If you, without any context, were asked how to feed a rabbit, you might think to just throw a carrot at it and leave. Or you’d think “I’ll just buy whatever the heck is at the pet store.” Pretty smart strategy, but for those who thought of rabbits and carrots together, you might want to know if rabbits actually like carrots. Also, sidebar, one of the autocompletes for “do rabbits” is “do rabbits lay eggs.” They don’t.
Further Reading: Do Mice Actually Like Cheese?
In the wild, rabbits are herbivores, and they show preference for grass and leaves. That means their diets are actually very similar to other grazers, like cows. If you know anything about cows, you know that their diet isn’t very efficient–it’s hard for animals to properly digest all that grass. This is why cows, deer, sheep, and other hoofed mammals are ruminants. Basically, after their food is ingested the first time, they regurgitate it to chew it again. Also this is why ruminants have four stomach compartments.
Rabbits don’t get to regurgitate and rechew their food (this process is also called foregut fermentation). They get to do the opposite, hindgut fermentation. When rabbits poop, there are two kinds of feces they can pass. One is normal poop, it’s discarded and left alone. The other kind is known as a “night dropping.” These are immediately re-consumed.
That was a long way of saying “a staple part of a rabbit’s diet is grass and also their own poop.”
Where Did Rabbits and Carrots Come From?
So rabbits don’t rely on carrots in the wild. Then why are they so closely tied to carrots in pop culture?
Many point their fingers at Bugs Bunny. Which means we have to figure out why Bugs Bunny is always chewing on a carrot in animated shorts or movies. Luckily we can point to It Happened One Night (1934). Friz Freleng, one of the first directors of Looney Tunes, has mentioned It Happened One Night was one of his favorites. Bugs Bunny shares traits with characters in the film, from someone calling another “Doc” to always talking quickly with their mouth full of carrot. Freleng, according to other animators at Warner Brothers, was also allegedly inspired by the way a character named Gable talked around his cigar.
There’s also the fact that Bugs Bunny is surrounded by the context of the 1930s and 1940s, when smoking was common. The carrot serves as a cigar stand-in.
Bunnies are cute so here are some other animals with bunnies.