What Does Rabbit Honking Mean? (Running, Circling, and Grunting)

Rabbits are quiet pets, but they produce a small number of sounds. A common noise from pet rabbits is honking. Honking, which sounds similar to grunting, could occur at any time. Your rabbit may be running in circles or standing still while honking.

Unneutered males honk when they wish to mate. This will be accompanied by circling another rabbit. Fixed male and female rabbits also honk. This is usually an expression of excitement or pleasure. Some rabbits honk to gain attention from an owner.

Learn the sound of a rabbit’s honk well. You will need to tell the difference between honking and grunting. While honking usually denotes happiness, grunting is the opposite.

What Does Honking in Rabbits Sound Like?

Honking is not loud, like a goose’s honk. A honking rabbit sounds like fingers rubbed against a balloon. It’s a soft sound, somewhere between a grunt, squeak, and snuffle. Rabbit honking could be compared to a pig’s oink.

Why is My Rabbit Honking?

Honking in rabbits has different meanings. Some of the most common explanations are as follows:

  • The rabbit wishes to mate
  • The rabbit is looking for attention
  • The rabbit is excited
  • The rabbit is enjoying an activity

The sex of your rabbit will influence honking behavior.

Male Rabbit Honking

An unfixed male rabbit that honks is usually showing interest in mating. The honking will often be accompanied by circling.

As explained by the journal Reproduction, testosterone levels in male rabbits rarely vary. A male rabbit constantly honking is looking to mate regularly.

Rabbits do not just mate for pleasure. They are driven by an instinctive urge to reproduce. This is a survival technique. Rabbits know that they are prey animals. The more babies are born, the likelier the species is to survive.

Your male rabbit may honk at other rabbits. They do not have to be female. The male will still be driven by instinct. He may attempt to mount fellow males. This is a display of dominance caused by testosterone.

Get a male rabbit neutered. Unfixed male rabbits grow frustrated and destructive. This will make your pet difficult to live with. Also, the rabbit will be uncomfortable.

If your male rabbit has been neutered, wait six weeks. This is how long it takes for your pet’s body to adjust. If he continues honking after this period, the behavior is not sexual. Your rabbit is looking for attention or expressing delight.

Female Rabbit Honking

In female rabbits, honking is rarely linked to sexual activity. Instead, it’s often an expression of pleasure. Your rabbit may honk while being petted, for example. Honking often leads to purring. Just be mindful that your rabbit is not grunting. This suggests that she is growing overstimulated.

Female rabbits also honk in anticipation. Your pet may be excited to see you. She may be looking forward to her dinner. She could be feeling cooped up and is excited about an impending playtime. These are all positive instances of rabbit honking.

It is common for a rabbit to honk softly to herself while exercising, playing, or exploring. This is nothing to worry about. Think of this honk as your rabbit laughing. She is happy and enjoying herself.

It’s also possible that your rabbit is honking for attention. If your pet circles your feet and honks, get down to her level. If you respond at this stage, she will not resort to nipping and biting.

What’s The Difference Between Rabbit Honking and Grunting?

There is a thin line between honking and grunting. These verbalizations sound similar, but have different meanings. Honking denotes fun and pleasure. Grunting is an expression of distaste or disgust. If accompanied by a hiss or growl, the rabbit is wholly displeased.

Listen out for a change in tone. Your rabbit may honk while exercising and hopping. If this grows louder when you attempt to pick her up, it becomes a grunt. The rabbit is asking to be left alone.

Your rabbit will also use body language to express her feelings. A honk followed by any of the following actions is a grunt of displeasure.

  • Nipping and biting
  • Turning her back on you
  • Folding ears down
  • Folding ears over eyes

In these instances, your rabbit is offended. You should make peace by offering a treat.

Why is My Rabbit Grunting at Me?

It can be easy to inadvertently offend a rabbit. Pets do not always understand that we are doing something nice for them.

This makes it important to understand the difference between honking and grunting. Do not mistake an expulsion of anger for a demonstration of pleasure.

The table below explains what a rabbit sometimes thinks when we undertake a basic activity.

Human IntentionRabbit Interpretation
Cleaning a rabbit’s hutchInvading a rabbit’s territory
Confiscating a toxic edible item or moldy foodTaking away a snack
Removing access to dangerous items
(e.g. electrical cables)
Depriving a rabbit of her favorite toy
Returning a rabbit to her hutch for her own safetyCutting playtime short and banishing a rabbit from a social occasion
Showing equal affection to all pets in the homeShowing favoritism to another animal
Picking up and cuddling a rabbit to show loveAttempting to subdue and eat a rabbit
Treating a rabbit as a beloved petTreating a rabbit as a subordinate. Rabbits consider themselves our equals, if not superiors.

Rabbit Honking at Another Rabbit

Rabbits are honking at each other for several reasons. You’ll need to assess which is most likely. Potential explanations include:

  • A desire to mate
  • No interest in mating, or even being approached
  • Attempting to gain attention and encourage play
  • Happiness to be in the company of a friend
  • Unhappiness with another rabbit’s actions

If you want your rabbits to get along, you must learn to understand these behaviors.

Do My Rabbits Want to Mate?

