Rabbits have a number of traits that make them well suited to living in the wild, and their eyesight is one of these traits.
However, rabbits don’t tend to spend much time awake once it’s fully dark outside, as they are not nocturnal. Nocturnal animals are most active at night. Humans are diurnal, meaning that we are most active during the day. Rabbits are crepuscular, meaning that they are most active around both dawn and dusk. They sleep a lot during both the day and night.
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Can They See In The Dark?
As they’re not nocturnal, rabbits actually can’t see very well in the dark at all!
Unlike many other animals, rabbits do not have a tapetum lucidum in their eyes. The tapetum lucidum is a feature that reflects light back into the eye, essentially giving the animal a second chance to see an image. Cats and other animals that operate primarily in the dark have this feature.
Animals with the reflective tapetum lucidum in their eyes sometimes appear to have glowing eyes. This is known as eyeshine.
If a rabbit is surrounded by extreme darkness, they tend to rely on their other senses, such as hearing and smell, rather than their eyesight.
As a result of their inability to see in the dark, leaving a rabbit in the dark can be rather frightening for them, so you should try to ensure that they feel secure and safe at night. Especially as rabbits can quite literally be frightened to death!
How Do A Rabbit’s Eyes Work?
Much like other prey, rabbits’ eyes reside on the side of their heads, which helps them to survive by giving them a 360-degree field of vision, however, they do have a blind spot, which is below their nose.
This wide field of vision is one of the rabbit’s best survival mechanics, without which they would be easy to catch.
Being able to have such a wide perspective of their surroundings makes it incredibly hard for potential predators to sneak up on a rabbit, as they’ll be spotted long before they get close.
Rabbits’ eyes are constructed of cones as well as rods, cones are used to determine color, whilst rods help to see in different types of light.
Unlike humans, rabbits only have two cones in their eyes, which essentially means that they’re colorblind, with rabbits only being able to see in either blue or green.
The rods that rabbits have in their eyes are also pretty different from the ones found in humans too, as they actually have more rods than they do cones.
This means that rabbits’ eyes are able to make up for the lack of light and that their eyesight is sharpest during the early morning dawns, as well as dusk, which makes sense, as these are their more active times.
How Well Can A Rabbit See In The Dark?
Rabbits and humans actually have a similar sight ability when it comes to seeing in the dark.
Just like us, pure darkness will actually blind a rabbit.
Rabbits are unable to see in the dark because their eyes lack a tapetum lucidum, which is a layer of tissue that would usually sit behind the retina, which then reflects the light, allowing some animals to see in the dark.
Rabbits don’t need a tapetum lucidum however as they’re crepuscular, meaning that dawn and dusk are their active times.
In the wild, these are the times that a rabbit would emerge in order for them to eat as well as exercise, as this is before or after the time that most predators would be hunting for prey.
How Far Can They See?
Rabbits are actually really far-sighted! This is a result of the lagomorph’s anatomy, with many of their features designed to help further aid in their survival.
This far-sightedness is great for helping rabbits evade their predators in the wild, enabling them to spot threats from far away.
This incredible eyesight not only allows them to spot predators long before they’re within attacking distance but also gives them a chance to thump (see also ‘Why Do Rabbits Thump?) their feet, which lets them communicate with other rabbits that there is a chance of danger nearby.
As a domestic animal, of course, your rabbit won’t need this sort of vision at all, but it does help to explain certain aspects of their behavior!
As a result of being so far-sighted, rabbits lack a lot of depth perception, and this is only exacerbated further by the fact their fovea doesn’t curve forward as it does for us humans.
Therefore, things might be somewhat blurry for them if held up close, which means that it’s not unusual for them to be rather clumsy!
It also explains why your pet rabbit might not recognize you at first, especially when you’re carrying something, as their eyes struggle to differentiate between particularly complex shapes and lines.
So if your rabbit trips over their water or food bowls, or bumps into things, then that’s why!
It will also explain why your rabbit might get particularly nervous of things flying overhead, as for them, it will look like they’re right above!
How Do I Help My Rabbit In The Dark?
As they are totally blinded by the dark, rabbits can become particularly anxious by the darkness, and potentially become destructive as a result of this anxiety.
You should avoid giving them light all the time though, as this can damage their eyes.
Instead, simply provide them with plenty of room and material to burrow with and cover the hutch at night, this will give them the security needed to help them sleep (see also ‘Do Rabbits Hibernate?‘).
If possible, you could soundproof the hutch too, which will prevent your rabbit from hearing any noises that might cause them to be on edge throughout the night.
In conclusion, rabbits can’t see in the dark at all, and are actually blinded in complete darkness just like us humans! This is because unlike nocturnal animals, both humans and rabbits lack a tapetum lucidum in our eyes.
So if you’re looking to get your rabbit more comfortable, then look into giving them more room to burrow if you find that they’re particularly anxious about being in the dark!