How Intelligent are Domestic Pet Rabbits?

Rabbits are prey animals and are rarely considered to be smart, but this reputation is not entirely fair. Your pet rabbit is far more intelligent than you might think.

Rabbits are clever animals. They can be taught a range of commands and tricks if rewarded with treats. Rabbits are strong-minded and dominant, and will not do anything they don’t want to.

This intelligence can be a blessing and a curse for rabbits. Being clever means that rabbits can also become bored. Your rabbit must be constantly stimulated, intellectually, and physically.

Are Rabbits Intelligent?

Rabbits are considerably smarter than they are given credit for. Bunnies are capable of using logic to solve problems, and can be taught tricks. They’ll also learn a range of human words. This makes them great companion pets.

This intelligence means that rabbits need to have their minds exercised. Just locking a bunny in a hutch and leaving them to their own devices will never end well. They’ll become withdrawn, depressed, and destructive.

Fill your rabbit’s hutch with toys and games to keep them occupied. These diversions should also be varied and replaced regularly. Your bunny will continuously be seeking a new experience.

Rabbits learn through repetition. Given enough time and encouragement, they’ll learn and discover patterns in sound and vision. It’s believed that rabbits can count too, at least in small quantities.

Unfortunately, a rabbit’s intelligence does not always manifest in self-preservation. Despite being prey animals, bunnies can make some questionable choices. Their curiosity and thirst for adventure often get them in trouble.

Your rabbit must be watched at all times. Their instinct is to investigate anything they come into contact with. This could include chewing on electrical cables, or jumping from unsafe heights.

These actions do not make your rabbit dull-witted. They just get wrapped up in the excitement of a new escapade. Keep your pet safe, without smothering their spirit.

Are Rabbits as Smart as Cats and Dogs?

The intelligence of a rabbit is comparable to that of a cat or dog. Bunnies know what they want, and how to ask for it. If you don’t meet their requests, a rabbit will take matters into their own hands.

Just like a cat or dog, you can converse with your rabbit. Obviously, they can’t answer back. They will, however, understand what you’re saying and respond in kind. Rabbit body language is fascinating. Learn it well to strengthen your bond.

The dynamic between bunny and human is closer to a cat than a dog. While a well-treated rabbit loves its owner, they won’t consider you their master. Your bunny will do things on their terms.

Overall, rabbits love to be the center of attention in any family. They notice, and become jealous, if somebody else gets more attention than them.

Are Domestic Rabbits More Intelligent Than Wild Rabbits?

Wild and pet rabbits are equally intelligent, but in different ways. This comparison is similar to how humans are described as, “book smart” or “street smart.”

When it comes to survival, a wild rabbit is much more intelligent than a domesticated pet. The explanation for this is simple. While survival instinct remains ingrained in domesticated bunnies, they need to use it less often.

A rabbit in the wild will be in danger from the moment they’re born. These means they quickly need to develop cunning. They’ll be constantly aware of what’s around them, and react accordingly.

Domesticated rabbits, meanwhile, are born into relative comfort. They’ll be provided with food, warmth, and shelter. This is why pet rabbits do not last long in the wild. They’ll move around without a care in the world, feeding at will.

On the flipside, domesticated rabbits can appeal to human sensibilities far more. Spending time with human families helps a rabbit learn specific commands and behaviors.

Bring a wild rabbit home and they won’t understand a word you say. They won’t respond to litter training, or take to any tricks. These behaviors just do not register as necessary for a wild bunny.

Each variation of a rabbit is smart enough to get what they need. Domesticated rabbits just manipulate humans into providing it.

What is the Smartest Breed of Rabbit?

This is something of a loaded question. Owners of any particular breed will claim that their rabbit is the most intelligent. Every bunny is also unique, regardless of their genetic make-up.

Popular opinion does claim that some breeds are smarter than others, though. For example, Mother Nature Network describes the Belgian Hare as the smartest domesticated rabbit.

The Harlequin Rabbit is also frequently described as among the most intelligent lagomorphs. This is mostly due to this breed’s playful and fun-loving nature. They’ll gleefully learn tricks if it means they’ll be the center of attention.

The Mini Lop is another smart breed that requires constant intellectual stimulation. This is arguably why these tiny bunnies are such popular family pets. They are always willing to interact with humans, and learn new play styles.

Does My Rabbit Understand Human Words?

Rabbits understand several human words and commands. Once they hear it enough, a rabbit will learn their name. They will also gain an understanding of words like, “bedtime” and, “dinner.”

As with all domesticated animals, the tone of your voice is more important than the word. Rabbits will quickly learn that high-pitched verbalizations are positive. Use this tone when you want something from your rabbit.

Always deliver commands like, “come here” and “jump up” in a cheerful, high-pitched tone. This will make your bunny far more willing to oblige.

If your rabbit is anxious, use a lower but soothing tone of voice. A command like, “it’s OK,” delivered in this tone, will calm a bunny down. They’ll grow to trust you, and assume that you’ll protect them.

smartest breed of rabbit

Low, firm tones should be used as a short, sharp shock. Utilize a basic word like, “no.” This will distract your rabbit. It may even save their life if they’re doing something dangerous. Chewing electrical cables is a popular example.

Use the, “no” command sparingly. As the old saying goes, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Rabbits will always respond better to positive reinforcement than negative correction.

