Why rabbits are not rodents

Many people still think rabbits are rodents. This is also understandable, because there are already some parallels. But most rabbit owners know that this is not the case! Because the funny little fur noses are among the so-called rabbits.

Rabbits aren't rodents, but that doesn't make them any less popular in German households!  – Shutterstock/Natee Meepian

Rabbits aren’t rodents, but that doesn’t make them any less popular in German households! – Shutterstock/Natee Meepian

Rabbits are among the most commonly purchased small animals in households and families. In fact, rabbits are not rodents, but lagomorphs. This is a family of mammals in the order of the so-called lagomorphs. Admittedly, it would probably be easier to assign rabbits to rodents, so this incorrect classification is easy to say. But there are some differences – even if they’re not immediately obvious.

Rabbits and Rodents: Many Misleading Similarities

Rabbits used to be considered rodents. And that is also understandable, as there are some obvious similarities: At birth, the little rabbits, like some rodents such as mice or hamsters, are completely naked and have no fur – they are altricial. Rabbits also have incisors that, like rodents, can grow back and need to be worn down regularly.

Because rabbits have a gap between their molars and incisors, they also look like their supposed relatives. In addition, they often gnaw and nibble on their houses or other objects in the cage. Their size can be misleading, as can the fact that rabbits are crepuscular like most rodents.

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Why rabbits really aren’t rodents

Despite the many similarities, rabbits are not rodents. There is one small but significant difference between them: the small, well-hidden pair of teeth just behind the upper incisors. This pair of teeth, known as pin teeth, is the main feature of lagomorphs. Only they have pin teeth, rodents do not. Rabbits used to be called double dentition because of this extra pair of teeth and were simply classified as a distant group of rodents. Owners of rats, mice, hamsters and the like will also notice the difference in food intake: rodents almost always hold their food with both paws to eat it – rabbits, on the other hand, do not.

Interestingly, scientists have been discussing for some time that guinea pigs should not belong to the order of rodents either. For example, the porcupine relatives differ from other rodents in that they do not hold their food with their front paws either. However, as long as no official regrouping has taken place, they will continue to be referred to as rodents.

You might also be interested in these topics about keeping cats:

Rabbits and Hares: Similarities and Differences

Keeping guinea pigs and rabbits together?

Guinea pig or rabbit: what suits me?

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