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If your rabbit is acting abnormally and you have concerns please take them to a vet immediately.
When you’re choosing a pet, of course, you want to make sure it’s the right option for you. That way both you and your furry friend can be healthy, happy, and enjoy your life together.
Rabbits can make excellent pets, but did you know there are quite a few differences between male and female rabbits? You might be surprised to learn that their differences are mainly in their behavior, as well as the more obvious physical differences. Let’s take a closer look.
A male rabbit is called a buck, while a female is known as a doe. Many people wonder: ‘are male rabbits bigger than females?’ The answer is that the size and weight of the rabbit depend on its breed. However, often the doe will actually be bigger than the buck.
Regardless of size, the head and body of the buck are usually more stocky and solidly built than the doe. Veterinarian Dr. Jen Quammen explains that there are: “nearly 50 breeds of domestic rabbits, with many sizes, shapes, and colors represented among them.”
Both males and females can have dewlaps under their chin, which are simply folds of skin filled with some fat. Dewlaps will vary in size depending on the rabbit’s breed. Does tend to have larger, more noticeable dewlaps than male rabbits.
Many people think this is so she can easily pull out fur from the dewlap to make her nest when she’s old enough to reproduce.
Since appearances vary, to tell the difference between bucks and does we need to look at their genitals. Males will have two testicles that descend between 10 and 14 weeks old.
The scrotum is oblong and will have less hair than the rest of the body. You should also be able to see a prepuce, which is the skin that covers the head of the penis.
Females will have a v-shaped mound with a slit which is the entrance to their vagina. Rabbits will become sexually mature at between four to eight months depending on their breed and size. Does mature earlier on than bucks.
There are many contrasts when it comes to the difference between male and female rabbits’ personalities. However, it’s important to remember that these are generalizations and won’t always apply.
There are lots of other factors that play into a rabbit’s behavior, including their breed, their age, their background (for example if they’re a rescue and have had a difficult life previously), and the environment they live in.
Just like us, rabbits are individuals and will have individual personalities. That’s part of what makes them such wonderful pets!
The domestic rabbit’s wild ancestors live in groups, in a complex network of tunnels and chambers underground called a warren. Wild rabbits tend to be quite territorial and establish a hierarchy, with more dominant rabbits at the top.
Wild female rabbits become more aggressive around breeding time, with fighting between females being a common occurrence.
This behavior is innate, meaning it comes naturally to them. In captivity does will usually be more aggressive than bucks as a result, especially if they’re housed together. Does that house in groups will fight for limited resources or to establish a hierarchy.
Female rabbits can also be more aggressive to their owners, especially when you’re coming into their living area. They are more likely to bite, thump their back feet on the floor, and swat at you with their front paws. This may pass with time as you bond and build trust with your rabbit.
Male rabbits tend to be calmer, less territorial, and have fewer destructive habits. This is likely because in the wild they aren’t the ones primarily defending their nest. They also spend more time outside of the warren, so they’re less likely to be so territorial.
This doesn’t mean that they don’t have any territorial instincts at all. If a rabbit they don’t know was introduced to the home they would probably try to defend their territory at first. However, male pet rabbits are typically more laid back than females.
In general, male rabbits are more likely to be friendly and connect with you quickly. They tend to be more inclined to seek out attention and affection from their owners.
On the other hand, does can take a while to warm up to you and may not be as naturally affectionate. They can be more stubborn and less likely to trust their owners until they bond with them.
As we mentioned earlier, it’s important to remember that individual rabbits are different; this is just a generalization.
Male rabbits will mount other rabbits, animals, and other items in your home to try to ‘hump’ them. They are simply mimicking the sexual behavior they would display in the wild. They may also be trying to assert dominance.
Female rabbits will display this behavior far less often, but this depends on the rabbit. Usually, when females are mounting, it’s to try to show dominance.
While this behavior can be annoying or funny to look at, it’s not actually causing any harm to the rabbit. However, it may be worrying other animals in the home or causing damage to your personal belongings.
Sometimes neutering or spaying your rabbit can help to reduce the behavior, but this isn’t guaranteed. A simple solution is to remove any items you don’t want your rabbit mounting from their living area, or keep items safely out of the way if your rabbit is free-roaming.
If their mounting is bothering other animals, you can try to distract your rabbit with an enrichment game or a toy to redirect their attention.
Intact males (meaning those who have not been neutered) can be prone to sexual aggression. If there is a female rabbit in the home, they will go to great lengths to get to her and can be aggressive in trying to mate her.
They can also be more likely to fight with other male rabbits in their home to try to ‘win’ rights to mate with the female.
Therefore, it’s crucial to keep intact male rabbits and female rabbits away from each other to keep everyone safe and to prevent unwanted pregnancies. It’s best to spay and neuter your rabbits to stop these issues and allow rabbits to live happily together.
