Although often unmentioned and unnoticed, rabbits indeed have dewlaps. They may seem like a simple and relatively unimportant part of a rabbit’s body, but their existence alone means that they have a function.
But in what way? Why do rabbits have a dewlap? There is still a lot to know about a rabbit’s anatomy.
What is A Dewlap
In a broader scope, a dewlap is simply a longitudinal flap of skin located at an animal’s lower jaw. Moreover, it’s generally a floppy layer of the flesh. While this technically defines a dewlap, they are often informally referred to as a double chin in humans and animals.
This body part also resembles standard animal features such as a frog’s vocal sac, a bird’s wattle, and a human’s loose neck skin.
Reptiles are one of the popular animal groups for having dewlaps, specifically the anole family. Their dewlaps are unique and notable because of their ability to retract and extend. Birds like chickens also have dewlaps.
Rabbit Dewlaps Characters
You may have already encountered rabbits and have noticed their dewlaps which resemble a bump below their chin. Dewlaps can also be a small to medium flesh fold behind their neck and be more noticeable and detailed when they look up.
These types of dewlaps resemble neck pillows. Sometimes, their dewlaps are unnoticeable because some dewlaps are not as big as others.
Typically, only female rabbits grow up to have pronounced dewlaps. Although dewlaps are common in female rabbits, male rabbits can also develop dewlaps. However, it’s pretty rare for male rabbits to establish one in several rabbit breeds.
While every characteristic of rabbit dewlaps is not particularly dependent on breed, some particular species have genetically more significant dewlaps than others.
For example, lop rabbits and the Flemish giants have significantly larger dewlaps. More giant bunnies usually have bigger dewlaps, so it’s safe to assume that giant breeds have more significant and more pronounced dewlaps.
Why Do Rabbits Have a Dewlap?
A rabbit’s dewlap may seem like a spare part, but they are paramount for motherhood and a rabbit’s survival.
Sign of maturity
Dewlaps usually develop in female rabbits when they reach their moment of maturity. This is an indicator that they can finally mate and be sexually active.
The development of their dewlap is a signal that they can now bear children and are ready to reproduce. This could mean a new era for your rabbit, so it’s best to be a sound support system for them. It’s best to keep them away from stressful things like loud noises.
Rabbits tend to nest during their pregnancy. Female rabbits will use available materials and set up a nest for their babies. The materials can range from paper pieces, pieces of clothes, grass, hay, and fur.
Rabbits usually pull out their hair to make bedding for their babies. This being said, they typically pull out the coat growing on their dewlap. They also maximize their dewlaps for heating their nests and bodies.
Their dewlap helps prepare and keep the nest warm and comfortable for both her and the babies.
Rabbit Breeds and Dewlaps
The size of a rabbit’s dewlap depends on many factors like skin type, breed size, and whether or not they have been unspayed.
While certain breeds and female rabbits tend to have dewlaps, there is no one size for all of them. As addressed earlier, dewlaps are typically only existent in female rabbits and larger breeds.
The breeds with most rabbits having dewlaps and are considered the standard by rabbit breeders are Flemish Giants, French Lops, and Californian rabbits.
Female rabbits of these breeds need to have dewlaps to meet the specific breed standard. For French Lops, breeders prefer for them to have more prominent dewlaps.
Some breeds can develop and have dewlaps, but this feature is not a breed requirement. These breeds include German Lops, Miniature Lops, New Zealand, and Giant Chinchillas.
On the other hand, some species are not allowed to develop or have prominent dewlaps. These breeds include Champagne d’Argent, Englishes, Giant Papillons, Havanas, and Self Rexes.
There are also rabbit breeds that are bred specifically for the show. These breeds include Britannia Petite, Dwarf Hotot, Netherland Dwarf, Polish, and Tan. And so, these rabbits can be disqualified from shows when they have dewlaps.
Phantom Pregnancies and Difficulties
Rabbits can also experience phantom pregnancies. When this happens, they go into their behavioral changes just like how they would when they are pregnant for real.
This means that they will still build a nest for their babies during phantom pregnancies. They will do this even when there is no male rabbit around them. This behavior is considered normal and can only indicate that your rabbit is in heat.
However, these false pregnancies can take a toll on your bunny. Sometimes, phantom pregnancies can cause too much hair-pulling from your rabbit. She could be pulling her hair excessively. This can lead to bald spots and some middle to severe problems.
When your rabbit begins to pull out their fur, especially those that grow on their dewlap, they risk having bald spots. This can lead to nipple exposure and uneven heating of their bodies.
Rabbit dewlaps are also prone to health issues that can cause discomfort and further health issues to your bunny. Here are some common dewlap issues you might have to watch out for in your rabbit.
Moist dermatitis is also called green fur syndrome. This condition is a skin condition that causes your rabbit to feel uncomfortable. Contracting moist dermatitis also causes pain for your rabbit.
This problem can be contracted when your rabbit’s dewlap gets wet regularly and does not have ample time to dry. This constant pattern can cause the skin to get infected.
Moist dermatitis can be caused by several behavioral patterns, including drinking out of a water bowl. Their water bowl can be a bit broader or more profound, which can cause their dewlaps to get soaked. Another reason can be a leakage in their water bottle.
Leakage can lead to a wet cage or beddings. Thus, this can also soak your rabbit’s dewlap. The frequent pattern can lead to an abscess below their chin if not taken care of. This abscess can then lead to a higher risk of bacterial infection.
Flystrike is a severe issue, and rabbit owners need to be aware of them. This rabbit problem usually occurs on hotter days. Hot days typically go on for months, for example, during the summer. During these times, flies can lay eggs on the surface of your rabbit’s hair or skin.
These eggs will soon then hatch and grow into larvae. These maggots will then feed on any open wound or sore on your rabbit’s skin. When this happens, it can cause serious health problems for your rabbit.
They can get infected and lead to more severe issues. When left untreated, it can pose a severe threat to your rabbit’s life.
On the other hand, fortunately, this issue is reasonably preventable. This means that you need to keep your rabbit’s fur and skin in check, especially during hot days.
Keep your rabbit’s skin and coat dry and clean to avoid attracting flies. It’s important to remember that prevention is always better than cure.
Rabbit Dewlaps Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is it normal for male rabbits to have dewlaps?
Yes, male rabbits can develop dewlaps, although it’s not as prominent as female rabbits’ when they do. When a male rabbit forms a dewlap, this could also mean that they have higher estrogen levels, which can indicate difficulty breeding.
Can a dewlap mean obesity?
When your rabbit has a dewlap, this does not mean that they are overweight. However, when you think that your rabbit’s dewlap might be too much and a sign of obesity, you might want to take your bunny to the vet and discuss whatever measures you need.
My female rabbit doesn’t have a dewlap. Is it okay?
Some rabbit breeds are smaller, and their size is related to how big their dewlaps are. In short, the smaller the rabbit, the smaller their dewlaps are. Thus, perhaps your rabbit is just tiny, so her dewlap is not that pronounced.
Why are some dewlaps more pronounced?
Rabbits with loose skins tend to have more prominent and notable dewlaps. Another factor is the size and weight of your rabbit. If you own a giant breed, their dewlap may be more apparent than other normal-sized breeds.
Their weight can also be a factor in their dewlap sizes. Perhaps, your rabbit is gaining extra weight, so typically, their dewlap will also gain weight along with other body parts.
Knowing your rabbit’s anatomy and how their body works will help you get closer to them and understand them better.
Thus, figuring out the answer to the question “Why do rabbits have a dewlap?” will surely improve your way of caring for your rabbit, enhancing your relationship with them holistically.