Rabbits are known for their habit of digging holes in yards and gardens. If you’ve ever had a rabbit as a pet or dealt with wild rabbits invading your property, you’ve probably noticed these mysterious shallow holes and wondered why rabbits engage in this peculiar behavior.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Rabbits dig holes for shelter, warmth, hiding food caches, and to create escape routes. The holes are shallow because rabbits are prey animals and need to be able to quickly exit their burrows.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the reasons rabbits dig holes, including for shelter, warmth, hiding food, escape routes, and territorial marking. We’ll look at how wild and domestic rabbits differ in burrowing behaviors.

We’ll also provide tips on stopping rabbits from digging up your yard.

Rabbits Dig for Shelter and Safety

Protect Themselves from Predators

Rabbits are prey animals, which means they are often hunted by predators like foxes, coyotes, hawks, and snakes. To protect themselves from these threats, rabbits will dig burrows underground where they can hide.

An underground burrow offers protection from predators and provides a safe place for rabbits to rest, sleep, and raise their young. According to wildlife experts, a good burrow can save a rabbit’s life in the wild.

Rabbits often choose to dig burrows under bushes, rocks, logs, or other natural structures. These features help conceal the entrance to their burrow from predators searching for them above ground. Some rabbits will dig their burrows in more open areas but create multiple escape tunnels and chambers to evade threats if a predator discovers their hideaway.

Escape Danger

In addition to hiding from predators, rabbits also dig holes to quickly escape from imminent danger. If a predator is in pursuit above ground, a rabbit can rapidly dig into a burrow to get underground and out of harm’s way. Their powerful hind legs allow them to excavate soil extremely fast.

Rabbits have a very strong fight or flight instinct. At the first sign of potential danger, their first reaction is often to get low in a hole. Having quick access to an escape burrow allows rabbits to get to safety within just a few seconds.

This rapid response can mean the difference between life or death for a rabbit when facing a predator.

Find Protection from the Elements

Burrows also provide rabbits shelter from harsh weather conditions. Underground, rabbits are insulated from extreme cold, heat, rain, and snow. While their fur helps protect them from the elements, a burrow gives added relief from temperature extremes and precipitation.

In the winter, burrows prevent rabbits from freezing and provide warmer nesting areas to raise young. In the summer, they offer shade and cooler temperatures. Rabbits dig burrows under tree roots or rocks which provide additional shelter.

Living underground allows rabbits to survive and thrive in many climates and terrains.

Rabbits Burrow for Warmth

Insulate Against Cold Weather

Rabbits dig burrows and tunnels to create shelter and insulation from cold weather. Their fur coats provide warmth, but burrows give added protection against wind, rain, and freezing temperatures. Underground, the temperature remains fairly constant compared to above ground.

once below the frost line, the earth maintains a temperature between 40-60°F. This shelter allows wild rabbits to survive harsh winters.

Rabbits dig elaborate underground burrow systems with multiple entrances, chambers, and tunnels. The main burrow leads to a nesting chamber which they line with soft grasses and fur to insulate it further. Some tunnels may extend 3-6 feet underground where the temperature is most stable.

The depths provide security from predators and winter weather.

Domestic rabbits retain this burrowing instinct even when living indoors. House rabbits enjoy digging at rugs, blankets, and pillows to create cozy nests. An indoor rabbithole hideaway filled with hay or shreds of paper satisfies their natural desire for an insulated shelter.

Stay Cool in Hot Weather

Just as burrows provide subterranean insulation in winter, rabbits use them to stay cool in summer heat. As temperatures rise outdoors, underground remains cooler. On hot days around 90°F, burrow temperatures average about 63°F.

While thick fur protects rabbits from cold, it can cause them to overheat in hot climates.

Rabbits are most active outdoors in the cooler morning and evening hours in summer. Midday they often rest in their burrows to avoid heat exhaustion. The earth surrounding the burrows absorbs surface heat during the day and gradually releases it at night.

This creates a heat sink, cooling rabbits sheltering inside.

