The European rabbit, Oryctolagus cuniculus, is a small mammal which belongs to the family Leporidae. The family Leporidae is under the order Lagomorpha which also has the pikas.
On the other hand, the genera Sylvilagus is composed of wild rabbits with a total of 13 species, 7 among them being the cottontails.
These animals have characteristic longer and larger hind legs to give them agility and speed for escaping and defending themselves against their predators, strong claws for digging and defense together with their sharp teeth. Additionally, they have a soft coat, long and large ears, a short tail among other characteristic features.
What is a rabbit’s tail called?
The rabbit tail, which can be described as a “short, erect tuft of fur on their backsides is called a scut.” These animals share this name with the deer and it has been there for over 400 years now.
A rabbit’s scut, “with the exception of the cottontail species) is dark on top and white below. Cottontails have white color on the top of their tails.” 
Why do rabbits have tails?
Evolutionary, it might be hard to say why rabbits have short tails. Perhaps, it could be an adaptation to help them confuse a predator pursuing them as they often flick it as they run or escape as we will see later.
This could also be the possible reasons why these animals have the scut in the first place.
There are so many myths and kid’s stories that try to explain why this lagomorph has a short tail. However, these are only myths and nothing more.
Why do rabbits have white tails
Wild bunnies have both a white belly and tail underside. This is with the exception of some domestic breeds which may be entirely white, something that has this has been achieved through selective breeding.
While in the wild, their coat can conceal them owing to its color. Why then would they have a white tail (on their underside) and for the cottontail on the top side? How is the bright scut of any evolutionary advantage?
According to an evolutionary biologist from the University of Göttingen, Dirk Semmann, the bright colored scut helps in distracting predators.
According to him, the “tail moves and seems to vanish and reappear as the rabbit makes sharp turns, the predator is forced to re-focus each time, slowing the attacker down and giving the rabbit time to escape.”
Therefore, the flashing of the scut is what confused the predator as it contrasts against the rest of the body and the predator might not know the direction that the bunny is taking as it will be focusing on the scut and not the larger animal.
Initially, scientist thought that the contrasting color of the tail and the rest of the coat that helps in natural camouflage was part of this animal’s mating ritual.
Secondly, the reason why they are white is that they act as a flag or a warning to other bunnies of a danger they might have heard or seen.
It is normal for these animals to flick their tail exposing the white underside and thump their feet. Being white, it is much conspicuous and easier for other bunnies to see it and run to safety.
Rabbit tail body language
Your domestic rabbit may use various tail body language to pass messages to you, other pets or rabbits. This might include things such as wagging, flicking, putting it up, and so on combined with other postures and body languages.
Some of the meanings of the various scut body languages include:
- Up – It depends on the circumstance as it could be it wants to attack you such as during lunging or it could be excited about something.
- Flicking – it was or about to attack.
- Tail up, standing on four and ears forward – he or she is curious and wants to investigate or may have heard, seen or sensed something.
- Wagging – It could be a sign of defiance.