Differences between Wild and Domestic Rabbits

People often get confused between wild and domestic rabbits. So, in this article we will shed some light on the differences between these.


Wild rabbits are also known as Hares.

All rabbits and hares are part of the taxonomic order Lagomorpha, which has around 85 species.

Table of Contents
  • Differences between wild and domestic rabbits
  • Can wild and domestic rabbits live together?
  • Can we keep wild rabbits as pets in India?

Differences between wild and domestic rabbits

Many people think that wild rabbits and domestic rabbits are pretty similar, one lives in the wild and the other inside the house. Nothing can be farther from the truth.

Different Species

Wild rabbits (or hares) are as different from domestic rabbits, as wild wolves are from domestic dogs. They are not only different breeds, but entirely different species. They don’t even like to live with one-another.


Jackrabbits are not even rabbits. Their name is a misnomer. They are actually hares.

Looks and Colour

Wild and domestic rabbits even look different. It’s pretty easy to identify them.

While most domestic rabbits are white, or white-black, wild rabbits are mostly brownish in colour. To be precise, wild rabbits have agouti colouring. It helps them camouflage in their surrounding well. But it’s not a hard and fast rule.

Some European wild rabbits are completely black in colour. And in winter seasons, some wild rabbits change their fur colour from brown to white. It helps them hide in their surroundings. Similarly, even some pet rabbits may be brown or have agouti colouring too.


In general, you will find much more variety in pet rabbits, than in wild rabbits. You will see pet rabbits that are white, black, brown, various patterns of black and white etc. They may also vary in size, from tiny to huge. Some may have long furs, while others short.

Apart from colour, there may be some other physical differences too.

Some pet rabbits may have upright ears, and others floppy ears. On the other hand, wild rabbits never have floppy ears. Their ears are always upright, to enable them to hear any sound that may be made by a predator.

Also, pet rabbits tend to have a more roundish face.

Life Span

Life span wise there’s a big difference between the two. While wild rabbits only live for around 2-3 years, domestic rabbits have a much longer life span. If properly taken care of, given nutritious food and kept secured inside the house, domestic rabbits may live for around 10 to 14 years.

Sleep Patterns

Though both wild rabbits and domestic rabbits are more active during early morning and night. However, domestic rabbits may be trained to reschedule their sleep pattern as per you.

Domestic rabbits sleep for 8-10 hours per day, which is much more than what wild rabbits get to sleep in wild. In wild, the wild rabbits have to be more active or else they will fall prey to some predator.

Surviving Skills

Domestic rabbits do not have the same survival skills as their wild counterparts. They totally depend on humans for food, warmth, shelter. If you will leave your rabbit outside the house even for a day, then there are very low chances that he/she will survive.

Though domestic rabbits may dig, but they cannot build underground burrows for themselves as some breeds of wild rabbits can. They are not that active and vigilant either.

Speed-wise too wild rabbits are almost 1.5 times faster than domestic rabbits. In fact, you will seldom find domestic rabbits running at their full speed, as they won’t need to do so inside a house and also because they are much more lazy than the wild ones.


Wild rabbits eat stuff like clover, grass, wild flowers, bark, crops etc. On the other hand, domestic rabbits eat grass, hay, and vegetables. Timothy and orchard hay are considered better for rabbits. We may also give pellets to rabbits, especially if they are mineral-deficient.

There are a few other differences between domestic rabbits and wild ones, for example:

  • Wild rabbits have longer hind legs.
  • Wild rabbits prefer to run rather than hide on seeing a predator.
  • Babies of wild rabbits (called leverets) are born with eyes open and with fur. While, babies of domestic rabbits (called bunnies) are born with eyes closed (in fact blind) and without fur. Bunnies are much more dependent on their mothers and for a long duration. Leverets can even start walking in an hour or two.

Can wild and domestic rabbits live together?

As domestic rabbits and wild rabbits are different species altogether, it’s difficult for them to live together.

Moreover, rabbits of most of the wild rabbit breeds like to live alone and not in herds (group of rabbits is called fluffle). They only come together to mate. Even new mother hares spend very less time with their kids, so as to avoid any attention from a predator.

On the other hand, domestic rabbits love to live in groups. So, keeping a wild rabbit with a group of domestic rabbits may not be such a good idea. It will be difficult for them to decide a proper hierarchy among themselves.

Can we keep wild rabbits as pets in India?

No. Keeping wild rabbits (or hares) as pets is considered a crime in most countries, including India. If you find some injured wild rabbit or a rabbit baby, contact the concerned authorities.

On the other hand, never release a domestic rabbit into the wild. It will be like signing its death warrant. It will get scared in the wild and die soon.

Even if we keep the legal issues aside, it’s not easy to keep wild rabbits (or hares) as pets. They do not trust humans, and will not let you touch them.

Pet rabbits are much more docile, as compared to their wild counterparts. Even though they are not as cuddly as dogs and cats, but you may touch them, pet them and play with them. They even make emotional bonds with their caregivers.

Anyways, it’s much better experience to keep domestic rabbits as pets, as compared to wild hares. So, why even bother trying to get them as pets. Will you ever keep wolves as pets, rather than dogs?

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