By Melissa A. Kling, DVM
The ears of a rabbit are one of its most distinguishing features, second only to that cute, wiggly nose. You see two basic ear types: (1) erect or upright ears and (2) lop or floppy ears. Erect-eared rabbits come in an array of sizes from the Flemish Giant, with ears at least 6 inches long, all the way down to the Netherland Dwarf, with ears 2 inches long. Lop-eared rabbits also vary in size and, historically, are some of the oldest breeds of rabbits. A rabbit’s ears can represent up to 12 percent of its total body surface area and are very sensitive structures. A rabbit should never be picked up by its ears!
As prey animals, wild rabbits must interpret and react quickly to information about their environment. The outer ear is the pivoting, noise-capturing part that funnels sound waves into the middle ear. The sound then travels to the inner ear to be processed by the brain for interpretation. Erect-eared rabbits can rotate each ear almost 270 degrees, allowing precise location of the source of a sound. Rabbits can also hear two sounds at once because their ears move independently of one another.
For the full article, pick up the 2011 issue of Rabbits USA or click here to buy the issue.