How often do you see your pet rabbit with his eyes closed? We’re willing to bet it doesn’t happen often. Even when it comes to blinking, rabbits only blink once every 5 or 6 minutes. For comparison, the average human blinks at least 12 times per minute.1
How can rabbits blink so infrequently, and why do they do it? In this article, we’ll answer those questions and more, so keep reading.
How is it possible that your rabbit can blink so infrequently? If you were to try and hold your eyes open for longer than a minute, you would certainly suffer from uncomfortably dry eyes. The reason is pretty simple; rabbits have a unique eye structure. While humans have a lower eyelid and an upper eyelid, rabbits have a lower eyelid, an upper eyelid, and a third eyelid.
This third eyelid is in the corner of your rabbit’s eye and is a translucent membrane through which your rabbit can see. When this third eyelid is closed, your rabbit can retain moisture in the eye while still keeping the upper and lower eyelids open. Since your rabbit can retain eye moisture so well, they can blink less frequently. This feature even allows rabbits to sleep with their eyes wide open.
It’s fascinating that rabbits can blink infrequently due to their third eyelids, but why do they need this ability? Rabbits are prey animals, and they have evolved to be hypervigilant in the wild. One second of unawareness could mean life and death. With that in mind, it is easy to see how a rabbit’s third eyelid serves an essential purpose. If prey animals don’t blink very often, they can spend more time observing their surroundings. This will help them to be more alert to any predators in their area and keep them safe.
Much of your rabbit’s physiology is geared towards its survival as a prey animal. For example, a rabbit’s eyes are located high on the sides of the skull, providing a view of nearly 360 degrees. With their eyes located so high on their head, rabbits can see far above their head for any flying predators.
What Do Rabbits See?
After learning all of these amazing facts about your rabbit’s eyes, you may be wondering exactly what your rabbit can see. The answer is that your rabbit can see a lot of things all at once. While there is a small blindspot that rabbits have (which is directly in front of their faces), this can be easily remedied with a simple tilt of the head. When your rabbit tilts his head, that’s essentially his way of looking straight ahead.
At this time, experts believe rabbits do not have a close-range depth perception that can rival a human’s. It is also understood that rabbits have comparatively poor vision in the daytime, but they can see better in lower light than the average human.
Rabbits cannot see as many colors as humans can. Interestingly, rabbits are believed to technically distinguish between shades of blue and green even though they cannot see a visual color difference. Essentially, they know there is a difference even though the colors are not as vivid.
Can Your Rabbit Recognize You by Sight?
In some ways, rabbits can see better than humans. Does that mean your rabbit cannot recognize you by sight? While your rabbit may not be able to visualize you as clearly as you might see yourself in a mirror, they can still make out a grainy image. That image, combined with your regular movements, scent, and voice, makes it obvious to your rabbit who you are; so yes, your rabbit can tell who you are by looking at you.
Rabbits are magnificent creatures with fascinating physiology. While rabbits blink, they blink much less than humans, which can make it seem like they hardly blink at all. Their third eyelid allows for such infrequent blinking, and your rabbit can keep their eyes open while still lubricating them. Understanding how your rabbit sees the world will help you care for them and see how prey animals have evolved to evade threats.
Featured Image Credit: ReganE, Pixabay