By Adrienne A. Kruzer, BBA, RVT, LVT
Cottonbro studio / Pexels
If you’re wondering what the difference between a bunny and a rabbit is, you’re not alone. Do these words mean the same thing, or is one only appropriate for a certain age or type of animal? Find out if there’s a difference and, if so, what that difference is, so you can use the proper terminology when referring to your fluffy pet.
Are Bunnies and Rabbits Different?
There is no difference between bunnies and rabbits — the word “bunny” is just another word for rabbit. The main difference between the use of the word bunny versus rabbit is that many people describe small or baby rabbits as bunnies. But it’s also not wrong to call larger or adult rabbits “bunnies” — and many rabbit owners use the word as a term of endearment for their mature rabbits. It’s worth noting that “bunny” is a term used for both domesticated and wild rabbits.
Bunny vs. Rabbit vs. Hare
So, if bunnies and rabbits are the same, what sets them apart from hares? Let’s jump into what makes a rabbit a true rabbit.
What is a Rabbit?
A rabbit is a furry mammal with long ears, powerful hind legs, and a fluffy tail that looks like a cotton ball. There are both domesticated and wild rabbits. Domesticated rabbit breeds are found in homes across the world as pets as well as on farms where they are raised for food. The American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA) has recognized 49 different breeds of domestic rabbits. “Oryctolagus cuniculus” is the Latin species name for all domesticated rabbits, regardless of their breed. They are part of the order “Lagomorpha” and the family “Leporidae” but are not the same as hares or wild rabbits.
Rabbits can live an average of eight years, but their lifespans vary greatly. One pet rabbit is even recorded to have lived to be 18 years old, but most live to be between five and 10 years. Rabbits may be referred to as bunnies their entire lives.
What is a Hare?
Hares and wild rabbits are part of the same order and family as domestic rabbits but have different genera. There are two kinds of wild rabbits: Cottontail rabbits and Pygmy rabbits. Wild Cottontail rabbits are part of the genus “Sylvilagus,” and wild Pygmy rabbits are part of the genus “Brachylagus.” Lastly, hares, also known as “jackrabbits,” are part of the genus “Lepus.” Hares have longer ears than most rabbits and 48 chromosomes, while rabbits have 44. Wild rabbits and hares may all also be referred to as bunnies.
Hares typically have a lifespan of about three to five years in the wild, although some may live longer in captivity. Factors such as habitat, predation, and availability of food can influence their lifespan.
Is it Correct to Say Bunny?
The word bunny has a few different meanings, one of which is an informal word for rabbit. While it is correct to call a rabbit a bunny, however, it is not the formal word for animals in the “Leporidae” family. You can call a rabbit of any age a bunny and can also refer to male rabbits as “bucks” and girl rabbits as “does.”
Other terms that are used when referring to rabbits:
- Coney (an old term for rabbit)
- Lapin (French for rabbit)
- Bunny rabbit (often used by children)
What Are Baby Rabbits Called?
Baby rabbits are sometimes referred to as bunnies, but the technical term is “kit.” The word is derived from the word “kitten,” but this longer name is not commonly used. When a rabbit gives birth, it is called “kindling,” and up to 15 kits can be born in a litter. All rabbit kits are born without fur, and their eyes and ears are sealed shut. As they grow, bunnies develop fur and are able to see and hear. At about six to eight weeks of age, a kit can leave their mother and survive on their own, so you won’t find a bunny for sale or adoption that is any younger than this.
Adrienne Kruzer is an accomplished veterinary technician and writer with over 15 years of hands-on experience caring for domestic and exotic animals.