My girlfriend was walking the dogs this am when she came across what she thought was a road kill rabbit. One of the dogs ran over to the "dead" rabbit and tried to take a bite out of the stomach. The rabbit screamed and hobbled off! So the rabbit wasn't dead just critically injured.

I wasn't there, but if I was I would of wanted to put it out of it's pain. How would I do this most effectively? I do not routinely carry a knife or a gun (illegal in the UK)

Hardly anyone is actually answering the question (How to humanely kill an injured rabbit?), I didn't ask for advice with what to do with the rabbit, I asked how to kill it.

I think the scenario is maybe confused everyone, this rabbit was injured but I was also referring to a hunting scenario, hence the tag .

  • I would have tried picking it up and taking it to a wildlife rehabilitator (WR), if I had had something to wrap it up and carry it in (e.g., sweater)because we have quite a few WRs in my local area of the US. Are there wildlife rehabilitators in your area of the UK? Last year we trapped and took an orphaned raccoon (it was ferociously defending its mother's body) to a WR. Unfortunately, the baby died several days later. From our description of the mother's body and the symptoms of the baby, the WR concluded from that the mother had probably been poisoned by rat poison, and the baby had ingeste
    – ab2
    Commented Sep 18, 2015 at 17:49
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    This might also have relevance for law.stackexchange.com - in many countries, animal rights are meant well but written badly. Killing an injured animal might violate animal protection and/or hunting laws.
    – Philipp
    Commented Sep 18, 2015 at 22:31
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    Only joined this site to know whether the rabbit is still alive or not; what happened to it; BTW, a very important question.+1.
    – user7800
    Commented Sep 20, 2015 at 13:43
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    I wasn't there and my girlfriend left it where it was she had to control the dogs was her excuse but I think she was being a bit squimish! I'd guess by now it's inside a fox @user36790
    – user2766
    Commented Sep 21, 2015 at 7:44
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    When I was hiking with a group of Dutch mostly urban youngsters (aged 17–21) in the mountains of Norway, someone “found” an axe and decided to carry it around to make him look like a viking. They later used it to release a dying sheep from his suffering. But maybe your girlfriend does not carry an axe around while walking the dog.
    – gerrit
    Commented Oct 14, 2015 at 16:31

9 Answers 9


unfortunately, you have limited choice. My suggestion is to hold the rabbit body in one hand, and the head in the other, quickly snapping the head up and backwards will break the spinal column and kill the rabbit quickly and painlessly.

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    This is probably the most effective way to kill a rabbit.
    – Aravona
    Commented Sep 18, 2015 at 14:11
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    Holding the rabbit, while killing it, is likely going to be the hardest part for some. People sometimes say "humanely" when they mean, "in the way that makes me feel best" Commented Sep 18, 2015 at 19:53
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    @DoubleDouble In that case, I don't think there's a good way they can do it themselves (without a knife or gun). If the animal is injured like this and you're near civilization, contacting the police is probably their best bet. We've had several deer & geese get injured on base by vehicles, and base police will usually put them down with their service firearm.
    – Shadow503
    Commented Sep 18, 2015 at 20:28
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    @Shadow503: still doesn't work for the questioner, since UK police do not routinely carry firearms. There might be a firearms-licensed officer available to pop over, I don't know the operating procedures, but asking for a firearms response is roughly like calling for a SWAT team, not sure an injured rabbit warrants that. I guess the non-emergency police dispatcher might send the RSPCA or other animal specialists, especially if the animal is actually in the road and therefore arguably is the police's problem as a potential traffic hazard. Commented Sep 18, 2015 at 21:38
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    Yes, if I asked for an armed response unit to kill a rabbit I think I'd be the one arrested
    – user2766
    Commented Sep 19, 2015 at 6:17

Unless the animal had entrails spilling out or was dragging its paralyzed hindquarters, probably best to give it the benefit of the doubt. It might recover.

