Most animals with ears use them in various ways other than for hearing. By looking at their ears, you can often determine how the animal is currently feeling.
When it comes to the rabbit’s famously large and glorious ears, they have much to say. So, as a rabbit owner, you can learn what your rabbit is telling you by the position of their ears.
Here, we highlight 14 different ear positions, including five for lop-eared rabbits. All of these will provide you with insight into how your rabbit is feeling.
The 9 Standard Rabbit Ear Positions
1. Upright and Relaxed
This is probably the most common ear position for rabbits, so you’ll see this one most often. The ears are held wide apart and will generally look relaxed and not rigid in any way. They aren’t necessarily pointed in any specific direction.
They typically move and bob around when the rabbit moves and hops. These ears indicate a relaxed, confident, and happy bun.
2. Upright and Rigid
This is a rabbit on high alert: They’ve heard a noise or are sensing something, so they stick their ears up and hold them rigidly, usually facing the direction where the perceived threat is coming from.
They will also likely stand on all fours or sit upright on their hind legs. You might notice your bunny hopping and freezing in this rigid position every so often until they calm down or when the threat is gone.
3. Slanted Forward
When your rabbit has slanted their ears forward over the head, they are curious yet cautious. Their nose will go into overdrive, sniffing whatever it is that has them so curious. They will also cautiously and slowly advance to investigate.
4. Slanted Backward
This is an angry bun! The ears are rigid and face toward the back at a 45° angle. The inside of the ears are turned back and down, and you should notice the tail moving up and the chin jutting out.
Your rabbit might also growl, so they are getting ready to bite and scratch. Most rabbits become aggressive out of fear or because they are being territorial.
5. Lying Together Along the Back
The rabbit is usually relaxed and content when the ears are lying along the back. The ears tend to be close together and look loose and quite the opposite of rigid.
Typically, the rabbit’s body language is also relaxed, which indicates that they feel safe.
6. Lying Apart Along the Back
Similar to the previous position, except the ears are spread wide apart while lying along the back. The rabbit is in a submissive pose in this case. The ears are stiff rather than soft, and the rabbit will additionally lie on the ground with their legs beneath them.
Remember, if the ears look soft and close together, they are relaxed. In contrast, if the ears are stiff and wide apart and the rabbit appears to have a stiff body while crouched on the ground, they are likely scared and submissive.
7. One Ear Up
Beyond looking adorable, when a rabbit raises only one ear, they are essentially paying attention but not really on alert.
They might have heard something that they are paying attention to, so the ear will swivel around to focus on it. But the body language will still be relaxed.
8. Constantly Moving and Swiveling
When a rabbit seems to be swiveling their ears around and apart from each other—in other words, each ear swivels on its own—they are trying to pick up sounds. This is more of an investigative approach: The rabbit isn’t on high alert but is scoping the environment for any possible threats.
That said, sometimes when a rabbit is on high alert, they might swivel those ears around for the same reason, but the ears will be rigid.
A rabbit shaking their ears can mean several things, so you need to consider their body language too. If they shake their ears multiple times instead of just once, they might have itchy ears. They might additionally scratch their ears with their hind legs and grab them with their front paws to groom them. If this happens too often, you should see your vet in case of an infection or ear mites.
When a rabbit does what’s called a binky, they do a funny jumping-twisting action as a way to express their excitement. Sometimes, rabbits will do a mini binky, which might just involve shaking their heads and shoulders.
Finally, some rabbits will shake their ears as a sign to leave them alone. This typically happens when they are busy doing something like exploring, and you attempt to pet them.
The 5 Lop-Eared Rabbit Ear Positions
Most lop rabbits naturally have relaxed ears that rest on the sides of their heads. Their ears will bounce as the rabbit hops around, which indicates that they are relaxed and comfortable.
It’s more challenging for most lop rabbits to move their ears, and they can’t lift and swivel them the way that the other rabbits can.
11. Swing Forward
This is similar to when an uppy-eared rabbit slants their ears forward, though a lop rabbit will raise their ears a little and push them forward.
This indicates a curious yet cautious rabbit, such as when they hear something or an object is nearby that they aren’t sure about.
The body language is also the same as an uppy-eared bun in which they slowly and carefully approach the subject of their curiosity, and their nose will be sniffing quite vigorously.
12. Swing Backward
When lop ears lift their ears and swing them up and back, this is like the uppy-eared rabbits; the ears are held rigid and toward the back, which is a sign of fear or aggression.
The body language is easier to follow because many lop ears don’t have much control of their ears. So, also look for a jutting chin, raised tail, and growling.
This isn’t a common ear position for lop rabbits because it takes a great deal of control, but those that can do it will hold their ears horizontally, resembling airplane wings.
This is a sign of a happy and excited bunny, and you should hear them make a type of buzzing sound. However, it can also indicate that the rabbit is on alert and trying to identify a threat.
Some lop rabbits have the ability to rotate their ears slightly. If you notice your rabbit trying to rotate one or both of their ears, they are curious and attempting to listen carefully to something.
You might also notice your lop tilting their head slightly while rotating the ear on that side. This is a sign that your lop rabbit is trying to hear the sound better.
Rabbits with straight ears can swivel them 270° to listen for sounds from any direction. However, since rabbits don’t make much sound or have long expressive tails like dogs or cats, you need to go by the ear positions and body language to determine their mood.
Remember that while you can use their ears to judge what might be going on with your bun, you also need to consider what they are doing physically.
Hopefully, you now have a much better grasp of how your bunny feels, which can only strengthen your bond.
Featured Image Credit: Paisit Teeraphatsakool, Shutterstock