In this article, I’m going to dig into the twelve most common questions regarding rabbit whiskers. Some of these are pretty basic, while others are going to surprise even the most experienced bunny lover.
What Are Rabbit Whiskers?
A bunny’s whiskers are the more course and longer tactile hairs found around a rabbit’s mouth, nose, cheeks, and even eyes. These tactile hairs are called vibrissae and are different from the hair found elsewhere on a rabbit. These deeply set hairs are the only hairs a rabbit can whisk or twitch.
A rabbit’s whiskers are shorter around their mouth and becomes longer near the middle of their cheeks.
You will often see a rabbit’s whiskers moving as they twitch their noses; this whisker movement is called whisking and is part of a rabbit’s sensory perception.
The Purpose Of Rabbit Whiskers
A rabbit’s whiskers are a part of their sensory perception in a similar way to their eyes, nose, and ears. The whiskers are tactile hairs that can feel when they have been deflected by other objects. This ability gives rabbits extra information about their surroundings and allows them to safely navigate.
Research with rats, which have whiskers very similar to those of rabbits, have indicated a very complex sensory system associated with whiskers.
In its simplest terms, a rabbit’s whiskers tell the bunny how close objects are in relationship to their head. However, it gets a lot more complex than you might imagine when you first consider this. As a bunny’s head is raised, lowered, turned, or tilted, specialized whiskers can take all of those movements into account to give the rabbit a true relative distance.
The research found different types of whiskers within different areas of the face. These different types of whiskers provide specialized tactile information, either pitch, distance, or yaw. Only with the cumulative information from each type of whisker can your bunny get a true understanding of the relative distance of an object.
More surprising, other research (also on rats) have demonstrated four distinct purposes for whiskers.
1. Localising, Orienting, and Tracking
This is what I was describing above; rabbits can use their whiskers to gauge the relative distance of an object from their head.
In addition, they can use their whiskers to tell how far above, below, or to the side an object is to give them a better orientation in their environment.
Tracking refers to the ability of a bunny to use their whiskers to track the edge of a wall or some other object.
2. Tactile Discrimination
Shockingly, research has shown that by vibrating their whiskers against an object, animals can distinguish between different textures of those objects.
Also within this purview of this tactile discrimination ability is a rabbit’s nearly superpower ability to sense the movement of air, water, and vibrations using only their whiskers.
A number of studies have shown that whiskers are used in the movement of animals. While rabbits see well in the twilight hours, they don’t see really well in the dark. Their whiskers help them navigate in the dark, but that’s not all.
At this time, it appears that information from a rabbit’s whiskers aids in running, jumping, and even foot placement.
4. Social Behavior
When your rabbit meets an animal that they do not perceive as a predator, the first contact with that new animal is probably going to be with their whiskers.
As far as I can tell, no one really knows the exact way this works, but it obviously does as demonstrated by the research.
Do Rabbits Need Their Whiskers
I have seen bunnies lose their whiskers in three ways; accident, trimming, falling out. In all cases, the rabbit was fine.
Bunnies don’t need their whiskers. If a rabbit were to lose their whiskers either through accident or trimming, they wouldn’t be in pain or less healthy. However, a rabbit without their whiskers does have one less of their senses which is not ideal.
Are Rabbit Whiskers Sensitive
This is a bit of a tricky question that depends on how you are defining sensitive in relationship to rabbit whiskers.
The hair that is the main part of a rabbit’s whiskers is not sensitive; it’s just hair. So like your hairs, having a whisker cut wouldn’t cause your bunny any discomfort. However, the base or follicle of the whisker is very sensitive. This means that if a whisker is pulled out it would cause rabbit pain but that pain would be short-lived.
Do Rabbit Whiskers Stop Growing
A rabbit’s whiskers will stop growing at roughly the same length for each whisker location on the rabbit’s face. The longest rabbit whiskers tend to be half as long as the rabbit is wide. This means that the whiskers on each side of a rabbit’s head allowing them to judge if they will fit through a hole.
How Do Rabbits Lose Whiskers?
It is not uncommon for a rabbit to lose one or more whiskers. Common ways that rabbits lose whiskers include Trimming/Cutting, Accidents (pulling out or candles), skin conditions, or old age.
Rabbit Whiskers Falling Out
Rabbit whiskers do sometimes fall out. This can be caused by some kind of skin condition which will be accompanied by hair loss in other areas or simply by old age. If your rabbit has a skin condition, you should seek assistance from your rabbit veterinarian. Old age is natural.
Do Rabbit Whiskers Grow Back?
If your rabbit loses one or more whiskers due to any cause other than old age, don’t worry, they will grow back.
A rabbit’s whiskers will grow back to roughly their original length in two to three weeks. During the time when the whisker is growing back, your rabbit will be short some of their sensory perceptions, but otherwise will be just fine.
Bunny Whisker Split Ends
Split ends on bunny whiskers is a common condition and is nothing to worry about. Whiskers are just hair and like all hairs, they are subject to the wear and tear of life. If you see whiskers with split ends or even broken-off whiskers, I recommend that you leave them alone to shed and regrow naturally.
Rabbit Curly Whiskers
Curly whiskers on rabbit’s isn’t all that uncommon and is usually nothing to worry about.
Some breeds of rabbits tend to have curly whiskers. The most common rabbit breed with curly whiskers are rex and mini rex bunnies. For these rabbits, curly whiskers is 100% natural and nothing to worry about. The other cause for curly whiskers is damage to the whisker. If this is the case, the whisker will soon fall out and regrow.
Cutting Or Trimming Your Rabbit’s Whiskers
There is no reason to cut or trim your bunny’s whiskers. If you find a damaged whisker, just leave it alone and it will soon fall out and regrow within three weeks.
The Color Of Bunny Whiskers
Rabbit whiskers can be any color, however, they do not retain melanin (the pigment that gives hair color) very well which means that the majority of bunny whiskers are white.
I hope this answered all of your questions about your bunny’s whiskers. If I missed a question you need to be answered, hit me up on my email list or on my page on Facebook. It’s always good to have another rabbit friend!
P.S. Have you chosen your bunny’s name yet? If so, is your bunny’s name included in this list of 1,800+ rabbit name ideas?