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Do Rabbits Have a Good Sense of Smell? Fascinating Facts


Rabbits are found throughout the world except in Antarctica. They are herbivores, feeding on plant matter, rather than meat, and they are prey animals. Common predators include foxes, wolves, birds of prey, and domestic animals like dogs and cats. To help them avoid predation, rabbits are capable of reaching speeds of up to 30 miles per hour. They are also very agile and can change direction and accelerate very quickly.

Other physical attributes help them avoid predators, too, including their eye position, and their large ears enable them to hear over long distances. Rabbits also have an exceptional sense of smell, roughly 20 times better than that of a human, aided by a split lip that enables them to better determine what smells are. Below, you can find more details about rabbits and how good their sense of smell is.


Prey Animals

Rabbits are prey animals, which means that it is hunted by and killed by other animals for food. Depending on the rabbit’s location, it might have to escape the clutches of foxes, wolves, stoats, dogs, cats, and even birds of prey. Such is the range of rabbit predators that they have a wide variety of tools to assist them in eluding these animals.

fluffy rabbit on green grass outdoor
Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock


Able to reach speeds of up to 30 miles per hour, rabbits are very fast, and their strong hind legs enable them to accelerate to high speeds quickly. This enables them to outrun and outmaneuver predators that give chase. But, ideally, outrunning a predator is the rabbit’s last resource and they use their other senses to help avoid potential dangers first.

Rabbits’ eyes are situated in such a way that they can detect a wide range of threats. Their eyes are on the side and towards the top of their heads. This means that they have nearly a 360° field of vision and they can see what’s above them. This eye position does restrict the rabbit’s close-up vision somewhat restricted, but they can see movement from a long way off.

Rabbits can also sleep with their eyes open. They have a third eyelid that protects the eye from dust and debris but allows them to see while they sleep. This third eyelid also means that rabbits only need to blink around ten times an hour, therefore reducing the amount of time they cannot see what is going on around them.

young gotland rabbit in the garden
Image Credit: LNbjors, Shutterstock


The long ears of a rabbit are part of their aesthetic appeal for many people, but they aren’t just for show. Rabbits’ ears can move to effectively target certain areas, allowing them to detect exactly where a sound is coming from. They can even use their sense of hearing to detect acoustics and determine exactly where predators are, effectively aiding their sense of vision in this respect. Rabbits can hear, with great precision, from a very long distance so they can detect the slightest sound of approaching predators.


Rabbits also have a sense of smell that is designed to aid them in escaping predators, as well as to detect food buried underground. This sense of smell is how rabbits can detect and unearth vegetables that are still growing under the soil. Rabbits have 100 million scent cells. They can detect and differentiate the smells of other rabbits, humans, food, and possible predators.

Even the rabbit’s mouth is set up for more effective smell. The top lip of the rabbit is split, effectively enabling them to taste smells and making it easier to differentiate between different scents.

fauve de bourgogne rabbit lying on grass
Image Credit: slowmotiongli, Shutterstock

Do Rabbits Have a Better Sense of Smell Than Dogs?

Dogs actually have more than twice as many scent cells as rabbits, which means they likely have a more acute sense of smell. However, rabbits are more attuned to their sense of smell. Whereas a dog may ignore the smells around it, a rabbit is constantly alert to those scents so is more likely to detect a scent before a dog would.

What Smell Attracts Rabbits?

With a sense of smell that helps them forage for food, even if it is buried underground, the most obvious smells to attract rabbits are those that are food-based. Rabbits are known to love vegetables including carrots and lettuce, as well as some fruits. Apple has a strong smell that is appealing to rabbits. If you are trying to attract a rabbit that has escaped, you can spray apple cider vinegar. The vinegar will help mask the smell of humans while the smell of apples will attract the rabbit.

lionhead rabbit eating a carrot on the grass
Image Credit: Diana Macias, Shutterstock

What Smells Do Rabbits Hate?

Rabbits have very sensitive nasal membranes. This proves useful when trying to detect food and predators, but this highly sensitive sense of smell also means that strong and pungent smells can damage a rabbit’s sense of smell. Avoid using perfumes or chemical smells because while these will deter rabbits, they can also cause lasting damage. Natural scents like rosemary, lavender, and sage will usually be enough to deter rabbits and they shouldn’t cause the same damage.

How Good Is a Rabbit’s Hearing?

A rabbit’s hearing is very acute. Rabbits can hear up to 2 miles away and they can detect a wide range of frequencies, allowing them to hear sounds that people and other animals may be unable to hear. They can even detect ultrasonic bat calls. Their sense of hearing is just one of a variety of ways that rabbits have to evade predators like foxes and dogs.

rabbit ears
Image Credit: Pexels, Pixabay

Divider-rabbit2 Conclusion

Rabbits are not formidable fighters, and they are genetically designed for flight, rather than fight. As well as having the legs and physical stature to be able to run from threats, they also have vision and hearing to help them survive.

Their sense of smell is another tool they have at their disposal, and it is also highly adept at picking up the smell of food that is still buried underground. Rabbits are said to have a sense of smell that is 20 times better than that of humans.

Featured Image Credit: LNbjors, Shutterstock

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