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Rabbits/What does it mean why they charge your legs?


QUESTION: I have a young male that often likes to charge at my legs when I'm walking.  He'll attack from one side and turn and attack from the other side.  Some times he'll bite my pant leg and kick with his hind legs.  I'm assuming he just wants to play tag.  The thing is when he bites and kicks, it's the same action as when he fights another rabbit.  Does that mean that when I think they're fighting it's just rough play?  The reason I don't think he's being aggressive is that often he would try to climb on me or bump me from behind to get my attention.

ANSWER: Dear Tom,

Your bunny is showing pretty much all-out fighting/aggressive behavior.  It's not playing tag.  He's attacking you.

Is he neutered?  If not, having him neutered will certainly mitigate this behavior, once the hormones wear off (this can take a few weeks).  

Can you tell what type of behavior (on your part) triggers this reaction?  What are you doing just before he attacks?  Does he do this all the time?  Do you "play" with him the way you would with a dog or cat, because--if so--you could be inadvertently triggering this aggressive behavior, as he sees you as a threat or rival.

Please send more information, and I will be better able to help you solve this problem.


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: He's not fixed and I guess I was making him aggressive cause I was playing with him like a he was a cat.  I had a toy on a string and swung it around him and he chased it.  I thought it was cute for him to jump after the toy.  That's how I used to play with my cat.  He attacks me when I walk along a certain path or when I'm walking back into the house.  I thought it was because I was ignoring him instead of petting him.  He never attacks when it's time for him to go back in his cage but will avoid me instead.


Hi, Tom

Yes, the playing with him as if he were a cat is very likely what triggered this.  Rabbits are not predators, so they don't like to chase things or play tag.  He sees your wiggling things in front of him as a threat, so he is acting accordingly.  You'll have to do some repair work to make him trust you, and I suggest the techniques here:

Never throw things at a rabbit, wave or tap your hand in front of his face, or make sudden, lunging movements towards him.  He is a prey species. and will almost always interpret such things as aggressive behavior on your part, and act accordingly.

As an example, here's a YouTube video of people who thought they were playing with their rabbit, but were actually making her angry and defensive.  The ears are back, the tail is up, and she's doing "bunny kung fu" to attack the perceived threat of the leaves "attacking" her.  There are a lot of real idiots leaving comments on that page, saying the bunny is having fun.  But they are interpreting her behavior as if she were a cat.  The rabbit experts weighing in on that site will tell you--100%--that this is an angry, defensive bunny who is very stressed by being trapped in a pen and having stuff thrown at her.  (I call those people idiots because they refuse to learn, and stubbornly stick to their uninformed guns about the rabbits motivation, even in the face of careful explanations.)

If that guy were to step into the pen and walk around, I have little doubt that the bunny would attack him as your bunny is attacking you.  Same kind of thing.

I hope this helps.



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Dana Krempels, Ph.D.


I've lived with companion rabbits for more than 35 years, and consider them members of my family. I can answer any questions about the biology and health of rabbits, from the commonplace to the unusual. But please note:

RULE #1:

Find a rabbit vet at for immediate help, and don't risk your bunny's life by spending time asking questions online! If you can't get in touch with your vet, read these Emergency Sick Bunny Instructions.

If you have found a wild baby rabbit, please read these EMERGENCY INSTRUCTIONS FOR WILD BABY RABBITS and then use this link to FIND A LOCAL WILDLIFE REHABILITATOR who can give you the right advice.

RULE #2:
Help me help you! Please make your subject line informative if you have an urgent question. then LET ME KNOW IN THE SUBJECT LINE so I can give your question highest priority over non-urgent questions. If you don't do this, then I can't guarantee timely assistance!

For all the best, most accurate rabbit health, care and behavior information, visit The House Rabbit Society.


I have been rescuing and rehabilitating domestic and wild rabbits for about 30 years. I have written articles for many rabbit rescue publications, as well as for the veterinary journal, Exotic DVM. I own EtherBun, the internet's largest listserve dedicated to health, care, and behavior of domestic rabbits.

Houserabbit Adoption, Rescue, and Education, Inc. (H.A.R.E., Inc.) president National House Rabbit Society (Board member)

Exotic DVM
Warren Peace (Journal of the House Rabbit Society of Miami)
Various newsletters of the House Rabbit Society, nationwide

Ph.D - Biology
B.S. - Biology
B.A. - English

Awards and Honors
Lightspan Academic Excellence Award for web site on rabbit health and biology

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