Are rabbits rodents? This old question often makes people confused. Considering the definitions of rabbits and rodents is necessary to find the right answer.
The rodent belongs to the order Rodentia that has a pair of incisors. Those are on the bottom and top jaw.
Rodents also have sharp teeth at the edges and wider ones on the base. For instance, hamsters, mice, rats, and squirrels are included in rodents. Their foods are meat and plant, so they become omnivorous.
Rabbits are mammals in the order Lagomorpha. They have a pair of incisors on the bottom. Two sets of incisors are on their top jaw. They only eat plants to survive. It means that rabbits are truly herbivorous.
Rabbits are Lagomorphs
Lagomorphs (Lagomorpha) consist of two families; they are Leporidae and Ochotonidae. Rabbits belong to the Leporidae family, so they are not rodents. Although there are some similarities, rabbits, and rodents cannot be in the same group.
Rabbits can survive in tropical forests, deserts, and wetlands. They prefer to live in shrubs and trees. These ground dwellers are digging the soil to make burrows as shelter.
An adaption of long ears allows rabbits detecting predators. Their ears can be about 6 cm long. These long-eared mammals are born with closed eyes. Newborns are also born without fur. Adult rabbits are developed with soft and long fur.
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Similarities between Rodents and Rabbits
The foremost scientific community decided that rabbits were categorized as rodents. That simple classification is because rabbits have similarities to rodents.
Like rodents, rabbits are placental mammals that have short breeding cycles. Both can litter of many kits. A litter of young can be more than seven kits. The young will get early nutrition from mother’s milk.
Another similarity is the growing incisors. The incisors constantly grow due to rootless teeth. It is known as indeterminate growth. Both rodents and rabbits use their teeth for gnawing.
Rodents and rabbits love gnawing since their teeth must wear down foods. They keep chewing on to avoid incisors growing into the lower jaw. This growth leads to intense pain.
Significant Difference between Rodents and Rabbits
Since rabbits only eat plant matter, they belong to obligate herbivores. On the other hand, rodents might eat insects, seeds, nuts, grains, and roots.
Therefore, their digestive systems are different. Rabbits maximize their digestion by eating twice. This process is called coprophagy.
Rabbits and rodents seem to have the same teeth, but they are distinctive. Rabbits’ teeth are more than rodents, although they are small. Their incisors are lined with enamel. On the contrary, rodents have not only enamel but also dentine.
Rabbits have unpigmented incisors while rodents’ front teeth are yellow to orange. Their colorings depend on the amount of iron salt. Rabbits’ white incisors show the teeth are lack of iron and mineral.
Their male reproduction is also different. Rabbits do not have a baculum, yet rodents do. The baculum will help longer and faster mating. Therefore, the rabbit mates for a slower period.
The other difference in physical appearance is tails. Many rodents have long tails, but rabbits come in short tails.
Nowadays, are rabbits rodents? The answer is no. Rabbits were part of rodents over a hundred years ago. However, classification has changed since the twentieth century. Today, rabbits are lagomorphs, not rodents anymore.