How Do Rabbits Move?

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Rabbits generally hop using a gallop-style gait, during which the back paws land together in pairs forward of and outside of the front paws. They use this gait whether they are moving quickly or slowly. Rabbits will also walk when carefully exploring a new area.

The rabbit’s skeletal and muscular systems are highly adapted to this style of movement. Their spines contain elongated bones along the abdominal region, allowing them to flex and compress strongly while bounding. Their back limbs are much longer than their front limbs, with most of the length of the leg made up of the bones below the knee, the fibula and tibia. Attached to these bones and to the femur, the leg bone above the knee, are extremely powerful muscles.

In addition, the rabbit skeleton as a whole is light. It makes up, on average, 8 percent of an animal’s weight, as compared to 12 percent for the similarly sized domestic cat. This reduction in weight makes it easier for the animal to get off the ground and move rapidly when in danger.

Bounding puts a lot of pressure on a rabbit’s back, and because the skeleton is so delicate, rabbits are prone to fracturing spinal vertebrae.