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Are Rabbits Rodents? What Does Science Say

Grant Piper

By Grant Piper

white brown Holland lop rabbit

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Dr. Luqman Javed

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Rabbits are adorable and popular pets that are beloved by people all over the world. Humans have been raising and interacting with rabbits for thousands of years. One question that often arises is whether rabbits are rodents. At first glance and at first ask, many people are quick to say yes. But it is not as simple as that.

Rabbits and rodents are two groups of animals that are frequently confused due to their similar appearance and behaviors. However, there are distinct differences between the two groups, both in terms of their physical characteristics and their evolutionary history. Today, rabbits are not scientifically considered to be true rodents and instead are classified as lagomorphs. Here is everything you need to know about the difference between lagomorphs and rodents.


An Overview of Animal Taxonomy

In animal taxonomy, all animals are grouped into categories or ranks known as taxa, based on their characteristics. These taxa start as generally broad and narrow down until a species or subspecies is identified.

The main taxa (in order) are:

Taxa List
  • Domain
  • Kingdom
  • Phylum
  • Class
  • Order
  • Family
  • Genus
  • Species

Lagomorphs, Not Rodents

close up cute netherland dwarf rabbit in lawn
Image Credit: CART00N, Shutterstock

Rabbits belong to the order Lagomorpha which includes two families: Leporidae (hares and rabbits) and Ochotonidae (pikas). Lagomorph is derived from the ancient Greek words lagoswhich means hare and morphē, which means form. That means that rabbits are considered different from rodents.

Rodents form an order called Rodentia. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some similarities between these two orders. Both are made up of small furry mammals with continuously growing incisor teeth. But there are also a number of key differences that make them distinct from each other.

Differences Between Rabbits & Rodents

There are two key differences between rabbits and rodents that caused scientists to split rabbits away from the rodent family.


Rodents, like mice and rats, have just two incisors in their upper jaw, and 2 on their lower jaw.Rabbits have four incisors in their upper jaw rather than two. Two of these are known as auxiliary or peg incisors and grow just behind the incisors. On the lower jaw, rabbits have 2 additional incisors. This means that in total, rabbits have 6 incisors (4 regular and 2 auxiliary/peg) whereas rodents just have 4 incisors total.

These extra teeth are designed to help rabbits tear through leafy green foods more efficiently than other rodents. This is also connected to the second key difference, which has to do with a rabbit’s diet and digestive system.

rabbit and rodent teeth
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Obligate Herbivores

Rabbits are obligate herbivores. That means that they can only eat plants, primarily leafy greens. Rabbits have a special digestive tract that makes it so they cannot eat anything else. Eating other things that are common for rodents can cause lethal bloat in rabbits.

True rodents have more diverse diets. Animals like rats and mice can eat a large variety of different things. Rats, for example, are omnivores and can eat everything from seeds to greens and even small quantities of meat.


The 3 Reasons Many People Do Believe Rabbits Are Rodents

Despite the differences, people have long thought, and still think, that rabbits are rodents. If you are one of these people, don’t worry. There are good reasons why people believe that rabbits are rodents.

1. Appearance

One of the biggest reasons that people think that rabbits are rodents is because rabbits look like rodents. From their eyes to their ears and their twitchy noses, rabbits have many of the hallmarks of a rodent. But appearance is not everything. The difference between rabbits and other rodents lies in things that people cannot see at first glance.

2. Behavior

Rabbits also exhibit very similar natural behaviors to true rodents. They have twitchy noses and skittish personalities. They also live in very similar environments, including grassy fields, forests, and residential areas. Rodents and rabbits are also sold as pets, often in the same section of the store. Sometimes rabbits are erroneously identified as rodents by breeders, pet stores, and even veterinarians. So, the confusion is well warranted.

White hotot rabbit in the hutch on dry grass
Image Credit: Sindii, Shutterstock

3. History

The other reason that people believe that rabbits are rodents is that for large portions of history, they were considered to be rodents. The family Leporidae, which includes rabbits and hares, was not split off from the rodent tree until 1912. This split was agreed upon by scientists because of some of the intrinsic differences between rabbits and other rodents. Up until 1912, rabbits were considered to be rodents. That means if you thought that rabbits were rodents, you aren’t technically wrong. You are just out of date.



Rabbits might not be rodents, but they are extremely similar. Rabbits are defined by a herbivorous digestive system and different dentition, which distinguishes them from true rodents. Rabbits were long considered to be rodents, and it wasn’t until new research in the early 20th century led scientists to reclassify rabbits as lagomorphs rather than rodents.

Featured Image Credit: monofly, Shutterstock

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