Rabbits have been domesticated since the Middle Ages. Since then, they’ve become a popular option as pets. Much like owners of any other animal, understanding their behavior is the key to being a great rabbit owner.
Rabbits are prey animals. In the wild, they need to be able to quickly escape from predators. This need for speed is why rabbits have developed hind legs whose length enables them to run and hop quickly. Their incredible quadriceps and hamstrings propel them forward.
Their front limbs aren’t as long as their hind limbs, and this is why rabbits hop when moving quickly. The front legs hit the ground to absorb the shock of the hop while the back legs dig into the earth and thrust the body forward again.
Why Do Rabbits Jump?
Rabbits jump as a form of locomotion. It is the easiest way for them to travel based on their anatomy. They have the ability to walk and may prefer to do so when not covering much ground.
However, when a rabbit desires to get somewhere quickly, it uses its powerful hind legs to propel it up to nine feet forward.
A rabbit’s hop can tell us a lot about its mood.
If your rabbit hops and thumps its back legs, it is letting you know it’s upset.
An upset rabbit may also jump toward a perceived threat and stand on its hind legs. This behavior means it’s ready to rumble.
A rabbit hopping away in a zigzag pattern believes it is being chased.
When your rabbit hops and twists wherever it is, it’s happy. This behavior is called binkying.
Why Do Rabbits Jump Over Each Other?
Being prey animals, it is necessary for rabbits to frequently reproduce in the wild. This reproduction stabilizes their population after loss from predators.
Rabbits jumping over one another is part of their mating ritual. Most species on Earth have a particular set of actions they take when they want to court a fellow member of their species.
For rabbits, this is displayed by male rabbits chasing female rabbits until the female turns around to look at it. The female then takes a fighting stance on its back legs and paws at the male’s ears and face. The female lowers herself back to the ground, and the two rabbits gaze at each other.
The male then charges at the female, jumping over it, and flipping its body around. The female turns itself around as well so that when the male lands, the two rabbits are facing one another again.
Now, it’s the female’s turn. The female rabbit jumps over its male counterpart while it spins around. The rabbits will continue to alternate who does the jumping until they are ready to mate.
In juvenile rabbits, hopping over each other could be a form of playing. The young bunnies are copying behaviors they witness. On average, female rabbits can become sexually mature any time between three to eight months of age.
Males take around the same amount of time, reaching sexual maturity after three months. If your rabbits are younger than three months of age, you can safely assume their hopping over each other is just playful activity.
If your rabbit and its bunny friend are over their age of puberty but have been de-sexed, they are likely playing as well.
My Rabbit Needs a Playmate
While rabbits are sociable animals that live and travel in groups, they do have hierarchies. Female rabbits are very territorial, and male rabbits are aggressive to establish their dominance.
When establishing dominance, males will fight each other using their back legs to kick, their front paws to strike, and their teeth to bite. Males may also become aggressive to females who are unwilling to mate with them.
Despite these risks, rabbits benefit from companionship. The easiest way to make a pair of rabbits is to adopt two from the same litter. When choosing this route, opposite sexes should be separated once they have reached puberty and for some time after they are de-sexed.
If you have an adult rabbit who is looking for a friend, take their personality into account. A dominant male will not pair well with another dominant male. Female rabbits are the hardest to bond together as female rabbits remain territorial even after being spayed, but there are some steps you can take towards bonding them.
Once a suitable addition has been identified, introduce the two rabbits on neutral ground that is foreign to both parties. Place each rabbit on an opposite end of the enclosure. Allow the rabbits to come together at their own leisure.
The rabbits will sniff each other. They may even begin to play by hopping over one another or lightly chasing each other. Carefully monitor the interaction.
Aggressive behaviors such as nipping or thumping are signs the two rabbits are not getting along. Jumping around in the air and lying next to each other are great signs the two are getting along.
When decoding the reason for rabbits jumping over each other, you must take into account their reproductive status. Baby rabbits jumping over one another or jumping over their mother is just the animal horsing around.
Once rabbits reach sexual maturity, if the jumping over each other takes on a ritualistic pattern, the two rabbits are preparing to mate. If your intention is to breed your rabbits, then them jumping over their partner is a great sign.
Keep a close eye on intended mates. If the female party is unwilling to mate with the male rabbit, the male may begin to act aggressively.
Rabbits have thin skin and bacteria can easily enter a wound. Bite injuries should be addressed immediately. Whether the bite is from another rabbit, or a fellow pet, your rabbit should get treated right away to prevent infection of the area.
Two rabbits jumping over one another can quickly become a scuffle when the two are able to reproduce. To prevent this in bonded pairs, have both rabbits spayed or neutered. This will keep playtime fun and reduce the amount of injuries from territorial behaviors.
I have a bachelor’s degree in Film/Video/Media Studies, as well as an associates degree in Communications. I began producing videos and musical recordings nearly 15 years ago. I am a guitarist and bassist in Southwest MI and have been in a few different bands since 2009, and in 2012 I began building custom guitars and basses in my home workshop as well. When I’m home, I love spending time with my three pets (a dog, cat, and snake) and gardening in my backyard. I also like photographing wild birds, especially birds of prey.