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    Good answer. I have seen deer that were hit by a car and lying motionless for several minutes suddenly get up and gallop off, apparently unharmed. Assuming that an animal is incapacitated and approaching it is a good way to get bitten (or worse in the case of large ungulates, FWIW, which can kill a human with a kick in the wrong place). Commented Sep 18, 2015 at 20:15
  • This doesn't answer the question. What if I was hunting, which admittedly I've not done for some time. I don't want to save it, I want to kill it
    – user2766
    Commented Sep 20, 2015 at 9:00
  • Good answer for the post, though I agree this question could be interpreted several ways. Commented Sep 20, 2015 at 17:49
  • does not answer the question: "How would I do this most effectively? ", and further, presumes a "best...benefit of the doubt" approach. Better for whom/what?
    – michael
    Commented Sep 23, 2015 at 1:04
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    @dodgethesteamroller Those deer don't always survive after they're gone.
    – jpmc26
    Commented Nov 7, 2018 at 1:05

When I used to go hunting with my brother he used to kill injured rabbits using a pulling motion, I asked him about it today, it's called chinning! I Googled it and found this (http://www.how-to-hunt-rabbit.com/killing-rabbit.html)

Simply hold the rabbits back legs (in your strong hand) and place your other hand around the rabbit’s neck. Press your thumb into the back of the rabbit’s neck and rap your fingers around its ‘chin’ area. Like your making an ok symbol with your hand but with your fingers closed.

Once you have a solid grip, pull the legs with your strong hand, push your thumb down and pull the chin up as quickly and firmly as you can. While doing this, you want to bend the rabbits back in a whipping motion. This stretches the rabbits neck and then bends it. You should hear a popping or cracking sound. Give the legs and head a few good pulls just to be sure. Killing rabbit is as easy as that.

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    This is the method I learned to dispatch rabbits. If you get the motion right, it doesn't require much force and is very quick.
    – bon
    Commented Sep 21, 2015 at 11:17
  • good quote.efficient, quick, and painless.
    – michael
    Commented Sep 23, 2015 at 1:07

No! Don't do this with your own hands. You can't kill him instantly without pain and without blood.

If you try to break his neck, very surely you won't know the correct moves which is needed for that, and you will cause only terrible pain for him. His neck is much stronger as you would think.

The surest way is if you take him to an animal ambulance and let him put to sleep forever. It is pain-free, although he will suffer on the way.

If you won't do that, then 1) stun him with a fist hit to his nape 2) cut his neck with a knife. This is the way of the rabbit killing for meat. Do it deeply and hard, and in a wide angle to surely cut the arteries. He will move a lot, so it is better if you do this with full of your strength. If you kill, do everything so strong as you only can, because his body will be much thougher as you would think. So, hit him so strong as you only can, and cut his neck so strong and deep, as you only can.

But the best is if you take him to a vet for euthanasia.

P.s. I know this because I worked some years as voluntary animal rescuer. During that I've seen multiple cats surviving sicknesses / wounds where as a layman I didn't ever thought they are survivable. Much earlier, as a child, I've also seen people killing household rabbits for meat (it has a technique which you surely won't reproduce on the spot).

Only a vet will be able to say, what to do, but they try to get the most possible money from you, and they also don't like to kill (and not only because an euthanasia is only around some tens of dollars while a costly treatment can go on hundreds of $s. But also because most of them is a vet and not a human doctor because he likes the animals). So, the optimal behavior if you take the rabbit to the vet for euthanasia, but if the vet is strongly against it, then you let him to convince you.

P.s.2. Most stray animal (i.e. which hasn't ever seen a human), if they can choose between a nearly-mortal wound and being yet another second around a human, chooses the first. If the rabbit is in your hands, his largest problem won't be his (mortal) wound, but that he is unable to escape from you. If you capture the rabbit, put it in a dark, closed thing, the best is a cat box with a blanked opening. So he will think he is hidden, and won't suffer from the fear from you.

