What Does Rabbit Ear Position Mean?

Rabbits are cute and cuddly animals that make excellent pets for households of all shapes and sizes. They don’t take up much space, they don’t eat much, and they don’t bark or meow like dogs and cats. However, they have their own way of communicating with each other and their human friends. For example, they will sometimes move their ears when they want to convey a message. So, what is the bunny ear position? This is a great question! Here’s everything you need to know about what the position of your rabbit’s ears means.


Understanding the Relationship Between Ear Position and Behavior

Rabbits do use their ears to communicate, but they usually exhibit other behaviors at the same time. So, it’s a good idea to look for other behaviors your rabbit might display when you see a change in their ear position to verify if they’re actually communicating with you or if the change in ear position is superficial.

In addition to discussing what rabbit ear position means, we offer insight into other behaviors to look for when you notice that your rabbit ear position has changed.

Ears Pointing Outward

Rabbits with slightly erect ears that point outward are usually happy and feel confident in their surroundings. You may notice your rabbit lying down and relaxing in his favorite spot or lying near your feet with the front paws protruding from the body. They may also tuck all of their legs under their bodies and curl up like cats.

rabbit with ears pointing out

Ears Upright and Stiff

Rabbits that are startled or frightened by noise will make their ears bulge and stiffen them. When erect and rigid, the ear openings may point straight ahead or to the side to determine the source of the noise. When your rabbit is kept alert and their ears are stiff and erect, they may stand on their hind legs and look around or stand still on all fours until the source of the noise is determined and the threat has passed.

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Ears Tilt Forward

Curious but cautious rabbits will usually lean their ears forward, above their heads. They can do this when investigating new toys in their habitat or new objects in the house while they are exploring. This position of the ears doesn’t mean that your rabbit is scared, but it does mean that they are careful during their investigation. In addition to their forward slanting ears, a curious and cautious rabbit will usually sniff aggressively, which makes his nose look like it’s shivering. Rabbits may slow down a bit and turn to new toys or objects as if sneaking up on them.

rabbit with ears tilted forward

Ears Tilt Back

Sometimes, rabbits become angry and aggressive. A rabbit may get angry when another rabbit tries to eat the food they eat or the toys they chew. They can also become aggressive when humans scare or overwhelm them with overhandling. No matter the reason for anger or aggression, rabbits will tell anyone around them of their displeasure by pointing their ears back, lifting their tails up, and sticking their chins out slightly in preparation for a bite.

Ears Lying Together Behind

If rabbits are relaxed and want to rest, they will sometimes put their ears back along their back. The ears will be close to each other and look weak. Unlike when a happy bunny’s ears are pointing outward, rabbits with ears pressed together are relaxed and ready to conserve their energy by relaxing or taking a nap. Therefore, you will almost always catch your rabbit lying down when its ears are in this position.

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rabbit in the hole

Separate Ears Along the Back

The obedient rabbit will lie on the ground with its legs under it and spread its ears while resting it along its back. The ears will be stiff instead of relaxed, and so will the body. This type of communication can occur when a rabbit is introduced to a new habitat where one or more other rabbits have formed or when constructing a hierarchy with siblings as they age.

One ear goes up when one goes down

If you notice that your rabbit has one ear on top and the other on the bottom, they may just be curious about the sounds going on around them. The upright year can be turned in different directions to determine which direction the sound is coming from. Their bodies should be relaxed and calm during this time because they are not startled or frightened. They just want to know the sound they heard and where it came from.

rabbit with one ear up

Vibrating Ears

When your rabbit wiggles its ears and moves it from side to side, it can mean a variety of different things, so care should be taken to determine the exact cause of this type of ear behavior. One of the reasons rabbits wiggle their ears is itching. When the ears itch, the rabbit will quickly wiggle its ears several times in a row. They may follow this behavior by scratching their feet or rolling on the ground.

Another reason rabbits may shake their ears is because they want to be left alone. This most often occurs when a person moves toward a rabbit when the rabbit is unwilling to interact for some reason. When humans approach, rabbits will quickly wiggle their ears and move away.

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Lastly, vibrating ears can indicate that your rabbit is very excited and happy. The shaking of the ears will be accompanied by a movement called a mini binky, in which the rabbit twists its body while jumping.


Some Final Thoughts

Now that you know more about what rabbit ear positions mean, you should be able to communicate more effectively with your pet rabbit over time. However, keep in mind that all rabbits are different, and the position of their ears may vary slightly depending on things like their age and breed. So it’s important to pay attention to all the body language that comes with a change in ear position. What ear position does your rabbit display the most?

Featured Image Credit: Pexels, Pixabay