Rabbit Focus

Do Rabbits Have Lungs?

Being obligate nasal breathes, rabbits have the physical necessity of using their nose to breathe instead of their mouths. Thanks to nose breathing, rabbits can eat and breathe at the same time.

Do Rabbits Have Lungs?

Having said this, you might be wondering about the respiratory system of these animals. Do rabbits have lungs, too?

The obvious answer is yes, rabbits have lungs. They won’t be able to breathe if they don’t have this part of the body in the first place.

Continue reading below to learn more about the respiratory organs of rabbits, their breathing process, and more.

What Organs Make Up a Rabbit’s Respiratory System?

There are several variations in the respiratory organs of rabbits compared to other animals. They have an extended and well-developed nasal cavity. Rabbits also have nostrils that are elongated slite-like structures.

Rabbits have lungs, and the right one has four different lobes, and these are apical, cardiac, diaphragmatic, and intermediate. Meanwhile, the left lung of a rabbit only has two lobes, and these are the diaphragmatic and apico-cardiac lobes.

The same cartilage can also be found in a rabbit’s larynx. The thyroid cartilage is bigger and forms the larynx’s ventral wall. Rabbits have smaller cricoid cartilage than the thyroid cartilage. The tip of their epiglottis is bifurcated and rounded.

The trachea is also known as a windpipe made up of a series of partial cartilaginous rings. The trachea of a rabbit doesn’t have the apical bronchus.

How Do Rabbits Breathe?

A rabbit breathes much faster than people do. The usual respiration rate of adult rabbits is 30 to 60 breaths every minute. Some rabbits might breathe faster than this, especially if they are overheating or feeling stressed.

The inside of the nose or nasal cavity of rabbits is located dorsal to their mouth. The soft and hard palate is found between the nasal cavity and the mouth. The palate is the roof of the mouth. The soft palate is the back region of the mouth’s roof while the hard palate is the front part.

The nasal cavity is divided into a right side and a left side as well with the cartilage barrier found in the middle. Fine hairs covering the inside of the nose are responsible for cleaning the entering air. They collect dust before the air proceeds to the respiratory tract.

Rabbits also have sensory pads at the entrance of their nostrils that make their nose sensitive to the touch. The nostrils stay still when fully relaxed. However, their nostrils can make a maximum of 150 twitches in just one minute.

The reason behind the nose twitching in rabbits is that this helps expose their nose to more air. At the same time, twitching also moves the organs in their nostrils that detect scents. It allows bunnies to catch even the tiniest bit of scent present in the air.

Every time a rabbit breathes, the alar folds of the animal folds open up to let the air flow through its nostrils. After this, the air will move into the nasal cavity, flowing down through the larynx and the trachea before finally reaching the lungs.

The trachea is the long tube in the respiratory system of a rabbit with cartilaginous rings surrounding it, while the larynx is the voice box of your rabbit. The rings that surround the trachea ensure that the tube doesn’t collapse while air is moving in and out.

When you continue downward, you will find the trachea branching out into to airways, the right and left bronchus. These two bronchi and the lungs will then meet at the hilum. Starting from here, the bronchi will then split into bronchioles or narrower branches. These will then branch into respiratory bronchioles, ultimately finishing at the alveolar ducts.

Rabbits are also said to exhibit a monopodial branching in which smaller branches laterally divide to form a single huge central branch.

Bunnies also have a diaphragm, the muscular structure that can be found right below the lungs. To facilitate respiration, the diaphragm will relax and contract.

Why Do Rabbits Breathe Through their Nose?

Rabbits mainly breathe using their noses due to the rooted epiglottis located at the backmost part of the soft palate. As stated earlier, the soft palate is the back portion of the mouth’s roof.

The main purpose of the epiglottis is to ensure that food doesn’t enter the air passages. Rabbits are allowed to eat while they breathe because of the separation made by the hard and soft palates.

There is a tissue layer inside the mouth sitting right on top of the glottis’ opening. This layer of tissue blocks the air flowing into the trachea from the mouth. This means that any air that the mouth takes in will not necessarily reach the lungs.

What is Obligate Nasal Breathing in Rabbits?

Human infants, horses, rodents, and rabbis are all good examples of obligate nasal breathers. The term obligate nasal breathing is used for describing the physical requirement of breathing through the nose rather than the mouth.

But this term, however, can also be quite confusing since it suggests that obligate nasal breathers can breathe only through their nose when the truth is, this is not really the case. Obligate nasal breathers prefer to breathe through their nose but they can still breathe through their mouth. It is just that breathing through the mouth is not as effective as breathing through the nose in some animals like rabbits.

The term obligate nasal breathing can also be used for describing the ability of feeding and breathing through the nose simultaneously. Obligate nasal breathing is believed to be an adaptation that is specifically found in most prey animals, including rabbits. This makes it possible for rabbits to continue feeding and still pick up the scents of any predators even from a distance.

You see, rabbits do have lungs, and these play an important role in their breathing process. By becoming more familiar with how rabbits breathe, you will be able to look after your pets better.

And with that, we officially end this blog post. But before you go, can you do us a solid and spread the love (or laughter) by sharing this on your social media? Who knows, maybe we might even find someone who can relate to our content and benefit from it... Wink