Are Rabbits Omnivores

Are Rabbits Omnivores?

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When we paint the stereotypical image of rabbits, it is of a small creature with large ears and huge legs that is munching on grass, a flower, or even a carrot.

They have always been painted with whimsy, and part of the whimsical charm is that these creatures are always portrayed with vegetation as part of their diet.

However, when we look at these images, we can’t help but wonder whether they are accurate or not. After all, we know many other creatures and relatives of the rabbit eat a lot of different things, including meat.

Rats, other members of the rodent family, and even their other close relatives primates all consume meat.

So, it becomes a question of wondering whether rabbits themselves are omnivores? Or are they completely herbivorous? In this article, we seek to find this out and tell you exactly what your bunny pal can eat.

What Are Omnivores?

When we talk about what animals eat, we generally think of it in 3 different categories, with some subdivisions within those categories. These are herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores.

Herbivores are those creatures on our planet that have evolved and adapted to eat primarily plant based material. Since plant matter is much harder to digest, the guts of herbivores has become specialized a lot of the time to a particular diet.

This is shown by the fact there are many different kinds of herbivores, for example Frugivores – who eat mostly fruit – and Palynivores – who eat mostly pollen.

While herbivores do partake in a varied diet, they can also be so specialized as to be only able to eat one food source, like pandas.

The second group is the carnivores. These are animals that have evolved and adapted to a primarily meat based diet.

There are really only three types of carnivores on earth today with lots of subcategories, these are the hypocarnivores, the mesocarnivores, and the hyper carnivores.

Hypocarnivores have a diet that is less than 30% pure meat, like brown bears, mesocarnivores have a diet of between 30% to 70% pure meat, like foxes, and hyper carnivores have a diet of more than 70% pure meat, like wolves.

Generally, carnivores will have a specific meat food source that they go to when they need it rather than relying on it totally, for example, bears will eat salmon regularly during salmon season, but generally they will eat nuts and berries.

Whereas hyper carnivores are incredibly specialized and need meat to survive.

An omnivore is an animal that will eat anything, meat or plant, with no set ration between them – some days an omnivore might eat a lot of meat and some days it might be all plant food.

Mostly these are animals that are considered generalists that are neither prey nor specifically predatory animals, but tend to be quite intelligent. Good examples of omnivores are rodents, pigs, and primates.

Are Rabbits Omnivores?

Are Rabbits Omnivores

No, rabbits are not omnivores, despite being related to a fair few of them. Rabbits have evolved to sustain themselves on plant material, specifically grass, and so their digestive tract is fairly specialized.

Considering that they are able to digest and process other foods, like flowers and leafy greens, they are not as specialized as some creatures, but it still doesn’t mean that they can eat meat.

This is due to the fact that a rabbit’s gut is focused on breaking down the tough cellulose in these green materials.

Once broken down, these green materials provide all the fiber that a rabbit will need to keep their gut moving and in motion, thus keeping them healthy.

With this being the case, a rabbit does need to produce any other substances or find another way to break down other foods or to make their own digestive lubricant (so to speak).

Since meat has very little fiber, even if a rabbit eats meat, it will not be able to process it, and it will just remain in their gut unable to be excreted unless a build-up of stomach acid basically turns it into loose stool.

Even if this wasn’t the case, they can’t get the nutrients they need from meat, and it doesn’t wear down their constantly growing teeth like fibrous material does.

This means that even if meat could move through their gut, that it is next to useless for a rabbit to consume and would just be wasted. It won’t kill them or harm them greatly, but it will give them a tummy ache and may make them a little ill.

The Exception To The Rule: Snowshoe Hares

Now, that isn’t to say that no rabbit eats meat, there is one – just one – variety of rabbit that occasionally eats meat: the Snowshoe Hare.

This is an animal lives in the tundra of the Canadian wilderness and while they eat plant material almost exclusively, they have also been observed eating meat from the carcasses of other animals during winter.

For this case, we will say the adage ‘desperate times call for desperate measures’. During the winter in the north of any northern country, there is very little to eat, and many animals will adapt to survive.

Meat may hold no nutrients for animals, but it will still hold a lot of calories, and those calories will keep that hare alive until it finds some plant food to eat.

This isn’t the first time this has happened. Many animals have had to adapt their diet to a new environment they have found themselves in, and it has created some of the world’s most unique creatures.

The most obvious example is the panda, whose ancestors were undoubtedly a hypo- or meso- carnivore, but when they became stranded in bamboo forests, they adapted to becoming the herbivores we know today.

Video: Herbivore Diet For Rabbits Without Pellets

Some rabbit owners may want to provide a nutritious diet for their rabbits without providing pellets. This video delves into some of the benefits and and unforeseen challenges of not feeding pellets to rabbits, including having licks available. While this video is from the point of view of a rabbit meat farmer, the information is useful for all rabbit owners.

A short video about feeding a healthy, herbivore diet to rabbits without pellets – the pros and cons


Almost all rabbits are completely herbivorous, with one exception being the Snowshoe Hare whose diet is 99% herbivorous, but who also turns to eating meat during desperate times.

This is because all rabbits struggle to process meat and gain nutrients from it, due to millions of years of evolving to eat grasses and flowers.

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