People who own rabbits will tell you that they have the cutest pet ever. Rabbits are soft and fluffy. Their tiny noses are always wiggling. They are very smart and have strong and playful personalities.
However, there is some confusion as to which species of animals rabbits belong to.
Some seem to wonder if rabbits are rodents, while others consider bunnies to be part of the marsupial family. Well, are rabbits marsupials?
In this post, we’ll address some widespread misconceptions and break down the differences between the two.
Are Rabbits Marsupials?
No, rabbits are not marsupials. They belong to the group of placental mammals of the order Lagomorpha, together with pikas.
Rabbits, or bunnies, are not considered marsupials since they do not carry their newborns in a pouch as most marsupials do. Also, unlike most marsupials, rabbits give birth to a fully developed baby.
Rabbits are famous for their ability to produce so many offspring, giving birth from one to fourteen babies per litter. These newborns are called kittens or kits.
On, the other hand, marsupials are animals that belong to the group called Marsupialia. Rabbits are not part of this group of animals.
What Are Marsupials?
Marsupials are mammals that give birth to an altricial young to be nursed inside a pouch. Altrical youngs are born prematurely in an undeveloped state, and continue their development while attached to the nipples on the mother’s lower belly.
Rabbits are definitely not one of those animals!
The pouch – or marsupium, from which the group got its name – is a flap of skin covering the nipples.
Wombats and marsupial moles, species of burrowing marsupials, have backward-facing pouches so the dirt doesn’t get in as the animal digs. The pouch of a koala opens to the side, while in water opossums both females and males have pouches.
Almost 70% of marsupials can be found in Australia and New Guinea; the rest are dispersed throughout North, Central, and South America.
Besides large species like the kangaroos, koalas, wombats, and wallabies, marsupials also include smaller animals like the opossums, Tasmanian devils, and bandicoots.
The largest marsupial in the world is the red kangaroo, weighing up to 200 pounds – the baby kangaroo, called a joey, is 1 inch long at birth and only weighs 0.035 oz!
Marsupials first evolved in South America about 100 million years ago, back when South America, Australia, and Antarctica were a single continent.
Why Are Rabbits Not Marsupials?
Rabbits are not marsupials because they belong to a different infraclass of animals.
There are three types of mammals based on the way they reproduce: monotremes (mammals that lay eggs), marsupials (mammals that give birth to an early-stage fetus), and placentals (mammals that give birth to fully developed fetus).
Marsupials belong to an infraclass called Marsupialia, where the newborns are incompletely developed and are typically carried and suckled in a pouch on the mother’s belly.
For example, the red kangaroo is born after only about one month of pregnancy. At this stage in development, the newborn is hairless, has closed eyes, and has undeveloped back legs.
After that, this bean-sized animal has to climb into the pouch and latch on one of four nipples. It will remain there for about 8 months before it leaves the pouch and starts feeding on its own.
Unlike marsupials, bunny rabbits have a placenta and do not carry their baby in a pouch.
Rabbits belong to the infraclass Placentalia, in which a placenta develops during pregnancy.
The placenta nourishes (via umbilical cord) and protects the fetus while it grows inside the uterus. When the more advanced stages are reached, a female will give birth.
Once a baby rabbit is born and the umbilical cord is removed, the offspring will have a belly button (navel) on the belly.
Unlike rabbits and other placental mammals, marsupials will not have a belly button scar.
Humans, dogs, elephants, lions, tigers, bears, lemurs, and many other animals are placental mammals. Nearly 95% of all modern mammals species belong to this group.
It should be mentioned that not all marsupials have a pouch. Some have exposed teats, while others will develop a pouch only during pregnancy.
As we mentioned before, marsupials are most diverse in Australia and New Guinea, where there are no placental mammals.
In places where marsupials and placental mammals developed alongside one another, placental mammals took over.
What Are Rabbits?
Rabbits are small burrowing mammals with long ears, long back legs, and a short tail.
Together with hares, rabbits belong to the family Leporidae, native to all parts of the world, except for Australia and Antarctica. Leporids weigh from 1.4 pounds (pygmy rabbits) to 11 pounds (arctic hares).
Rabbits evolved in Asia, some 40 million years ago.
You might have noticed your bunny jumping around and flicking its head and feet. This behavior is called a “binky” and means that your pet is happy. And just like cats, rabbits might purr when happy.
And those long and adorable ears? They aren’t just for listening. The rabbit’s ears help regulate its body temperatures. That’s why bunnies that live in hot areas tend to have the largest ears.
The Guinness World Record for the longest ears in a rabbit belongs to a bunny called Nipper’s Geronimo with an ear length of 31.125 in!
The world record for the heaviest rabbit belongs to a 55-pound British pet rabbit named Ralph that eats $90 of food a week!
Rabbits are intelligent and social creatures that need other rabbits around for companionship so consider adopting a bonded pair, in case you haven’t already.
The most famous cartoon rabbit, Bugs Bunny, can be often seen munching on carrots.
However, this is a myth, as carrots aren’t a natural part of a rabbit’s diet. They are high in sugar and you should only give small amounts as occasional treats to your fluffy pet.
If you only feed them carrots only, rabbits might get chronic hypervitaminosis A.
There are around 30 species of rabbits today.
Read More: Does another marsupial, a possum, lay eggs?
Final Thoughts – Are Rabbits Marsupials?
In conclusion, rabbits are not marsupials.
They belong to a family called Leporidae, which also contains hares. Hares and rabbits might look similar, but they are separate species. Hares are bigger, have longer ears, and are less social than bunnies.
Rabbits were once considered rodents until 1912 but were moved into a new order, Lagomorpha, which also includes pikas.
The main difference between rabbits and marsupials is that the rabbits are placental mammals that do not give birth to an undeveloped baby and do not keep it in their pouches, as marsupials do.
If you were pondering on the question “are rabbits marsupials”, we hope this article removed all doubts.
And if you enjoyed it, here’s a recommendation on another popular read: do cats belong to the rodent family?