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Do Rabbits Blink? Vet-Approved Facts

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By Nicole Cosgrove

white American rabbit

Vet approved

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca

BVSc GPCert (Ophthal) MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Rabbits have large eyes but even if you think carefully, it’s unlikely you ever remember seeing a rabbit blink. This is because, while rabbits do blink, they only do so roughly 10 to 12 times every hour, rather than the 15 to 20 times a minute that humans blink. They have some unique features that make this possible, therefore negating the need to blink often.

Rabbits have three eyelids, four tear glands, and only one tear duct opening. Thanks to these unique characteristics, rabbits don’t need to blink very often and this has no effect on the health of their eyes.


Prey Animals

Rabbits are naturally prey animals that are hunted by everything from large birds to wild cats and even domestic animals. They have evolved to be very well-equipped to detect and evade predators. Their large ears give them sharp hearing while the positioning of their eyes means that they have virtually a 360° field of vision. They only breathe through their noses, which means that they can smell everything around them, including predators, even when they are eating.

Their large back feet are supplemented by hinged skulls that enable them to make lightning-fast getaways.

Mini Lop rabbit at home
Image Credit: FiledIMAGE, Shutterstock

Rabbit Eyesight

Rabbits have very large eyes that protrude from their head and give them a nearly full view in front, to the sides, and behind them. Their corneas have a large diameter compared to humans, and they have excellent long-distance vision. They can see predators approaching from a very long distance, giving them plenty of time to escape.

How Do Rabbits Manage to Blink So Little?

To further aid in their constant battle to evade predators, rabbits benefit from having some unique features. The first one consists of having three eyelids. The third eyelid, scientifically known as a nictitating membrane, is a light pink membrane that normally sits in the inner corner of the rabbit’s eyes, making it almost invisible to the human eye.

The second characteristic that helps rabbits to blink so little is that they have four lacrimal glands. One of them, the Harderian gland, produces an oily substance that gives tears great stability and helps them not to evaporate so quickly.

The last but not least feature is that rabbits have only one lacrimal duct opening, located on the lower eyelid. This allows more tears to remain in the eye since tear clearance is reduced.

Rabbits Sleep With Their Eyes Open

Another benefit of this third eyelid is that they don’t have to fully close their eyes when sleeping. As such, rabbits effectively sleep with their eyes open. It can make it difficult to identify when a rabbit is asleep or not, but it means that they are alert even while sleeping and can see when a potential predator approaches. It can also act as a deterrent. Predators that prefer to hunt unaware animals may leave a sleeping rabbit alone if they believe its eyes are open and it is aware of its surroundings.

Generally, rabbits sleep around 8 to 9 hours a day, although yours may sleep longer if it feels comfortable and content.

A wild orange Rabbitbunny with big ears in a fresh green forest
Image Credit: FullframeFactory, Shutterstock

Rapid Blinking

Because rabbits do not need to blink often and they keep their eyes open as a defense mechanism, rapid blinking is not common. If your rabbit is keeping their eyes shut or blinking repeatedly or rapidly, it means that something is likely wrong. Rapid blinking may be a sign that a piece of dirt or debris has lodged in the eye. The rapid blinking causes the eyes to moisten further, and this moisture helps dispel the debris over time.

Conjunctivitis is another possible cause of rapid blinking and in extreme circumstances, it may be a sign of a corneal ulcer. If you notice rapid blinking, tearing, or squinting, these are obvious signs of an eye problem, such as an ulcer or infection, and you should take your rabbit to the vet to have the problem investigated.

Rabbits Don’t Often Have their Eyes Closed

It is possible that a comfortable, safe, and content rabbit, will close its eyes to sleep, although open eyes are not an indication that a rabbit doesn’t feel safe. Sleeping with eyes open is instinctive, so even some of the happiest and safest rabbits will continue to do so.

If your rabbit has its eyes closed and isn’t sleeping, this is likely a sign that something is amiss. Again, a corneal ulcer is a possibility and needs medical treatment. If the eye has been punctured by a foreign object and has become infected, this can cause an abscess. If your rabbit refuses to open its eyes, don’t try forcing them open but do consult with your vet as soon as possible.



Rabbits are prey animals, and they have a host of physical features that help them evade and avoid potential hunters. Their eyesight, hearing, and sense of smell are acutely tuned to identify potential threats. One of these mechanisms is the fact that they only blink roughly every 5 to 6 minutes (10 to 12 times per hour) so they can stay vigilant for any potential predators.

Featured Image Credit: Mary Swift, Shutterstocks

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