If either rabbit is unfixed, mating instincts are the likeliest cause. Male rabbits will always be looking to mate. The honk is an announcement of this intention.

An unfixed female may already be pregnant. If this is the case, she will not welcome any male attention. Pregnant rabbits are cranky and solitary. Unspayed female rabbits can also experience phantom pregnancies.

The only way to avoid these behaviors is to spay and neuter your rabbits. No two rabbits will bond until this procedure is completed.

Are My Rabbits Playing or Arguing?

Honking among two rabbits is fine. It means that they are enjoying each other’s company. Grunting is a warning sign. One of the rabbits is annoying the other. The animals should be separated before a fight breaks out. If rabbits honk around any of the following behaviors, separate them:

  • Mounting
  • Chasing
  • Nipping
  • Eating
  • Thumping the back feet
  • Lunging

When rabbits fight, it can damage a bond. Bonded rabbits often apologize after falling out, but the damage may be permanent. It’s better to prevent a disagreement from turning physical.

Rabbit is Honking at Me

If your rabbit honks at you, she wants your attention. Often, this is for petting or grooming. This seems superficial, but it’s vital to your rabbit. Your pet uses petting and grooming to establish social standing.

Never ignore a rabbit that honks for attention. Your rabbit may be offended by your lack of response. If she thinks you did not hear, she will nip and bite. This is undesirable behavior.

An unfixed male rabbit may honk at you to denote a mating desire. The rabbit wants to release his tension. He has testosterone flooding his body and needs to direct it somewhere.

Do not allow your rabbit to hump your leg. It may offer him short-term relief, but not for long. In addition, this tells a rabbit that he is dominant over you. This will make your rabbit unwilling to follow commands or accept training. Arrange neutering ASAP.

rabbit honking and circling

Rabbit is Honking When Running

This is usually an expression of happiness. Rabbits do not enjoy being cooped up in a hutch. If your pet gets limited exercise, she’ll make the most of it. The opportunity to stretch legs and run is pure joy for most rabbits.

A rabbit circling your feet and honking is happy to see you. She wants your attention, and it’s best to oblige. Get down to your rabbit’s level and interact. Your pet will be delighted. If it’s a scheduled mealtime, this could also be a reminder from your rabbit.

Keep an eye on honking while running if it starts when you approach. This could be an unhappy grunt. Your rabbit may be worried that you are going to end her exercise. Stand back and see if the honking stops. If so, leave for a few minutes before approaching again.

Rabbit is Honking and Circling

Circling and honking are intrinsically linked to the male urge to mate. If your rabbits are not spayed and neutered, separate them at the first sign of this behavior.

This behavior needs to watched carefully in fixed rabbits too. Bonded rabbits observe a strict hierarchy. One pet will be a dominant partner, and the other submissive. These roles are assigned by mounting.

When one rabbit has asserted dominance, it will mount a partner without resistance. Most rabbits contently co-exist according to this status quo. Every now and again, a submissive rabbit may challenge for dominance.

Circling is a crucial part of this ritual. The rabbits are sizing each other up, deciding when to attempt to mount. They will begin honking as the tension and excitement begin to mount.

Circling can be critical to bonding. It should not immediately be stopped. Watch for any unsavory activity, though. Separate the rabbits if you see attempted biting, especially to the face, tail, or genitals.

If you are concerned by circling, dab peanut butter on each rabbit’s forehead. The animals will quickly forget any rivalry when they smell this treat. Licking the peanut butter will quickly turn to mutual grooming.

Rabbit is Honking while Eating

Honking is common behavior in rabbits while eating. As the journal Ethology explains, rabbits inherit favorite foods. If your pet is enjoying a beloved snack, she will honk with pleasure. Many rabbits also honk in anticipation when they smell food.

If you notice that particular foods elicit honking, feed them more often. This is especially important with hay. Your rabbit may prefer one brand of hay over another. Some rabbits also honk when presented with pellets.

In most cases, honking while eating denotes pure happiness. As always, though, it could also be a grunt. Keep an eye on your rabbit, especially if she shares a hutch.

This honking may be a warning to another rabbit. Your pet is warning her companion not to eat until permission has been granted. With a dominant and submissive dynamic, the dominant pet invariably eats first.

Most submissive rabbits accept this and will wait for their turn. If the rabbit is not being permitted to eat, you must step in. Feed the rabbits separately, out of sight of each other. No rabbit can be allowed to go hungry.

Lou Carter

I’ve loved rabbits for as long as I can remember, so it felt natural to share my passion for lagomorphs with a much wider audience. My objective is to help owners to keep their pet rabbits happy and healthy.

Cite this article:

MLA Style: Carter, Lou. "What Does Rabbit Honking Mean? (Running, Circling, and Grunting)" Rabbit Care Tips, (August 11, 2022), https://www.rabbitcaretips.com/rabbit-honking-meaning/.

APA Style: Carter, L. (August 11, 2022). What Does Rabbit Honking Mean? (Running, Circling, and Grunting). Rabbit Care Tips. Retrieved August 11, 2022, from https://www.rabbitcaretips.com/rabbit-honking-meaning/

Leave a Comment