Some rabbits may dig burrows underneath shade trees or porches. The layer of soil adds extra insulation from the sun’s radiating heat. Rabbits also dig earth mounds around burrow entrances to further block sunlight and keep the interior chilled.

Rabbits Make Food Caches

Store Food for Later

Rabbits have a habit of digging shallow holes in the ground to store food for later consumption. This behavior, known as “caching”, allows them to save excess food when it is plentiful so they can return to it when fresh vegetation is scarce.

Caching provides an important food source during winter months or droughts when green plants are not as readily available.

Rabbits typically dig small, shallow holes only a few inches deep to store the food. They will deposit bite-sized portions of greens, fruits, vegetables, or other rabbit-safe foods into the holes, then cover them back up with dirt or debris to hide and protect the cache.

Some signs that a rabbit may be caching food include finding small mounds of freshly turned earth or observing them carrying food items away from their main feeding area.

Caching helps rabbits create a reliable food supply and ensures they have nutrients on hand in lean times. It is an instinctive behavior hardwired into their biology for survival purposes. In the wild, caching likely helps rabbits avoid starvation when facing extreme weather, droughts, or scarcity of edible plants.

Hide Food from Other Rabbits

In addition to saving food for later, rabbits also cache portions of food to hide it from other rabbits. In the wild or even in bonded pairs and groups sharing an enclosure, rabbits maintain a social hierarchy and dominance system.

Lower-status rabbits may cache food to prevent dominant rabbits from stealing it and gorging on shared resources. By hiding small stashes of food underground, meeker rabbits can ensure they get the nutrients they need despite bullying from territorial cagemates.

Digging food caches can also help rabbits hide treats from each other when sharing space. Even bonded bunnies may compete over particularly delicious foods like fruits or veggies. To enjoy these items without conflict or theft, rabbits will often cache them around their environment.

That way each rabbit can dig up and enjoy their own private snacks!

Other Reasons for Rabbit Holes

Create Bolt Holes for Quick Escape

Rabbits are prey animals, meaning they are often hunted by predators like foxes, coyotes, hawks, and snakes. As a result, they need to be able to make a quick getaway to help ensure their survival. One way rabbits facilitate a speedy escape is by digging bolt holes throughout their territory (Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund).

These shallow holes, usually around 30 cm deep, allow rabbits quick access to an underground haven where they can hide until danger passes. Bolt holes are typically concave-shaped, with the bottom of the hole being wider than the entrance hole on top.

This allows the rabbit enough room to turn around underground. Bolt holes are often dug under bushes, hedges, logs, or other semi-protected spots near areas the rabbit frequents for prime positioning when escape is needed (The Dutch Bunny).

Mark Territory

In the wild, rabbits live in large warrens together with other rabbits. Even domestic rabbits have a desire to mark out territory and treat where they live as their own space. One way pet rabbits indicate an area belongs to them is by digging holes around the perimeter of their enclosure or room (Wag!).

Rabbits use their strong front paws to dig shallow burrows about 5-10 cm deep. After excavating the hole, they often deposit droppings or urine inside to leave their scent. By pooping in holes they’ve dug, rabbits are essentially putting up “keep out” signs for other rabbits or animals.

This territorial behavior serves to reduce conflict and indicates that your bunny feels at home and relaxed enough to claim their surroundings.

Wild vs. Domestic Rabbit Burrowing

Wild Rabbits Dig More Elaborate Tunnels

In the wild, rabbits live in underground burrow systems known as warrens. These complex networks of tunnels and chambers provide security and shelter for entire communities of rabbits. According to wildlife experts, wild rabbits are prodigious diggers, excavating burrows that can extend more than 10 feet under the ground with multiple entrances and exits blending into the landscape.

Wild rabbits dig elaborate burrows for some key reasons:

  • To create safe spaces for breeding and raising young
  • To shelter from extreme weather and temperatures
  • To hide from predators like foxes, coyotes, hawks, and cats
  • To safely store food for harder times

The burrows that wild rabbits dig are often large enough for them to hop around and make sharp turns to evade predators. Some tunnels even have multiple levels. These spiraling burrows help wild rabbits listen for danger and escape if needed.

