From plush toys and souvenirs to garment designs and candies, it’s clear to see that a lot of people find rabbits cute.
But, as unfortunate as it sounds, this cuteness doesn’t come without a price.
Along with the ability to captivate people’s hearts, rabbits’ adorable physique also attracts a lot of predators.
This springs the need for the ability to run as fast as they can. But just how fast can a rabbit run? Let’s find out…
How fast can a rabbit run?
Different breeds of rabbits can run at different top speeds. The fastest among them is the Jackrabbit (Hare), reaching up to 45 mph. European and domestic rabbits come in second, running at speeds up to 35 mph. Cottontail rabbits can run up to 30 mph, while the slowest are the snowshoe rabbits with top running speeds of only up to 27 mph.
As a kid, you’ve probably heard of the fable “The Tortoise and the Hare, “ and as far as endings are concerned, the tortoise won.
But don’t let this fool you!
Hares are incredibly fast. And despite being larger than rabbits, hares still fall under the same family as rabbits.
Jackrabbits, in particular, have been praised to be the fastest species of hare.
Equipped with massive legs, jackrabbits can run up to 45 mph and can jump as high as 10 feet in a single leap.
Now, that is impressive.
Also known as coneys, European rabbits usually sport greyish-brown coats and are native to southwestern Europe and northwest Africa.
When it comes to speed, Coneys do not hesitate!
They can run at speeds up to 35 mph and given their lighter and smaller build, they are known to be more agile as well.
As their name suggests, domestic rabbits are raised in homes and are kept as pets.
But what most people don’t know is that they actually come from a wild European rabbit descent.
This resulted in the emergence of different breeds from a common genetic strand.
Whether their genealogy may have influenced certain traits or not, domestic rabbits can very well run as fast as European rabbits at speeds reaching 35 mph.
However, being at their respective homes almost all the time, domestic rabbits rarely feel the need to escape predators. The closest they most likely want to escape from is their owner’s grasps.
For this reason, domestic rabbits don’t usually reach their top speed when running.
With 20 different species under its name, it’s probably safe to say that cottontail rabbits are a common breed.
And as you’ve probably guessed by the name, their tails resemble that of cotton—white and fluffy.
Cottontail rabbits can run as fast as 30 mph and are smaller than the rabbits previously mentioned.
But since they tend to run in zig-zag motions, they don’t usually reach their top running speed as well.
Snowshoe rabbits are named after their furry, large feet, and snow-white coat—which weirdly changes to brown in the spring.
True to their name, snowshoe rabbits perform best in the snow. With snowboard-like hind feet, they can spread their feet evenly and stay on top of numerous layers of snow.
But compared to the rabbit breeds mentioned above, snowshoe rabbits run the slowest with speeds reaching only as fast as 27 mph.
How do rabbits run so fast?
Much of a rabbit’s speed is credited to its powerful hind legs and long feet. It also helps that their muscles have been refined by evolution, allowing for very agile movements.
Similar to human muscles, rabbit muscles are also made of muscle fibers. There are the slow-twitch muscle fibers for stamina and endurance and the fast-twitch muscle fibers for acceleration and speed.
The difference lies in the proportions of these two muscle fibers present in the body, and the kind of fast-twitch muscle fibers rabbits have.
Rabbit muscles exhibit 45-54% more fast-twitch muscle fibers than slow-twitch muscle fibers as stated by a Canadian zoological study. This high proportion of fast-twitch muscles allow rabbits to sprint as quickly as they do.
But that’s not all. The kind of fast-twitch muscle fibers that rabbits have are also far from the average.
Rabbits have fast-twitch glycolytic fibers, the fastest type of fast-twitch muscle. This muscle fiber type can burn energy faster since they draw energy from glucose rather than oxygen.
With higher proportions of the fastest kind of fast-twitch muscle fiber, it’s no wonder how rabbits can move quicker and run at higher speeds.
Rabbits are not only fast, they are also agile. And for this, their size deserves the credit too.
As a prey species, a rabbit’s small size serves it well in escaping and hiding. It makes them difficult to be captured.
Being small also enables rabbits to run faster. Small size equals less weight, so less power and time are needed for rabbits to sprint and accelerate.
Faced with so many environmental threats throughout their lifetime, it’s only logical for rabbits to have developed skills to adapt, survive, and thrive.
One of these is the ability to reach their top speeds in a very short amount of time.
Rabbits don’t need a lot of time to accelerate. This speedy acceleration plays a huge role in rabbits’ ability to outrun their predators and disappear out of sight in a matter of seconds.
Another impressive skill that rabbits have mastered is the ability to make sharp turns—running in zig-zag motions—without slowing down and losing momentum.
This is truly impressive as most animals, including humans, fail to successfully execute this.
Frequently Asked Questions About Rabbit Speed
How do I measure my rabbit’s speed?
You can measure your rabbit’s speed by using distance markers, and a stopwatch to time your rabbit running until it crosses the distance marker. Alternatively, you can also take a video of your rabbit running, stitch together the time it took for it to move from one area to another, and calculate the distance ran.
How long can a rabbit run at top speed?
Rabbits can’t sustain running at top speeds for a very long time since the majority of their muscles are made up of fast-twitch muscle fibers—beneficial for sprinting, but not for continuous running. Rabbits are very agile, but they can only run fast enough to escape and hide from their predators.