlegs familiarizing itself with it's surrounding.

Rabbits stand on their hind legs to familiarize themselves with their surroundings. Although rabbits already have excellent senses, standing on their hind legs gives them an extra boost.

This helps them gauge the area better if there are any predators around, helping them decide whether or not to flee their territory or the place they’re currently grazing:

2. Your rabbit is looking for predators.

A wild rabbit standing on its hind legs looking if there are any predators before eating.

Rabbits standing on their hind legs give their senses an extra boost to map out the area they’re currently grazing. With this behavior of standing on their hind legs, plus their incredible sense of smell and hearing, rabbits can detect a predator from almost any direction.

This gives the rabbit an advantage of being able to quickly and effectively flee at the first sign of danger.

3. Your rabbit is exhibiting “the boxing behavior”.

Two rabbits exhibiting the boxing behavior and fighting.
“Boxing” by Nic Relton

The rabbit’s boxing behavior is when a rabbit stands on its hind legs while its front paws scratch or dig into its opponent. They often do this when they want to intimidate a rival rabbit who has entered their territory.

What they’re basically conveying through this behavior is “Back off or I’ll fight you!”.

Here’s an example of two wild rabbits fighting using “the boxing behavior”:

Pet rabbits, usually do this behavior if they’re frustrated or something is on their way and they want you to move.

In my experience, my rabbits would exhibit this behavior when I’m blocking their way to someplace they wanted to be.

Make sure that your rabbit’s claws are not sharp when they’re prone to doing “the boxing behavior” because it can injure you.

4. Your rabbit is saying, “Hello, notice me.”

A rabbit standing in its hindlegs to get the attention of its owner or to reach the food its owner is giving him.

Pet rabbits also stand on their hind legs whenever they want something from their owners. You can tell that your rabbit wants something from you when its ears are facing upward while standing.

This means that your rabbit is happy as well as curious.

This behavior often happens when their owner is sitting in a chair and the rabbit wants something, usually more food or pets.

5. Your rabbit is trying to reach something.

A white rabbit standing on their hind legs trying to reach something.
Source: Pomptidom, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Rabbits that were trying to reach something high would also stand on their hind legs. This often happens whenever a rabbit smells that a person is holding a treat in their hands.

They would often run towards that person and “beg” them to give them the treats in their hands.

This behavior is perfectly normal and is actually a good sign that your rabbit fully trusts you.

Rabbits would never go towards someone who they don’t trust, let alone stand on their hind legs where they are vulnerable.

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Summary

Wild rabbits stand on their hind legs because it boosts their senses and helps them familiarize themselves with the environment they’re currently staying in.

This helps them detect any potential predators and flee on the first sign of danger.

As for pet rabbits, they usually exhibit this behavior whenever they want something from their owners. They also do this behavior whenever they are curious about a new smell.

Another reason why rabbits stand on their hind legs is what’s called “the boxing behavior.” This behavior is used by rabbits to intimidate rival rabbits who enter their territory.

But pet rabbits will also do the boxing behavior whenever something or someone is blocking their way. Be careful with rabbits that have sharp nails because the boxing behavior could cause injuries.

If your rabbit is prone to doing “the boxing behavior”, make sure that its nails are clipped regularly.

Cite this article:

Bunny Horde (September 14, 2022) Why Do Rabbits Stand On Their Hind Legs?. Retrieved from https://bunnyhorde.com/why-do-rabbits-stand-on-their-hind-legs/.
"Why Do Rabbits Stand On Their Hind Legs?." Bunny Horde - September 14, 2022, https://bunnyhorde.com/why-do-rabbits-stand-on-their-hind-legs/

Sources and further reading

  • Buseth, Marit Emilie., and Richard A. Saunders. Rabbit Behaviour, Health, and Care. CABI, 2014.
  • Lebas, F. The Rabbit: Husbandry, Health, and Production. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 1997.
  • Patry, Karen, et al. The Rabbit-Raising Problem Solver: Your Questions Answered about Housing, Feeding, Behavior, Health Care, Breeding, and Kindling. Storey Publishing, 2014.
  • Rabbits: From the Animal’s Point of View.
  • HOUSE RABBIT BEHAVIOR

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By Rei Garnet

I’ve loved and cared for rabbits since I was 9 years old, and I’m here to share my passion for rabbits. My objective is to help rabbit owners give their rabbits the best life possible.