Their powerful hind legs allow wild rabbits to be rapid diggers, excavating the tough roots and soil of their natural habitats.

Domestic Rabbits Mostly Dig Simple Holes

Most domesticated rabbits don’t display the elaborate tunneling instincts of wild rabbits. However, some still dig simple burrows, holes, and trenches due to natural behaviors passed down from wild ancestors. Common reasons pet bunnies may dig include:

  • Boredom from lack of stimulation
  • Stress or anxiety
  • Discomfort from heat, hunger, fear, etc.
  • Hormones/mating or territorial behaviors
Wild Rabbit Burrows Domestic Rabbit Holes
Complex networks of tunnels Simple trenches or individual holes
Over 10 ft deep with multiple rooms Usually less than 1 ft deep
Provide shelter and hiding spaces Boredom relief or stress outlet

Where wild rabbits are conditioned to dig for survival, pet rabbits may dig due to stress-related behavioral issues. Providing adequate enrichment activities for domestic rabbits can help curb undesirable digging.

Additionally, getting them properly sized housing and supervised playtime reduces stress triggers related to small cages or enclosures.

While wild and domesticated digging behaviors differ, both originate from the eastern cottontail’s hard-wired burrowing instincts. Ultimately, a rabbit’s desire to move earth is strong whether sharpening survival skills in the wild or relieving stress as a pet.

Stopping Rabbits from Digging Up Your Yard

Use Physical Barriers

One of the most effective ways to stop rabbits from digging up your yard is to install physical barriers that block their access. Here are some useful options:

  • Chicken wire fencing – Bury chicken wire several inches underground around the perimeter of your yard or garden beds. The sharp edges will deter rabbits from trying to dig under.
  • Hardware cloth – This sturdy wire mesh comes in rolls and can be bent to fit the contours of your yard. Use U-shaped pins to hold it in place.
  • Large rocks – Place good-sized rocks around the edges of your garden to literally stonewall rabbits.

You can also try scattering thorny branches or sticks over areas where rabbits tend to dig. The prickly deterrents will make them think twice about digging there. Just be sure to check that children or pets won’t be bothered by sharp branches.

Try Natural Rabbit Repellents

Certain natural scents and substances are known to repel rabbits, so you can leverage them to make your yard less enticing. Here are some greener options to try:

  • Blood meal – Sprinkle this dried and powdered blood on the soil. The strong scent switches on rabbits’ prey drive, signaling danger.
  • Ammonia – Soak cotton balls in household ammonia and place them around your yard. The strong odor drives rabbits away.
  • Hot pepper spray – Make a homemade spray from cayenne or other hot peppers and coat vulnerable plants.
  • Human hair – Collect hair clippings from your latest haircut and spread them around garden beds.

Reapply these organic repellents after heavy rains to maintain effectiveness. They’ll need to be reapplied occasionally to freshen the scent too. As a bonus, these methods are non-toxic for kids and pets!

Alter the Yard to Make It Less Appealing

Finally, you can discourage digging by making your yard less enticing to rabbits overall. Here are some tips:

  • Get rid of hiding spots – Trim ground cover plants and shrubs to reduce concealment places that rabbits like.
  • Remove food sources – Pick up fallen berries, fruits, and veggies that may attract them.
  • Plant unpalatable vegetation – Flowers and plants like lavender, daffodils, and orchids that rabbits avoid.
  • Use irrigation – Water yard regularly to make the soil harder to dig in.

The less cover and food available, the less likely rabbits will view your yard as an ideal habitat. For severe cases, you may need to team up these deterrents with physical barriers for maximum effect against stubborn bunnies.


In summary, rabbits engage in digging behaviors for a variety of important reasons related to shelter, warmth, food storage, escape, and territoriality. While wild and domestic rabbits have some differences, they both dig holes to meet their needs.

If rabbit burrowing is causing damage in your yard, take a multifaceted approach by installing fences, applying repellents, and modifying the landscape. Understanding the purpose behind this natural rabbit behavior can help you address it effectively and humanely.

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