rabbit running fast

How fast can rabbits run?

Find out how speedy bunnies are, whether rabbits hop or run, and how they are adapted to be so fast. Discover how to measure the speed of your own bunny.

If you’re like me, the first time your rabbit sprinted around the house or garden, you were amazed at how fast they zoomed around, from a standing start, turning corners sharply, before coming to an abrupt halt. It seems like they go from 0 to a million miles per hour in a nanosecond. So I investigated how fast rabbits do run, and how they get so fast. And then, I measured how fast one of my rabbits can run.

How fast can rabbits run?

A rabbit can run at speeds of up to 35 mph (56 km/h). Some breeds of wild hare can run even faster – the jackrabbit can reach speeds of 45 mph (72 km/h). Domestic bunnies can run faster than humans – a human’s top speed (Usain Bolt while breaking the world 100m sprint record) is 27.78 mph (44.72 km/h). Rabbits (unlike hares) can’t sustain their speeds for very long – they are sprinters, looking for a quick getaway to a nearby burrow or shelter from a predator. 

But how fast is your bunny likely to be? How do they run? And how do they get to be so speedy? Keep reading to find out more.

How fast do domestic rabbits run?

Wild rabbits may run faster than pets – their survival depends on it. But how fast can your pet rabbit go?

I saw a few figures bandied around the internet, but I couldn’t track down any reliable source for most of them (many just seem to copy the same initial information). 

Can a pet rabbit really run as fast as 30mph? 

I decided to find out by measuring one of my bunnies.

How I measured the speed

To measure speed, you need to measure how long it takes a rabbit to cover a known distance. But how do you go about this?

You could try to use a stopwatch, but if your rabbits are like mine, they don’t run to order, and it’s difficult to start and stop at the right time.

Fortunately, many modern mobile phones can help out through videoing your bunny in slow motion. Here’s what I did.

  1. I took a video of one of our rabbits (Yoshi) zooming around the garden (Yoshi likes doing this for fun).
  2. I then measured the distance between two spots that Yoshi had sprinted past. I did this after I had taken the video – it means you don’t have to hope that your bunny runs past specific areas or markers.
  3. I checked out the video. On my phone, the video takes 30 frames every second. Yours may be different, so check your phone’s settings.
  4. I calculated how many frames it took for my rabbit to travel between the two spots I had measured. This gives me the time Yoshi had taken to cover this distance (you could also check this in a video program like iMovie).
  5. Speed is distance divided by time. So I divided the distance between the spots by the time Yoshi had taken to travel that distance.

My results

Results
Distance1.6 metres
Time0.2 seconds
Speed (Distance/time)8 metres per second
or…29 km/h
or…18 mph

This was a young bunny just playing in the garden, not going flat out. So your own rabbit, scampering around, is probably also doing about 20mph.

Do rabbits run, or hop?

Rabbits hop, rather than run. 

When sprinting, both back feet push off the ground together, lifting the rabbit forward, and then the front paws are used in turn (not together) for extra momentum. 

You can see this in action by watching this slow-motion of Yoshi running forward.

This is actually similar to how some other fast animals run, like the cheetah, who use their hind legs nearly simultaneously.

The hop is so powerful that bunnies can cover up to 10 feet (about 3m) in a single hop.

How do rabbits run so fast?

Rabbits can reach these speeds despite their small size because of their powerful hind legs. Rabbit also have muscles that have evolved to enable them to sprint fast. 

Rabbit muscle fibre

Muscle fibre can come in two types – fast twitch and slow twitch.

  • Slow-twitch muscle fibre is good for endurance and tasks needing stamina. (These types of muscle fibres would help a marathon runner – up to 80% of their muscle is slow-twitch).
  • Fast-twitch muscle fibre is good for speed and acceleration. (These types of muscle fibres would help a sprinter – up to 80% of their muscle is fast-twitch).

But there are two types of fast-twitch muscle – red ones which use oxygen (fast-twitch oxidative) and white ones which don’t (fast-twitch glycolytic). The fastest type of all are the fast-twitch glycolytic. [Source].

Rabbits (unlike hares) have a high proportion of fast-twitch glycolytic muscle fibre (up to 50% of fibres are fast-twitch glycolytic – source).

Hares are the opposite – they are built for greater endurance, with up to 55% more fast-twitch oxidative fibres.

This means bunnies can reach their top speeds quickly because their leg muscles can generate tremendous force near instantaneously, but they can’t run very far.

Rabbits have more powerful muscle fibre than cheetahs

Incredibly, rabbit muscle fibres are even more powerful than those of the fastest land animal, the cheetah. Researchers isolated fast-twitch muscle fibres from a cheetah, and compared experimental results with those of muscle fibres from rabbits.

The cheetah’s muscle fibres could generate 92.5 W/kg (a measure of how much force the fibres could produce.

Rabbit muscle fibres could generate 119.7 W/kg – over 29% more powerful.

So your bunny has (relatively speaking) more powerful muscles than a cheetah! [Source]

How rabbits use their speed

In the wild, the fast turn of speed enables them to reach a burrow or other place of safety quickly if they sense a predator nearby.

How fast are rabbits compared to other animals?

Rabbits are one of the faster land animals, about matching the speed of greyhounds, and horses, but some other animals are faster. Cheetahs can reach speeds of around 70mph. 

But if you really want speed, go for the peregrine falcon, which can reach a velocity of over 200mph when diving (stooping) [source].

Domestic rabbits have similar turns of speed as cats, dogs and foxes.

Why do rabbits seem so fast?

Rabbits seem to zoom around so fast for a few reasons. Here are some of them:

  1. They are fast – 30mph is faster than any human could manage
  2. Compared to their size, their speed is even more impressive.
  3. Rabbits not only run fast, but can accelerate quickly. 

Humans take a while to reach our top speeds. When Usain Bolt broke the world record in 2009, he took 60m to reach his top speed. Rabbits can get there in a couple of yards or metres. 

And rabbits can not only accelerate quickly, but also turn on a dime. You may have seen this yourself – bunnies can corner and change direction really speedily.

This quick turn of speed and ability to zigzag also helps them to evade being caught by any predators.

Have a look at how quickly rabbits accelerate, turn and jump in this video:

Conclusion –  how fast do rabbits run?

Rabbits are fast runners. Your pet bunny may be able to hop at up to 35mph, and reach that speed within a few yards. 

Rabbits don’t only rely on their speed to evade predators, their eyesight and hearing are also specially adapted. Find out more about how rabbits see the world and hear the world.

Rabbits enjoy being stimulated, and get bored easily. See what toys our bunnies enjoy playing with.

Posted by Jonathan