Mating in rabbits is generally polygynandrous, though males will attempt to monopolize particular females.
Mating System: polygynandrous (promiscuous)
Rabbits are well-known for their reproductive capacity. Oryctolagus cuniculus is capable of reproducing year-round, but most breeding activity takes place in the first half of the year. Gestation is about 30 days, and the average litter contains 5 to 6 young. Females experience postpartum estrus and thus may have several litters per year, though spontaneous abortions and resorption of embryos are common (possibly due to environmental or social stresses). (Vaughan, 2000; Nowak, 1999)
One reason for the reproductive success of rabbits is induced ovulation, where eggs are only released in response to copulation. (Macdonald, 1984) Rabbit placentae allow an unusually high degree of contact between maternal and fetal bloodstreams, a condition they share with humans. Thus, they are useful models for the study of human pregnancy and fetal development. (Banks, 1989)
Neonates, called kittens, are naked, blind and helpless. The mother visits the nest for only a few minutes each day to nurse them, but the milk is extremely rich. Young are weaned at four weeks of age, attain sexual maturity at about eight months, and can live up to nine years old. However, mortality rates in the first year of life frequently exceed 90%. (Nowak, 1999; Macdonald, 1984)
Breeding interval: Breeding may occur approximately monthly.
Breeding season: These animals breed throughout the year, although most breeding takes place in the first half of the year.
Range number of offspring: 1 to 14.
Average number of offspring: 6.
Range gestation period: 30 to 37 days.
Average gestation period: 30 days.
Range weaning age: 22 to 31 days.
Average weaning age: 28 days.
Average time to independence: 4 weeks.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 8 months.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 8 months.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; year-round breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); induced ovulation ; fertilization ; viviparous ; post-partum estrous
Average birth mass: 45 g.
Average number of offspring: 5.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
Sex: female: 730 days.
Females provide maternal care to their altricial young. Males are not involved in caring for young.
Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female)
- Macdonald, D. 1984. The Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York, NY: Facts on File Publications.
- Vaughan, T., J. Ryan, N. Czaplewski. 2000. Mammology. New York, NY: Harcourt, Inc..
- Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World, Sixth Edition. Baltimore and London: The John's Hopkins University Press.
- Banks, R. 1989. "Rabbits: Models and Research Applications (USAMRIID Seminar Series)" (On-line). Accessed November 29, 1999 at http://netvet.wustl.edu/species/rabbits/rabtmodl.txt.