What Makes a Rabbit Cute? Preference for Rabbit Faces Differs according to Skull Morphology and Demographic Factors
School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, The University of Nottingham, Sutton Bonington Campus Leicestershire LE12 5RD, UK
Independent Researcher, Measham, Swadlincote Derbyshire DE12 7LQ, UK
APHA Scientific, Sutton Bonington, Loughborough, Leicestershire LE12 5RB, UK
School of Animal Rural & Environmental Sciences, Nottingham Trent University, Brackenhurst Campus, Southwell, Nottinghamshire NG25 0QF, UK
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 28 August 2019 / Revised: 20 September 2019 / Accepted: 21 September 2019 / Published: 26 September 2019
The majority of pet rabbits have flatter, shorter faces than wild rabbits. However, rabbits with flat faces are at higher risk of developing considerable health problems, including painful dental problems. The aim of this research was to identify which type of rabbit face people actually prefer, in order to better understand why rabbits with flat faces might be bred and purchased. Images of 25 rabbit faces were assigned to a face-type group by 134 veterinary professionals. Through an online questionnaire, people then rated each of the 25 images according to preference for the rabbits’ faces, and a total of 20,858 questionnaires were completed globally. Through statistical modelling, we show for the first time that mildly flat-faced rabbits (on a scale of extremely flat-faced to extremely long-faced) are more preferred globally than any other kind, and that the longest faced rabbits are the least preferred. Aside from the shape, other features of rabbit faces that were preferred include a soft, medium-light fur appearance and being generally short-furred. These results support the theory that the human preference for the baby-like features of flat-faced rabbits has driven their popularity. We would encourage breeders to avoid breeding extremely flat-faced rabbits due to the associated health problems and to focus instead on breeding more preferred mildly flat-faced, erect-eared rabbits such as the Havana breed.