Rabbits have very expressive behaviors to show you if they are happy, content, irritated, or frightened.
In fact, learning to understand your rabbit is as simple as learning to understand rabbit body language. While you won't become a body language master overnight, you can learn about some of the most common body language positions and what they mean, so rabbit lovers can recognize them in their bunnies. The bunny loaf is one of the most common rabbit behaviors, even seen in baby bunnies.
As you learn about your rabbit's body language, it can be easier to bond with and even train your bunny. An understanding of how your rabbit is feeling or what he's trying to tell you can help you to create a home where your rabbit feels safe and content.
The Bun Loaf
A bunny loaf is one of the most common body positions you'll see in your rabbit. A "bun loaf" or "bunny bread" describes the position where your bunny rabbit tucks his legs under himself, usually with a drooped head, relaxed ears, with eyes half open. He will condense his body into a tight little ball, resembling a loaf of bread. This loafing around is the ultimate cute bunny behavior.
This is a position your rabbit uses when he's comfortable and sleepy. When he's in a bun loaf, he's letting you know he needs rest. It also shows that he feels safe and secure with you, as a bunny wouldn't go into the loaf position if frightened or nervous.
All breeds of rabbits, from Flemish Giants to tiny Holland Lops, will go into a bun loaf position if they're resting. Other common sleep positions include the bunny flop and being completely stretched out.
Many bunnies prefer to do the loaf, because they feel safer against any possible danger. If a threat were to appear quickly, they could get their hind legs moving immediately.
However, if your rabbit does a bun loaf and puts his tail towards you, he may be telling you that he is annoyed with you. If you cleaned out his litter box, took away a toy or tried to clip his nails, he'll turn away and use the bun loaf to show he's ignoring you. You won't be getting to do any petting today if he has his way!
More Signs of a Happy Rabbit
According to My House Rabbit, rabbits show they're content in many other ways. You may notice your relaxed, happy bun flopping over onto his side. Rabbits who are licking or grooming each other may be showing affection.
If your bunny views you as his property, he may do a behavior known as chinning where he rubs his chin on you. He's marking you with scent glands under his chin, ensuring that all other rabbits understand that you're already claimed.
And then there's binkying. This rabbit dance is a sight to see! If you're lucky enough to see your bunny binkying, you may find him leaping up, twisting his body in mid-air, and then kicking his feet out as he comes back to the ground. Some bunnies do multiple binkies in a row, demonstrating their joy and just how happy they are.
Signs of an Unhappy Bun
While it's delightful to see bunny body language that indicates your rabbit is happy, it's just as important to understand when your pet rabbit is indicating that he's not so pleased. Rabbits' ears can indicate when they're getting uncomfortable, according to the RSPCA. If your rabbit crouches down and flattens his ears against his head, he's worried and anxious and it's time to give him some space.
If things escalate, your rabbit may show you that he's really unhappy by sitting up, growling, and even by showing his teeth. Teeth grinding, nipping, lunging, and thumping can also indicate that your rabbit isn't okay with the current situation.
Raising Happy Rabbits
While rabbit body language is important to understand for your bunny's health, their language is also just plain cute. Encourage your bunny to rest and relax by offering him a regular routine, with scheduled meal times and exercise sessions.
A house rabbit with plenty of time to run and play is a happier and more content bunny, and is more likely to feel safe enough to go into the bun loaf position. This rabbit behavior is something rabbit owners should look forward to!
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This post was originally published on February 21, 2020.