Have you ever watched a rabbit and wondered how much of what was going around it was actually visible to it or how well it could see your dogs? There are many questions that could be asked about rabbit vision based on eye placement and color visibility. Just as the world appears one way to us, it is quite possible for it to appear quite differently to our dogs and the rabbits they hunt.
Photo: Doowans News and Events
Due to the nature of a rabbit's life, the species has evolved an eye that is different than that of a human or dog because of the survival pressures it faces. Whereas people descend from a species that leapt through trees in search of colorful food and therefor needed binocular vision and depth perception, a rabbit had a different set of needs. Since rabbits are a prey animal, they evolved eyes that are good at spotting threats. This means having high placed eyes that are set on the sides of their skulls which enable them to see 360 degrees around them, whereas dogs have a 250 degree field of vision compared with a human field coming in at 190 degrees. The only blind spots a rabbit has is that which is a small area directly in front of its face and immediately over its back, so if you or your dogs are in any kind of pursuit from behind or beside a rabbit, chances are that they and you will be seen.
Photo: SWVH Reno
Rabbits also possess rods and cones in their eyes that act as photoreceptor cells in the retina. Cones enable color visibility while rods enable low light vision. The colors a rabbit is able to see (blue and green) number at two, as is the case with dogs who also have two cones (blue and yellow), or what is known as dichromatic vision. We as humans, on the other hand, have three cones (trichromatic with red, blue, and green) which enable us to see much more of the color spectrum. All three species can see the same objects; it is just our color perception that varies, unless you are a human deuteranope, or in other words red-green colorblind, in which your color sight will be more like that of a dog.
When it comes to night vision, rabbits have a distinct advantage. The rods in their eyes allow them to see well in low light scenarios, better than both a human and a dog would. Even though the small retina of a rabbit may seem to be a visual setback as it does not give them the best resolution, they are still the supreme sight being in low light. Where the dog's lowlight advantage comes in, however, is that its eyes are adapted to catch motion, such as a rabbit on the run.
Ultimately all three species need more than one sense to guide them through life, and all have developed vision based on their own unique set of needs. Rabbits, a prey animal, needed to be able to see predators approaching, so they have evolved eyes with a wide field of vision. Dogs, which frequently have to hunt camouflaged prey at night, need to be able to see motion and have evolved to be superb at that. Humans, on the other hand, developed excellent color vision to be able to find food, such as colorful fruits and vegetables.
Next time you are on a hunt and it is not clear to you what your dog is up to, trust in that he has seen movement that you might not have and is acting on it. That well camouflaged rabbit that might momentarily elude you will stand out in his eyes as he hones in, giving chase. The rabbit, seeing the dog approach from behind will run and try to duck and dodge out of sight, stopping at times to confuse the eye of his pursuer who sees motion so well. In the end, your dog will drive the rabbit to where it needs to be in order for it to wind up on your dinner table, and throughout the process his eyes will be working constantly.
Photo: Image Juicy
Eyesight of all kinds and capabilities is important and should be preserved. If nothing else, the eyes of your dogs should be examined regularly, especially after time spent in the brush should debris have gotten into their eyes.
Do you take extra precautions for the eyes of your dogs during their daily lives or when hunting to preserve their invaluable eyesight? If so, let us know in the comments!