Hazel is a young rabbit who follows his brother's visions in order to keep his community safe from harm. He leads a group of rabbits away from their doomed warren and becomes the leader of the warren on Watership Down. Hazel is somewhat foolish in his bravery but ends up using his cleverness and his ability to make the most of his group's strengths to not only get does from Nuthanger Farm and Efrafa but also to save the warren from an attack by General Woundwort.
Fiver is a young, small rabbit who has visions of harmful events that always end up being true, though the other rabbits don't often believe him. His vision of the destruction of the Sandleford warren, his vision of danger at the terrible snare farm, and his ability to foresee the deaths of the Efrafan attackers all serve to help his colony survive.
Bigwig is a large, burly rabbit with a topknot of fur on his head; he leaves the Owsla in his doomed warren to accompany Hazel's group to Watership Down. His willingness to fight both gets him in trouble and serves him well: he successfully helps Efrafan does escape and defends his warren against General Woundwort's attack.
Blackberry is an intelligent and resourceful buck who comes up with the brilliant notion that, if wood floats, then rabbits on the wood can also float; this revelation helps the rabbits escape two dangerous predicaments. His plans help the Watership Down warren to gain does and escape from the clutches of General Woundwort.
Dandelion, the storyteller of Hazel's warren, helps to keep the rabbits sane through their arduous journey to safety. His mythological narrations also help focus the rabbits' (and readers') attention on the importance of acting like the stories' heroes, of remaining rabbit-like, unlike the rabbits in Cowslip's and Woundwort's warrens. He also plays an important role in distracting enemies in order to enact Blackberry and Hazel's plans to save the warren.
Captain Holly, the old warren's Owsla leader, goes from wanting to arrest Bigwig and Hazel's group to begging for shelter after the entire Sandleford warren is destroyed and he is wounded. He becomes a valuable ally in the plot to get does from Efrafa and helps to defend the warren from the Efrafan patrol.
General Woundwort is the rabbit who rules Efrafa and forces everyone to become a part of a marked group, scheduling their every move so that no one ever gets killed outside the warren. His restrictions on freedom make his warren overcrowded, but he punishes or kills anyone who tries to leave. He fights Bigwig nearly to the death to try to take back his warren's does.