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Rodents vs Lagomorphs: What’s the Difference?

Introduction to Rodents and Lagomorphs

Rodents and lagomorphs are fascinating creatures that belong to the animal kingdom’s class of mammals. They are essential animals in different ecosystems, and they have gained a reputation as household pets.

However, most people do not know the difference between rodents and lagomorphs. This article aims to delve into the characteristics, differences, and similarities between these two groups of animals.

Definition and Characteristics of Rodents

Rodents belong to the order Rodentia, which comprises over 2,000 different species. Some of the common examples of rodents include mice, rats, porcupines, squirrels, guinea pigs, and hamsters.

Rodents are easily recognizable through their chisel-shaped front teeth or incisors. These teeth grow continuously throughout their lifetime and are adapted to gnawing, biting, and grinding tough materials.

Another defining characteristic of rodents is their terrestrial habitats. They live in diverse habitats like deserts, grasslands, forests, and aquatic environments.

They are typically small animals, but some like beavers and capybaras can be quite large.

Definition and Characteristics of Lagomorphs

Lagomorphs belong to the order Lagomorpha, which comprises three different families: hares, rabbits, and pikas. Hares are larger than rabbits, and they live in open grasslands and forests.

Some of the notable characteristics of lagomorphs include long hind legs for fast movement, soft fur, and sensitive ears. Lagomorphs have similar incisors to rodents, which grow throughout their lives.

They rely on their incisors for breaking and shredding vegetation. Lagomorphs are mainly herbivores, and their teeth are perfectly adapted to their diet.

Differences between Rodents and Lagomorphs

Enamel structure of Incisors

The enamel structure of incisors in rodents and lagomorphs is different. Rodent incisors have a pigmented layer called dentin, which is double-layered.

In contrast, lagomorphs have an unpigmented layer called enamel, which is single-layered. The difference is essential in identifying the two groups.

Types of Animals in Each Group

Rodents belong to a diverse range of animals, including mice, rats, porcupines, squirrels, guinea pigs, and hamsters. Lagomorphs, on the other hand, are limited to hares, rabbits, and pikas.

Number and Structure of Incisors

The number and structure of incisors differ between rodents and lagomorphs. Rodents have one pair of lower incisors and one pair of upper incisors, while lagomorphs have two pairs of upper incisors and one pair of lower incisors.

Additionally, lagomorphs have ever-growing incisors that lack roots, while rodents have a set of incisors that last a lifetime.


Rodents and lagomorphs are essential animals in different ecosystems. Although there are similarities in their incisors and diet, they have distinct characteristics that differentiate them.

Knowing the difference is essential in identifying and understanding these groups of animals.

Similarities between Rodents and Lagomorphs

While there are distinct differences between rodents and lagomorphs, there are also several similarities that tie them to each other as mammals.

Classification as Mammals

Both rodents and lagomorphs are classified as mammals, animals that have fur or hair, produce milk for their young, and are warm-blooded. Another similarity is their diet, which consists mainly of plant matter.

They have specialized digestive systems that allow them to break down cellulose and other complex carbohydrates through bacterial fermentation in their gut.

Incisor Structure

The incisors of rodents and lagomorphs are another common feature that these two groups share. Their incisors are chisel-shaped, constantly growing, and lack canine teeth.

Also, rodents and lagomorphs both have a gap between their front teeth and their cheek teeth known as a diastema. The difference in enamel structure, however, is what sets them apart.


Overview of Rodents

Rodents come from the order Rodentia, one of the most diversified orders of mammals. There are over 30 families of rodents, with more than 1,600 unique species known worldwide.

These animals range from small mice and voles to large beavers and capybaras.

Examples of Rodents

Mice and rats are among the most commonly known types of rodents. They are small, agile, and often seen as pests in households.

Prairie dogs are a type of rodent known for their loud vocalizations and colonial lifestyle. Squirrels are known for their acrobatic skills and are seen all over the world, living in trees and on the ground.

Porcupines, with their spiky quills, are known for their distinct and unique appearance. Guinea pigs and hamsters, both commonly kept as pets, are also types of rodents.

Rodents are essential components of various ecosystems, serving as prey for larger animals and playing a role in maintaining vegetation and soil quality. Some species of rodents, like beavers, are essential for creating new habitats, while others like rats can cause significant damage to crops and property.


In conclusion, rodents and lagomorphs share similarities despite their differences. These animals have evolved to meet different challenges, such as their specialized incisors, diets, and environments.

Understanding the common traits between these two groups of animals can help us appreciate the significant role they play in various ecosystems and help us to distinguish one from the other.


Overview of Lagomorphs

Lagomorphs, from the order Lagomorpha, are a diverse group of mammals that are widely distributed worldwide. Derived from the ancient Greek words “lagos,” meaning hare, and “morphe,” meaning form, they are categorized into two families: Leporidae, which consists of rabbits and hares, and Ochotonidae, which contains the pika.

Examples of Lagomorphs

Hares, rabbits, and pikas are the most commonly known lagomorphs. Hares are larger than rabbits and have longer ears and longer legs, which enable them to run faster.

Hares live mainly on open plains and grasslands but can also be found in forests. They have a more solitary lifestyle and thrive in harsh environments.

Rabbits, on the other hand, are smaller and live in complex burrow systems, which they share with other rabbits. They are social animals and can be found anywhere from fields to forests.

Pikas are small, mountain-dwelling rabbits and are known for their soft, dense fur and high-pitched vocalizations. Lagomorphs play important roles in their ecosystems, serving as prey for larger animals, and contributing to plant growth by spreading nutrients from their feces.


Recap of Main Differences between Rodents and Lagomorphs

One of the main differences between rodents and lagomorphs is the enamel structure of their incisors. Rodents have a pigmented layer of enamel called dentin, which is double-layered, while lagomorphs have a single-layered, unpigmented enamel.

Additionally, rodents have one pair of upper incisors and one pair of lower incisors, while lagomorphs have two pairs of upper incisors and one pair of lower incisors. Another key difference is the high-crowned cheek teeth in lagomorphs compared to the low-crowned cheek teeth in rodents.

This is necessary for grinding tough vegetation, which is a major part of their diet. Lastly, lagomorphs have maxillary fenestrations, which are holes in the sides of their skulls that allow their ears to move independently and locate potential predators.

Rodents lack this adaptation, relying instead on their sense of smell.

Comparison of Key Characteristics of Rodents and Lagomorphs

Despite their differences, rodents and lagomorphs share many key characteristics. Both groups have chisel-shaped, constantly growing incisors that lack canine teeth.

They also have a gap between their front teeth and their cheek teeth known as a diastema. Additionally, they have adapted to avoid predators, with some species of both groups utilizing camouflage and others relying on their agility and speed to escape.

In terms of their diets, both groups are mainly herbivores and rely on their incisors to break down vegetation. However, the structure of their incisors is different, allowing them to adapt to different types of vegetation.


In conclusion, rodents and lagomorphs are fascinating animals with unique adaptations that have enabled them to thrive in different environments. Although they have many similarities, the differences in their incisor structure, dentition, and adaptation to avoid predators set them apart.

Understanding these differences and similarities can help us appreciate these amazing animals and their roles in various ecosystems. In conclusion, this article has explored the fascinating world of rodents and lagomorphs.

While these two groups of mammals are similar in many ways, such as their herbivorous diet and chisel-shaped incisors, there are key differences that set them apart, such as their enamel structure and the number of incisors they possess. Understanding these differences is essential in identifying and appreciating these unique animals and their roles in various ecosystems.

By studying and appreciating these animals, we can gain insights into the complexities of the natural world around us.

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