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Book chapter2021Peer reviewed

Behavioral biology of rabbits

Lidfors, Lena; Dahlborn, Kristina

Abstract

Rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) are monogastric herbivores with cecotrophy, small prey animals with crepuscular activity pattern. They live in breeding groups, where the dominant male defends a territory with a burrow system. Rabbits are sexually mature at 3–4 months, have mating-induced ovulation and postpartum estrus. Gestation lasts 28–31 days, and kits are altricial at birth and born in an under-ground nest. Nursing occurs once per 24 h, and weaning starts from 3 weeks. Kits start feeding cecotrophs from mother and solid feed at 2–4 weeks. Rabbits eat grass, herbs, fruit, roots, leaves, and bark in shared home ranges. They communicate by scent marking, have good eyesight and seldom make sounds. In laboratories, rabbits are preferably housed in large floor pens to allow normal locomotion, rearing, digging, exploration, and social interactions. If fed pellets as the main diet, hay should be provided in smaller amounts as enrichment to facilitate normal feeding behavior and tooth wear. Environmental enrichment, shelves, tunnels, and wood block should be offered. Social groups which are stable, compatible, and established with young rabbits of same sex should be created. Due to high risk of fighting, intact males should be individually housed, but not isolated. If cages are used they must be large, high enough, and enriched. Gentle and frequent handling from early age and habituation to procedures should be practiced.

Published in

Title: Behavioral Biology of Laboratory Animals
ISBN: 978-0-367-02923-4, eISBN: 978-0-429-01951-7Publisher: CRC Press