The Behavioural Repertoire of Non-Breeding Group-Housed Female Laboratory Rabbits (Oryctolagus Cuniculus)
Many studies on group-housing of laboratory rabbits to date have focused on management aspects and economic implications. Our aim here is to provide behavioural background information for future investigations focusing on behavioural and welfare aspects of group-housing. In the present study, we established the behavioural repertoire of female laboratory rabbits kept in single-sex groups in enriched floor-pens. Thirty-six adult does of common laboratory breeds were kept in groups of four in enriched floor-pens. Behavioural observations were carried out over a period of 30 months with a total observation time of 21 h per group and 4.2 h per focal animal. Observations took place at natural dusk and dawn and lasted for 120 or 180 min per group. Most of the behavioural elements in the repertoire of mixed-sex wild and domestic rabbits were also observed here in single-sex groups of laboratory does. However, in the absence of males, sexual behaviours were directed towards other females and no maternal behaviours, other than nest building at the end of pseudopregnancies, were exhibited. Attention is drawn to differences between the behavioural repertoire reported here and that of singly caged laboratory rabbits.
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