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Unraveling The Mystery Of Rabbit Vision

Although there are similarities between human vision and rabbit vision, there are also important differences.

Leticia Materi, PhD, DVM
Posted: April 16, 2015, 9:30 p.m. EDT

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© Courtesy of Leticia Materi, PhD, DVM 
Because their eyes are on either side of their head, rabbits have nearly 360 degrees of vision. That is about twice the range humans have.

In order to detect predators, many prey species have well-developed senses, including vision. The basics of how eyes work is relatively constant across mammals. In order to discuss some of the differences that do exist, it is best to start with the basics of human vision.

Human Eye Anatomy
Vision occurs when we see light that is reflected from an object. That light passes through the cornea, the transparent front part of eye that helps focus the light. The light then continues through the pupil, the circular opening formed by the colored iris of the eye. The amount of light encountered changes the size of the pupil. Under dark conditions, the pupil dilates and when there is a lot of light the pupil constricts. 

At the pupil, the light encounters the lens of the eye, which further focuses the light onto the retina. Small muscles on the periphery of the lens work to alter the lens shape so that near or far objects can be focused on the retina. The retina is located at the back of the eye and contains photoreceptors that send signals to the brain in order for the image to be perceived by us.

The eye has two types of photoreceptors: rods (which work best in dim light) and cones (which help distinguish fine detail and color). As you read this, the words are focused on the area of your retina known as the fovea, which contains only cone receptors and gives you sharp visual details. Humans have three types of cones that are sensitive to one of three colors: red, green or blue light. With eyes facing forward, we humans also have great depth perception because the field of view of one eye is greatly overlapped by the field of view of the other eye.

Rabbit Eyes Vs. Human Eyes
So how about rabbits? The following outlines some of the most notable differences compared to humans:

1. Eye Placement: Rabbits have eyes placed on either side of their head. While humans have about 180 degrees of forward-facing field of view, rabbits have nearly 360 degrees of vision! This means that they can see almost all the way around themselves. This makes detecting predators approaching from any direction much easier. The one area that they cannot see is in front of the nose, just beneath the chin.

2. Depth Perception: Because the eyes are so laterally placed, there is relatively little overlap between the field of views of both eyes. In order to judge the distance of objects, rabbits often have to bob their heads up-and-down or side-to-side. Objects that are farther away appear to move less than those that are closer.

3. Color: Scientific studies suggest that rabbits have only two types of cones: one that responds best to green light and one that responds best to blue. Thus, compared to us, rabbits are somewhat colorblind. It is likely they can see various colors, but not as well as most humans. Colors near the red wavelength spectrum are probably seen as being grayer and very similar to each other.

4. Low-Light Vision: Compared to humans, rabbits have a greater number of rod photoreceptors. This means that they can see better than us in low-light conditions. 
5. The Fovea: This area of the rabbit’s retina contains relatively fewer cones than that of a human, so it is believed that they do not perceive as sharp an image as us when focusing on an object.

Note: This article is meant for educational purposes only and in no way represents any particular individual or case. It is not for diagnostic purposes. If your pet is sick, please take him or her to a veterinarian.

See all of Dr. Materi's blogs

Like this article? Please share it, and check out:
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Posted: April 16, 2015, 9:30 p.m. EDT

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Unraveling The Mystery Of Rabbit Vision

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Very interesting! :)
Autum, Caldwell, ID
Posted: 4/17/2015 3:50:13 PM
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