Why do rabbits make buzzing noises? The use of vibrational communication by rabbits has been known since the seventies. In fact, it is well-known that rabbits can detect not only the direction but also the distance to a sound source through head movements (which are associated with changes in body posture). The frequencies of these buzzes range from 150 Hz up to 20 kHz.
By emitting these noises, rabbits claim their territory and find out whether another animal inhabits it without encroaching on it physically. These sounds are emitted during courtship as well as when two males meet or if there is some kind of danger present. Additionally, they can be used for orientation within an environment over short distances of less than 1 meter. This explains why they are usually heard near warren entrances.
“Rabbits can communicate with each other through their hind feet as well; for example, we observed a mother rabbit whose litter had died. Her distress caused her to stamp and tread vigorously on the ground – an unusual behavior – and we could actually hear this in ultrasonic recordings”, says Dr. Frans de Waal of Emory University (USA), one of the first researchers who studied these low-frequency sounds more than 10 years ago.”
This is how rabbits use their buzzes:
CREATING A WARREN:
When rabbits leave behind droppings on territory they want to claim as theirs, they also produce these buzzing noises. The territory size depends on the availability of food and predators. However, it typically includes their warren and a nearby area of about 30 m2.
CREATING A CONFINED SPACE:
Rabbits use these noises to establish a perimeter around large trees, for example, especially if they want to mark it as their territory.
When rabbits feel threatened by a dog or a fox they produce high-frequency sounds that can be heard from far away. In this case, the signal is used as a warning sign for other rabbits who might be nearby. These extreme frequencies are mainly caused by muscular movements in the throat, which leads to vibrations at 3000 Hz. Further elements may also contribute to the generation of low frequencies such as bones and teeth – but these have not been studied so far according to Dr. de Waal.
“The sound is produced by the larynx, vibrates through the soft tissues in the neck and thorax before being directed into rabbit’s large, inflatable external ears”, Dr. de Waal adds. “These large ears are essential for amplifying these low-frequency signals.”
CREATION OF A COURTSHIP SONG:
Males use their ‘rabbit love songs’ to attract females. The song is often short, lasting only a few seconds but can be repeated several times until the female chooses another male or mates with the one who produces the most attractive sound. These louder, more complex sounds are made by males to attract females during the breeding season between March and September. To produce these songs males have to contract their throats, diaphragm, and sternum. The contraction of the muscles in the neck leads to a falling frequency from about 150 to 50 hertz – which is still within the range humans can hear.
CREATING AN ALARM SIGNAL:
Rabbits have been known to scream when being attacked by a predator or if they are being held by a human, for example. In both cases, rabbits produce very loud sounds that can be heard from several meters away thanks to their large external ears.
REQUESTING FOOD AND CARE:
During courtship, females also use these signals (songs) to convey their willingness to mate with specific males according to Dr de Waal.”I am convinced this behavior is far more common than we would expect. It may not be surprising that males and females use low frequencies to communicate while mating, but it is surprising that they also do this at other times,” says de Waal. “We simply need more research on the subject.”
For rabbits, sound travels around five times faster than in air; consequently, humans cannot hear anything until a rabbit literally presses its body against the ground. As such these sounds are perfect for communicating over short distances like when finding their way back home or guarding territory from predators.
FAQS: (Why do rabbits make buzzing noises?)
Q. Why do rabbits feel the need to make such loud noises?
A. Rabbits often vocalize when left alone or when they are in pain and cannot find a way to escape their situation. Many house rabbits felt the need to scream as a way of expressing these uncomfortable feelings and/or desires (to be let out of their cage).
Another reason may be territoriality. When rabbits are around other rabbits, they make sounds to claim territory – this is possibly how they were vocalizing when you found them abandoned in the woods or near a road. They are telling people that this land belongs to them!
Q. Can I let my rabbit run around outside?
A. That is best for your rabbit’s mental health, but be aware that they will make noises to let other rabbits know where their territory is. This may result in negative attention from neighboring animals or humans – but otherwise, it is good exercise and helps with territorial behavior!
Also Read: why do rabbits live underground?