Are Rabbits Nocturnal?

Written by Jude Speegle
Published: April 2, 2022
© Peter Jung / Creative Commons – License / Original
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The answer to this question is not as simple as it seems at first sight. Many animals are classified as nocturnal, and it’s not a wonder why someone would ask if rabbits are. Many rabbit owners have probably noticed their bunnies thumping around at bedtime or early in the morning.

Rabbits make excellent pets because they have very distinct personalities. Every rabbit is as different as they come, so along with the variety of breeds and colors, you never know what kind of pet they will be.

Some rabbits enjoy snuggles, and some will threaten you with a glare if you even think to cuddle them. Many rabbits, once fixed, can be potty trained so that they don’t leave their tiny pellets all over your living room.

One thing that all rabbits will have in common is that they are crepuscular, not nocturnal. There are three major classifications of this type and some variations:

  • Crepuscular
    • Matutinal
    • Vespertine
  • Diurnal
  • Nocturnal

Crepuscular

Rabbits are crepuscular, which means they are more active during dawn and dusk.

©Orest lyzhechka/Shutterstock.com

Rabbits are crepuscular, not nocturnal, so their most active times are during dawn and dusk. Those effervescent twilight hours where often humans are at their sleepiest or most vulnerable is, when rabbits are ready to hit the town.

There is usually enough light for animals to hunt and forage by, but it is either the tail end or the beginning of nocturnal animals’ days. This means they are safer while doing these tasks. Also, crepuscular animals have a distinct advantage over diurnal animals because they are already awake, prepped, and have tapped resources before the others are awake.

Rabbits make unique pets if you’re an early bird or a night owl because they are ready to have fun at these points and throughout the day. So if you work all day or work all night, when you get home, your bunny will be thumping and ready to play.

Matutinal

When an animal is matutinal, they are most active in the very early morning. They awake even before diurnal animals. Animals can utilize the morning twilight to find resources before other animals. The saying “the early bird gets the worm” could be talking about how birds are some of the first to wake up.

Other matutinal animals include bees, pollinating flowers in the earliest morning hours. Animals are often more vulnerable when mating, so choosing to mate in the early morning is a remarkable survival evolution. Gerbils and other small rodents also have evolved in this manner.

Vespertine

Like matutinal animals, vespertine animals are more active during twilight hours, though this is for the emergence of dusk. Owls and bats first come out at dusk to go hunting, spotting animals and insects as they’re tired and trying to end their days.

Those vespertine animals get a jumpstart on nocturnal animals when it comes to depleting resources. This is considered to be a variation on crepuscular.

Diurnal

Diurnal animals are most active during the day.

©iStock.com/vzmaze

Diurnal means that animals are active during the day. This means being awake and hunting during the day is the best advantage for this animal. Many common pets are diurnal, like dogs, so they can spend plenty of time hanging out with their owners.

Animals without night vision are likely to be diurnal because they have evolved without that advantage. This also means that they utilize sunlight for themselves in different ways, including hunting or requiring it for their health, like many birds. Humans themselves are naturally diurnal, and we thrive during the day.

Nocturnal

Get a Bat Out of Your House
Nocturnal animals are most active at night.

©Rudmer Zwerver/Shutterstock.com

This classification is the one most people will be familiar with. Nocturnal animals are the ones who spend their awake hours in the darkness. Often nocturnal animals have extreme night vision or have developed other ways to succeed at night, like bats with echolocation.

Nocturnal fully just means “more active at night.” Many of the animals who choose to come out at night are the kind that would have more active predators during the day. Being active at night ensures their safety, though there are nocturnal predators as well.

Nocturnal predators have developed their specialized senses of smell or hearing to assist in their hunting. For example, owls have fantastic eyesight and can see their prey from above in the dark.

How Light Effects Breeding

baby rabbit portrait
Rabbits will breed more if there is more daylight for longer.

©iStock.com/sduben

A study in Livestock Science discussed how light could affect the breeding times of rabbits. Light controls all aspects of animals’ lives, either its amount or lack thereof. 

In this study, the rabbits had their daily light patterns adjusted significantly to induce breeding. When light patterns increased, the rabbits bred more fiercely as it felt like the seasonal timing was correct.

When crepuscular prey breed more, this affects predators of that nature because there is more for them to hunt. Thus predator populations can go up as well. It is interesting how light can signal safety or timing to animals.

Those who farm rabbits can increase wool production exponentially by giving them shorter days, while breeding is increased with longer days. The days are extended or shortened with the light given.

Sleep patterns are part of the natural order of evolution and how animals thrive in their respective communities. It is wonderful how much influence the sun can have on our furred and feathered friends.

If you’re looking to own a rabbit, just know they may nap hardest in the middle of the day, so don’t expect to be playing tug of war at lunchtime. Also, be sure to feed them their favorite foods early in the morning or at dusk to ensure they feel safe and content.

A few good examples of a treat for a pet rabbit include strawberries, bananas, and crunchy lettuce. It is always entertaining to watch a bunny much along some lettuce or massacre a strawberry.

Enjoy your furry little friend knowing you don’t have to be active at night to ensure it has a sound sleep cycle.


The Featured Image

Dwarf Lop
A Dwarf Lop
© Peter Jung / Creative Commons – License / Original

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About the Author

Jude is a writer both by trade and by heart. They have been writing since a very young age and have eight years of professional writing experience. Passionate about animals, Jude has three birds and three cats.

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