Spraying refers to a rabbit urinating in places around the room or their enclosure. This is a natural behavior inherited from their wild ancestors. In the wild, rabbits will spray areas near and within their warren to mark their territory. It’s their way of letting other rabbits and animals know that that area belongs to them.
Both male and female rabbits will spray, but it’s more commonly seen in males. In the wild, the males would be the ones who would mark their territory the most to ensure other rabbits stayed away from their home, their females and their offspring.
So, you might find that your male rabbit is leaving you some lovely urine marks around your home. Getting your rabbit neutered can help to reduce this behavior, which we’ll discuss later on in this article.
Aside from spraying, rabbits can also exhibit other destructive behavior. Both male and female rabbits exhibit digging behaviors, as this is something they would do in the wild. However, females are more likely to display destructive digging in the home. This is because they are the ones who do a lot of the digging to make burrows that are part of the warren in the wild.
Unfortunately, you might find female rabbits digging up carpets or flooring, as well as other areas in their environment.
You can combat this by rabbit-proofing your home and by giving them a safe place where they can exhibit this behavior, for example creating a digging box or setting aside an area in your garden. This is great enrichment for both male and female rabbits!
Both male and female rabbits have the innate need to chew. Their teeth are constantly growing, so they need to chew and gnaw on things a lot to keep them worn down and ensure they stay healthy. Chewing also prevents boredom and keeps their digestive system healthy.
If you don’t give your rabbit items to chew on, they will chew on anything in their environment. This includes your floor and furniture. The best way to deal with this is to give them plenty of toys that are safe to chew on, as well as lots of hay.
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Christal Pollock explains that digging, chewing, and other behaviors that might be seen as destructive are all: “intimately tied to the instinctive drive to reproduce.”
Most rabbits take to litter training quite quickly and fairly well. You can introduce a litter box as soon as you bring your rabbit home or at any stage during their life (often older rabbits take to litter training better). The process of litter training is usually quite simple, but intact bucks and does are harder to litter train.
Some rabbits will leave poop around their enclosure outside of their litter tray to mark their territory. This is most commonly seen in intact males. It can happen even after neutering but tends to be much less often.
Male rabbits may be tougher to litter train because of the urge to spray we discussed earlier. This means they may urinate outside of the litter tray to mark their territory, although this depends on the rabbit and whether they are neutered.
The Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund explains that neutering male rabbits tends to make litter training much easier.
Keeping rabbits intact (meaning not neutering or spaying them) can lead to a range of behavior issues which we’ve discussed. This includes sexual aggression, spraying, mounting, and humping. Intact male and female rabbits should be kept separate from each other to reduce these issues and prevent unwanted pregnancies. Some intact males can live together, but this depends on the rabbit and the bond they have between them.
The terms neutering and spaying refer to surgical procedures to stop rabbits from reproducing. Neutering is the surgery for male rabbits and involves removing the testicles and some of the spermatic cord. Spaying is the surgery done on female rabbits to remove their ovaries. In some cases, the uterus will also be removed.
Neutering and spaying helps to prevent unwanted pregnancies and have health benefits for your rabbit. In bucks, it prevents cancer in their testes and prostate gland, and it does, it helps to prevent uterine cancer and a severe infection of the uterus called pyometra.
Getting your rabbit neutered or spayed can reduce some of the sex-specific behaviors we’ve discussed. Neutered male rabbits are less likely to spray, hump excessively, and are easier to litter train.
Spayed female rabbits are less likely to be aggressive and territorial, and are less prone to destructive behavior.
However, it won’t take all of those behaviors away as there are still some sex hormones being produced. Males may still mount and hump, and females may still do some digging.
Some territorial behavior is natural, especially if a new rabbit is introduced into their environment. Although, after neutering or spaying rabbits are more likely to get along.
Male and female rabbits’ differences may leave you wondering which is a better pet. The truth is they both have pros and cons.
Males are typically more friendly initially and less aggressive, so they can make the best pet, especially for first-time rabbit owners. On the other hand, females have strong personalities, will bond over time, don’t spray much, and tend not to hump!
So, it’s really down to preference. It’s important to remember that rabbits are individuals just like humans, so this is just a general guide. Their personalities will vary and you might find that they surprise you. Whether you choose a buck or a doe, rabbits can make the most wonderful, loving companions.
Christal Pollock, DVM, DABV, (2014), Rabbit Reproduction Basics. LafeberVet.
Joe Cortez, (2016), Rabbit Fun Facts. Pet MD.
Gerencsér Z, Matics Z, Szabó RT, Kustos K, Mikó A, Nagy I, Odermatt M, Atkári T, Szendrő Z., (2019), Aggressiveness, Mating Behaviour and Lifespan of Group Housed Rabbit Does. Animals (Basel). 2019 Sep 20;9(10):708.
Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund, (2022), Neutering – Castration, and Spaying.
Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund, (2022), What causes sex-specific behaviors. in rabbits?