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Understanding Bunny vs. Rabbit (And Hare) with Examples

Bunny, Rabbit, or Hare. Sometimes, animal names in the English language get a bit confusing. Today, we take a look at three words that are more or less used interchangeably. Although, they shouldn’t be, as they mean different things.

So, let’s take a look at what the words “bunny”, “rabbit”, and “hare” mean…

What is a “Bunny?”

A bunny is not a scientific name for a species. It’s more of a nickname given to young and/or small rabbits. So, it’s best to avoid the use of this word in formal and academic settings.

Of course, in English, bunny is a pretty popular word. And if you’re engaging in a casual conversation and want to refer to a baby rabbit, you should use the word “bunny”.

The popularity of this word is evident in the name of the hit children’s cartoon “Bugs Bunny”.

Picture of a “bunny” that we think of

What is a “Rabbit?”

Another noun, but a more scientific one that can be used in formal in academic settings. Rabbits are members of the Leporidae family. These are small mammals with large ears, strong back legs that helps them hop, and they make for a good stew.

It’s noted, however, that the words “Hare” and “Rabbit” are not synonymous. A common mistake is to use these words interchangeably. Rabbits are a different species from hares even though they look more or less the same.

Picture of a “hare” or “rabbit”

Difference between “Bunny” and “Rabbit” and “Hare”

The major difference between a hare and a rabbit is that they are completely different species. Hares are larger with bigger and longer ears. Moreover, hares also have longer and stronger hind legs. Rabbits live underground in groups of up to 20. Hares, on the other hand, prefer to live above the ground in makeshift nests, and they prefer to live in pairs.

Another important fact to note is that when rabbits are born, they don’t have fur and are blind. They have to be protected, as they make for easy pickings for predators. Thus, they spend the early days of their life in a fur-lined nest. Baby hares, on the other hand, are born with fur with eyes wide open. Thus, you can easily figure out if a youngling is a baby rabbit (bunny) or a baby hare.

Sentence example
Sentence example

It can be confusing, of course, and language is often tricky. For instance, jackrabbits are actually hares and not rabbits. On the other hand, swamp hare is a kind of rabbit. Names can be misleading.

This brings us to the question, what exactly is Easter Bunny? Is he really a rabbit, or a hare? Well, the evidence points to the fact that he might actually be a hare. The word “Hare” predates the word “Rabbit”, as the former comes from Old English.

“Rabbit” comes from French and its origin can be traced back to the 14th century. “Easter Bunny” comes from “Easter Hare”, which was a direct translation of “OsterHase”, originally a German tradition. And “Hase” means hare. Thus, easter bunny is actually a hare.

Sentence example
Sentence example

Fun fact: One last interesting thing to note – Eminem, the famous rapper, had a nickname during his initial days – “Bunny Rabbit” or “B-Rabbit.”

When to use “Bunny”?

Here are some sentence examples to help you understand the proper usage of “bunny”.

Sentence Examples

1: Children, the Easter Bunny does not exist, just like Santa. (Don’t say this to them!)

2: How lovely would it be to have cute little bunnies as pets.

When to use “Rabbit”?

Wondering how to use the word “Rabbit” in a sentence. Here are some examples.

Sentence Examples

1: Rabbit stew is my favorite dish.

2: Martha is out there playing with rabbits.

When to use “hare”?

Now, let’s see how we can use the word “hare” in sentences.

Sentence Examples

1: A hare is usually stronger than a rabbit.

2: In the race of the hare and the tortoise, the tortoise won.

How to remember which form to use?

In the end, it becomes quite easy to remember the difference between bunnies, rabbits, and hares. Here are the pointers that will help you remember:

  • Bunnies are baby rabbits (bare, naked, helpless, blind)
  • Rabbits are a completely different species than Hares.
  • Rabbits are smaller, weaker, live in large groups underground
  • Hares are bigger, stronger, live in pairs above the ground
  • Easter Bunny is actually a Hare (and was originally German)
  • Bunny is a colloquial term. Not used in formal and academic settings. Therefore, you can just call any rabbit or hare a bunny and no one would mind. But it’s best to remember the differences.

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About the author

Dalia Y.: Dalia is an English Major and linguistics expert with an additional degree in Psychology. Dalia has featured articles on Forbes, Inc, Fast Company, Grammarly, and many more. She covers English, ESL, and all things grammar on GrammarBrain.

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