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Article

Aggressiveness, Mating Behaviour and Lifespan of Group Housed Rabbit Does

1
Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Kaposvár University, 7400 Kaposvár, Hungary
2
Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Szent István University, 2100 Gödöllő, Hungary
3
Olivia Ltd, Mizse 94, 6050 Lajosmizse, Hungary
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2019, 9(10), 708; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9100708
Received: 29 July 2019 / Revised: 18 September 2019 / Accepted: 19 September 2019 / Published: 20 September 2019
Aggressiveness is a well-known trait in different animal species, including the European wild and domesticated rabbit. It is one of the main problems in group housing of rabbit does. The aim of the experiment was to investigate the frequency of aggressiveness and mating behaviour as well as the lifespan of does depending on their rank order. Dominance hierarchy developed during aggressive behaviour, i.e., fighting. In most cases the primary position in the rank order was clear. Mating activity was very high after assembling the groups. In addition to male–female mating, some female-female and female-male mounting was also observed, which could lead to pseudo-pregnancy. A second small peak of sexual activity was observed at the end of the hypothetical pseudo-pregnancy. Based on the results it can be concluded that aggressive behaviour is frequent in group housing systems which is contrary to animal welfare. Natural mating is not effective in group-housing systems.
Aggressiveness is one of the main problems in group housing of rabbit does. The aim of the experiment was to investigate the frequency of aggressiveness and mating behaviour as well as the lifespan of does depending on group composition. The female and male rabbits were housed in one of the 7.7 m2 pens (four females and one male per pen). Based on the ages of female rabbits two homogenous groups (HOM) were formed containing four 17-week-old females and two heterogeneous groups (HET) containing three 17-week-old and one 1-year-old female. Twenty-four-hour video recordings were taken during the first month after assembling the groups, and the aggressive actions (fights) and matings were counted. The lifespan was examined over a 200-day experimental period. On the day after assembling the groups the number of fights among does was high in HET group. The same aggressive behaviour only started a week later in HOM group, and some fights between females and the male were also observed. The daily peaks of aggressiveness were in the morning (after the light on) and in the evening (before and after the lights off). The primary position of females in the hierarchy was clear but sometimes no differences were detected among the subordinate females. The mortality of does was connected with their rank order. The number of matings was very high on the day of assembling the groups and a second small peak was observed at the end of the hypothetical pseudo-pregnancy. In addition to mating between male and females, female–female and female–male mounting was also observed. Despite of the small sample size it seems that aggressive behaviour is frequent in group housing systems, which is contrary to animal welfare. Natural mating is not effective in group-housing system. View Full-Text
Keywords: group housing; rabbit does; aggressive behaviour; mating behaviour; rank order; lifespan group housing; rabbit does; aggressive behaviour; mating behaviour; rank order; lifespan
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MDPI and ACS Style

Gerencsér, Z.; Matics, Z.; Szabó, R.T.; Kustos, K.; Mikó, A.; Nagy, I.; Odermatt, M.; Atkári, T.; Szendrő, Z. Aggressiveness, Mating Behaviour and Lifespan of Group Housed Rabbit Does. Animals 2019, 9, 708. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9100708

AMA Style

Gerencsér Z, Matics Z, Szabó RT, Kustos K, Mikó A, Nagy I, Odermatt M, Atkári T, Szendrő Z. Aggressiveness, Mating Behaviour and Lifespan of Group Housed Rabbit Does. Animals. 2019; 9(10):708. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9100708

Chicago/Turabian Style

Gerencsér, Zsolt, Zsolt Matics, Rubina T. Szabó, Károly Kustos, Annamária Mikó, István Nagy, Meinrad Odermatt, Tamás Atkári, and Zsolt Szendrő. 2019. "Aggressiveness, Mating Behaviour and Lifespan of Group Housed Rabbit Does" Animals 9, no. 10: 708. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9100708

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