Are Rabbits Clever Enough to be Trained?

Rabbits can be trained to complete basic tasks and tricks. They’ll understand certain commands. Also, they’ll pick up particular behaviors through repetition.

Litter training is an excellent example of this. A wild rabbit will never have used a litter tray. Likewise, when they’re born, domesticated bunnies don’t have a natural instinct to eliminate in a tray.

Despite this, rabbits are innately clean animals. They’ll usually find a preferred corner of their hutch to pee in, and stick with it. This will usually be on the other side of their hutch to their food.

If a litter tray is placed in the corner, the rabbit will start to make associations. They’ll soon come to realize that this tray is for elimination, and pee in there. If the tray is moved after a prolonged period of time, the rabbit will seek it out.

There are limits to a rabbit’s intelligence. They may realize that their tray is for pee, but they’ll still often sleep in it. This is because they find the litter comfortable. Clean their tray regularly, for your pet’s own sake.

There is more to a rabbit’s repertoire than just litter training, too. Bunnies can be taught to play ball games, jump through hoops, and beg for treats. You just need to ensure they get something out of it. Rabbits will not live for your amusement.

There is one caveat of training rabbits, though. It’s best to wait until they’re six months old before starting. Baby bunnies are adorable, but their attention spans are measured in microseconds. This can lead to frustration, which helps nobody.

My Rabbit Never Does What I Ask of Them

It’s entirely possible that your rabbit doesn’t follow your instructions. Refer back to our litter tray example. Some bunnies will refuse to use this facility, and continue to pee with abandon.

This doesn’t mean that your rabbit lacks the intelligence for training. What’s more likely is that you haven’t made it worth their while.

Rabbits are similar to cats in this regard. They hear everything, but do not feel compelled to pay attention. They’re likelier to respond positively if you offer a treat.

You’ll also need to earn your rabbit’s affection before they’ll respond to you. Rabbits are territorial and dominant. They always like to feel in charge of a situation. It takes time to gain enough respect from a rabbit to give them orders.

The best time to train a rabbit is immediately after they groom you. This is subservient bunny behavior, suggesting the rabbit considers you the alpha. Try to train them while they’re in such a giving frame of mind.

Never attempt to reverse these roles. If you’re petting your rabbit, that’s the natural order of things in their mind. The bunny feels they’re calling the shots, and you’re yielding to their every wish.

There’s rarely an issue with a rabbit feeling dominant. Just don’t try to give them orders at that moment. If they were capable of doing so, they’d laugh in your face.

How Can I Test My Rabbit’s Intelligence?

There are games that you can play that will test your rabbit’s IQ. This is advisable. It will keep your rabbit entertained, while also strengthening your bond. A mentally busy bunny is a happy bunny.

The best way to test a rabbit’s intellectual mettle is to make them work for treats. Bunnies are food-focused, so they’ll keep going if there’s the promise of an appropriate reward.

A pet store with a dedicated rabbit aisle will sell such games. You can make your own, though.

  1. Obtain three light plastic containers of different colors or patterns. These should be light enough in weight for your rabbit to flip over.
  2. Remove your bunny from their hutch for a moment. Place a raisin, or a piece of fresh vegetable, under one of the containers. Put all three containers in your rabbit’s hutch.
  3. Return your rabbit to their hutch. They’ll be immediately intrigued by these three new arrivals. They’ll investigate, and smell the food.
  4. Your rabbit will naturally try to get to the treat. They’ll dig, push and bite at the containers.
  5. If your rabbit knocks over the container that doesn’t contain the treat, give them a cuddle. Return the container to its standing position, and return your rabbit to their hutch.
  6. Watch them go again. You’ll likely find that they approach a different container. Eventually, they’ll find the container with the treat and earn their reward.
  7. Repeat the game the following day, with the treat under the same container. Eventually, you’ll start to notice that your rabbit always approaches the same color or pattern. They have learned that this container holds the food.

This is just one, basic example of a rabbit IQ test. There are a wide variety of ways that you can challenge your pets. Bunnyhugga lists some great examples. Always ensure that it’s worth their while and your pet receives a reward.

Rabbits are intelligent pets, within reason. Curiosity sometimes overpowers their sense of self-preservation, so they must be watched. Overall, rabbits are as bright as they are entertaining.

This means that a rabbit will become part of your family. Talk to them, and interact with them, just as you would a cat or dog. Your bunny will respond to this, and it will strengthen your bond.

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. "How Intelligent are Domestic Pet Rabbits?" Rabbit Care Tips, (July 13, 2021),

APA Style: Carter, L. (July 13, 2021). How Intelligent are Domestic Pet Rabbits?. Rabbit Care Tips. Retrieved July 13, 2021, from

1 thought on “How Intelligent are Domestic Pet Rabbits?”

  1. I have a 3 yr old New Zealand Giant who’s extremely intelligent. She lives in an enclosed pen in the backyard. She has a house inside her pen, but she prefers digging tunnels to sleep in. One day I went out to check on her and she came running out of her tunnel with her metal food bowl in her mouth and the bowl was filled with dirt. She was actually using her food bowl as a tool to dig her tunnel. She tilted her head, dumped the dirt, and went back in her tunnel. She continued to repeat this for a long time. I was amazed she figured this out on her own.


Leave a Comment