Rabbits/albino rabbits


what does it mean when there head is rocking side to side?

Dear Zoe,

Some rabbits have an odd behavior called "scanning."  It seems to be most prevalent in albino rabbits, but no one knows why. It may be an exaggerated motion associated with the normal nystagmus of the eyes.

Nystagmus is the natural, microscopic movement that every vertebrate eye makes constantly--including ours!  It's what makes vision possible.  As our eyes microscopically change the visual field at this tiny level, constantly (we are not aware of it, and you can't see or feel it), the eye's photoreceptors are constantly stimulated by the ever-changing light hitting them.  This is why we can see.  Without nystagmus, we would not be able to see.

Some people have suggested that albino rabbit "scanning" (the side to side movement of the head you're seeing) is an "outgrowth" of normal nystagmus--but no one knows for sure.

But the bottom line is that it's a genetic trait that is not harmful, and it's nothing to worry about.

Hope that 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:

...it is an EMERGENCY.

Find a rabbit vet at www.rabbit.org/vet 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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