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    Absolutely correct about putting the animal in a blanketed cat carrier or similar container. We transported the baby raccoon in a blanketed HavaHeart trap 45 min in the car, and he/she was quiet throughout. Also absolutely correct about how you will mess it up if you try to kill an animal without knowing how -- and cause more pain and terror than if you had left it.
    – ab2
    Commented Sep 19, 2015 at 14:02
  • note: Q " I would of wanted to put it out of it's pain.....I do not routinely carry a knife or a gun". transport for euthanasia was not requested, nor severing the neck an option.
    – michael
    Commented Sep 19, 2015 at 14:51
  • "it has a technology" did you mean "technique"? Commented Sep 19, 2015 at 16:09

It would probably be best to leave the task of euthanizing the animal to the professionals, unless you are absolutely certain that the animal is enduring intense pain and suffering, and has no chance of recovering.

If the animal is clearly dying a slow and painful death, you can ease its suffering, but if you're uncertain or uncomfortable doing it, you'll probably do more harm than good.

If you can do it properly, in a calm and steady manner, the best of your very bad options are going to be quite gruesome. You can kill it by severing the head from the body with a swift blow with an axe or shovel, or by crushing the skull very quickly, and with enough force to crush the brain itself. However, I absolutely don't recommend either of these options. The potential for mishaps is too great, and the consequences of failure are too severe.

Slitting the throat is not as painless as has been suggested above, and it causes profound terror and pain, regardless of how brief it might be. It's also easy to do it the wrong way, which is even worse. The same is true of trying to snap the neck. The first time you try it, you're probably going to be nervous and shaky, which makes it more likely that you'll just make the animal suffer more.

If you're not a veterinarian, you aren't well suited to judge whether the animal needs to be killed. If you've never killed an animal before, you aren't likely to do it properly. If you try and fail, you're extremely likely to increase the animal's distress and pain.

The only clear solution is to call someone who knows how to determine the need for euthanasia, and how to carry out euthanasia properly. Your compassion is commendable, but it's best to let the experts handle situations like this.


Two simple methods:

  1. Place a straight stick (broom or shovel handle is perfect) across the back of the rabbits neck and stand on the ends of the stick. Then grasp the back legs and stand up, pulling the back legs straight up. This separates the spine at the base of the skull. Quick and painless.

  2. Hold the rabbit's back feet firmly in one hand, causing its body to hang straight down, and hit it on the back of the head with a heavy club. Instant death. You want blood to begin pouring out of the mouth; otherwise it's only knocked out.

My son raised meat rabbits for some time and he used method #2. It was quick, easy, and humane.
If I found a wild rabbit that was fatally injured but was still alive, and I had no gun, I would use method #1. I think just picking up an already injured animal to use #2 would cause it unnecessary pain.


Occasionally our cat brings in a half-dead (instead of completely dead) kitten rabbit. I could leave the cat to maul or eat the rabbit to death (the natural way), but instead I speed up the process by flattening its head with a brick. I feel cruel and awful, but then sometimes nature seems crueler still.


If you don't already have the tools, skills and knowledge to complete the task of quickly dispatching a wild animal, then you should not attempt it. As mentioned in some of the existing answers, it may be against the law and it is a task that can easily go wrong.

Not mentioned in any of the existing answers is the risk to you personally. Rabbits (and other wild animals) can be infected with parasites that impact you. The list of potential parasites infecting rabbits is long

Regardless of if you follow a Deity or Darwin in your belief system, as uncomfortable as it is to think about, a rabbit in the wild is food, a sick or injured rabbit is likely going to be food before a person with the skills to dispatch them could arrive. If you have doubts about the presence of preditors in the area to complete the task, consider the only place with rabbits and without predators is Australia

It is even possible (but unlikely) that rabbit has rabies

If you have to ask, the answer is you can't and you should not even try to dispatch a wild rabbit, or any wild animal.


On a survival course recently I was told the correct way to despatch a rabbit (as determined to reduce suffering) is to place a blow three times to the base of the skull with a stick - not smashing it to pieces but to separate skull from spine.

After doing this you should check for an autonomic response (touch the eye, a mammal will blink if still alive) if the animal is in shock then it may appear dead - if it responds repeat the process.

Also in the UK, it is legal to carry a non-locking knife no greater than 3 inches unless you are under the age of 17.