Had you asked the question around 120 years ago, and the answer would have been different, but today the answer to the question are rabbits rodents is no, they aren’t rodents!
Despite many similarities to rodents, the rabbit is a different animal classification altogether. They do both make great pets!
Both are part of the mammal group of animals, but rabbits, such as the cottontail rabbits of North America, are Lagomorphs, and not of the order Rodentia.
What makes a rodent A rodent?
Rodents (order Rodentia) make up a large number of the wider species group of mammals. Almost half of the mammal family are rodents.
The name Rodent is derived from the latin Rodere, which means to gnaw.
And the rodent’s teeth are one of its distinguishing features.
All members of the rodent order have two pairs of incisor teeth that are constantly growing (Incisor teeth are the front teeth).
Due to the fact that they are forever growing, the rodent needs to gnaw and chew to keep their teeth to a manageable size.
Rodents are omnivores, which means they eat meat and insects as well as plant material.
Examples of Rodents are
- Guinea Pigs
The smallest Rodent is the Delanys swamp mouse, and the largest the capybara of South America.
Why are rabbits not considered rodents?
Whilst very similar, there are a number of subtle differences that scientists used to determine the difference between Rodentia and Lagomorpha categories.
Firstly, rabbits have two sets of upper incisors.
They have the front set, which constantly grow just like the rodent, but also have a smaller ‘peg’ set just behind.
They still have one pair of bottom incisors.
Rabbits also have a different digestive system. They can produce poop pellets with different stages of digestion, and they are known to eat their own partially digested droppings which are a good source of nutrients. This is handy in the winter when food is harder to find.
Rabbits are herbivores, meaning they only feed on plant matter.
There are also differences in reproductive organs, but I don’t think we want to talk about rodents and their penis bone 🙂
What class of animal is a rabbit?
Rabbits are of the animal order Lagomorpha, also know are lagomorphs.
Lagomorphs are a much smaller family than the Rodent. Other Lagomorphs include the Hare and Pikas.
They were originally included in the rodent family, but in the late 18 hundreds, biologists and paleontologists came to a consensus that they were in fact two different classes and reclassified rabbits as Lagomorph.
Rabbits can also be known as Connies, from the latin cuniclus. It’s not a name widely used nowadays, and is more often used to refer to rabbit fur, which is still used in clothing and textiles, unfortunately.
So, it’s an easy misconception to class rabbit rodent, but small differences in evolution amount to them being very separate families.
Hope we have cleared up some confusion. Bunnies are not rodents!