Rabies is a deadly viral disease that affects mammals, including humans and animals. While it is commonly associated with dogs and bats, there is a lesser-known link between rabies and lagomorphs, a group of mammals that includes rabbits and hares. In this article, we will delve into the topic of “rabies in lagomorphs” and explore the potential threat it poses to rabbits. Through a combination of research, case studies, and expert insights, we aim to provide valuable information on this often overlooked aspect of rabies.

The Basics of Rabies

Before we dive into the specific connection between rabies and lagomorphs, let’s first understand the basics of rabies. Rabies is caused by the rabies virus, which belongs to the Rhabdoviridae family. It is primarily transmitted through the bite or scratch of an infected animal, with the virus present in the saliva of the infected host.

Once the virus enters the body, it travels through the peripheral nerves towards the central nervous system, including the brain. This journey can take anywhere from a few days to several months, depending on various factors such as the distance from the bite site to the brain and the individual’s immune response.

Once the virus reaches the brain, it causes inflammation and leads to the characteristic symptoms of rabies, including fever, headache, anxiety, confusion, and eventually paralysis and death. Rabies is almost always fatal once symptoms appear, making it a serious concern for both humans and animals.

The Connection Between Rabies and Lagomorphs

While lagomorphs, particularly rabbits and hares, are not commonly associated with rabies, they can indeed be infected by the virus. However, it is important to note that lagomorphs are considered to be a low-risk species for rabies transmission compared to other mammals such as dogs, bats, and raccoons.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), lagomorphs, including rabbits, have been found to be naturally infected with the rabies virus in certain regions. However, the prevalence of rabies in lagomorphs is relatively low, and transmission to humans is extremely rare.

One reason for the lower risk of rabies transmission in lagomorphs is their natural behavior and habitat. Unlike bats or dogs, rabbits are not known to be aggressive or territorial, reducing the likelihood of bites or scratches that could transmit the virus. Additionally, rabbits are primarily herbivores, limiting their exposure to potential rabies carriers.

Case Studies and Statistics

While the overall risk of rabies in lagomorphs is low, there have been documented cases of rabies in rabbits. One notable case occurred in 2018 in the state of New York, where a domestic rabbit tested positive for rabies. The rabbit had been bitten by a rabid bat, highlighting the importance of vigilance even in low-risk species.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there were 17 reported cases of rabies in lagomorphs worldwide between 2010 and 2020. These cases were primarily concentrated in North America and Europe, with a few isolated incidents in other regions. While these numbers may seem relatively small compared to other rabies-affected species, they serve as a reminder that lagomorphs can still be affected by the virus.

Prevention and Control Measures

Given the relatively low risk of rabies in lagomorphs, prevention and control measures are primarily focused on other high-risk species. However, it is still important for rabbit owners and those who come into contact with wild rabbits to take certain precautions to minimize the risk of rabies transmission.

1. Vaccination: Domestic rabbits should be vaccinated against rabies, especially if they live in regions where rabies is prevalent in other species. Consult with a veterinarian to ensure your rabbit’s vaccination status is up to date.

2. Avoid contact with wild animals: Wild rabbits can potentially carry the rabies virus, even if the risk is low. It is best to avoid direct contact with wild rabbits and other wildlife to minimize the risk of exposure.

3. Report unusual behavior: If you come across a wild rabbit displaying unusual behavior, such as aggression or disorientation, report it to local animal control or wildlife authorities. This can help identify potential cases of rabies and prevent further transmission.


1. Can rabbits transmit rabies to humans?

The risk of rabbits transmitting rabies to humans is extremely low. While rabbits can be infected with the rabies virus, they are not known to be significant carriers or transmitters of the disease.

2. How can I protect my pet rabbit from rabies?

Ensure that your pet rabbit is vaccinated against rabies, especially if you live in an area where rabies is prevalent in other species. Regular veterinary check-ups and following recommended vaccination schedules are essential for protecting your pet rabbit.

3. Are there any specific symptoms of rabies in rabbits?

Rabbits infected with rabies may display symptoms such as changes in behavior, loss of appetite, difficulty moving, and neurological abnormalities. If you notice any unusual behavior or symptoms in your pet rabbit, consult a veterinarian immediately.

4. Can lagomorphs other than rabbits get rabies?

While rabbits are the most commonly known lagomorphs, other members of the lagomorph family, such as hares and pikas, can also potentially be infected with the rabies virus. However, the risk of transmission and prevalence of rabies in these species is relatively low.

5. Is there a cure for rabies in rabbits?

Currently, there is no known cure for rabies in any species, including rabbits. Once symptoms appear, the disease is almost always fatal. This is why prevention, through vaccination and avoiding exposure to potentially infected animals, is crucial.


While the risk of rabies in lagomorphs, particularly rabbits, is relatively low compared to other mammals, it is still important to be aware of the potential threat. Vaccination, avoiding contact with wild animals, and reporting unusual behavior are key preventive measures. By staying informed and taking necessary precautions, we can help protect both humans and lagomorphs from the deadly consequences of rabies.

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