Do you know how to draw a rabbit? Of course you do! Who doesn't, right? Cute…fluffy…cotton-ball tail…long ears…and one other feature you're bound to see in just about any picture drawn of a rabbit. What are we talking about? Big teeth, of course!
If you love cartoons, you've probably enjoyed those comical battles between Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny. Bugs has the required fluffy fur, tail, and long ears. He also has the big buck teeth that most people associate with rabbits. How else could he munch on all those carrots?
Real rabbits in the wild don't look quite like Bugs Bunny, of course. After all, they're not really tall and they don't stand on two feet and walk like a human. And although most rabbits don't have huge buck teeth like Bugs Bunny, they do have impressive chompers for such small creatures.
Those big front teeth, called incisors, get all the attention, but an adult rabbit actually has a full set of 28 teeth. There are six incisors total: two on the top, two on the bottom, and two "peg teeth," which are tiny incisors located right behind the upper incisors. In addition to the incisors, rabbits also have "cheek teeth" along the sides of their mouths: 12 on top and 10 on the bottom.
Rabbits use their incisors, which have sharp edges, to slice like scissors through the rough, fibrous vegetation they eat. Their cheek teeth, on the other hand, help them chew their food into smaller pieces that are easier to swallow.
This combination of teeth comes in handy in the wild, because rabbits are herbivores that feed on tough vegetation. Sure, rabbit would love to snack on carrots all day like Bugs Bunny, but most of them are forced to survive on fibrous grasses, weeds, hay, leaves, twigs, and even pieces of tree bark.
Can you imagine eating tough, chewy twigs and bark all day? Eating these types of vegetation daily constantly wears on their teeth. Fortunately, rabbits' teeth have another unique feature that prevents them from needing dentures.
A rabbit's teeth have open roots that enable them to grow constantly over the course of its life. In fact, most rabbits' teeth grow between three to five inches each year. Since their teeth never stop growing, it's a good thing that rabbits eat the tough foods that they do.
While helpful for rabbits in the wild, constantly-growing teeth can be a problem for pet rabbits kept in captivity. Most pet rabbits are fed pellets, which do not wear down the teeth like natural vegetation does. That's why rabbit owners must supplement pellets with fresh timothy hay, as well as wooden chew toys, to help their pets wear down their ever-growing teeth.