We as humans love cute, fluffy animals, and they don’t get much cuter or fluffier than a rabbit.
This view of rabbits, while lovely, is a bit of a deluded one as we have put far more stock in them being idealized creatures than simply being beautiful animals.
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Modern Human Perceptions Of Rabbits
The characters that we have created that are rabbits makes us think of them as different from what they are.
While rabbits do have personality and each one is unique, they also have basic instincts, like every animal – including humans – has. These instincts don’t go away just because we have domesticated and humanized them.
With this in mind, we find ourselves asking the question of what characteristics actually apply to rabbits? Like, do they actually mate for life? Or is that a myth?
In this article, we seek to find that out as we explore whether rabbits actually mate for life.
Are Rabbits Monogamous?
When we hear the phrase mate for life, we think of the term ‘monogamous’ for life, which means to have one sexual or romantic partner for a period of time – in this case life.
Since this is the normal assumption, that is the one we are going to use to answer this question.
So, are rabbits monogamous for life? No, not at all, in fact they are the exact opposite of monogamous.
There are a few creatures in the world that trend towards monogamy throughout their lives, like swans, gibbons, and humans.
But there is a key facet of these creatures that is not the same with rabbits. Once grown, these creatures have few predatory worries.
That doesn’t mean they have none, but they are far fewer than other creatures – swans are huge birds that can swim and fly, gibbons are large, agile primates that take a lot of effort to catch, and humans are the most dominant species on the planet.
Due to this, they can invest more time in monogamous relationships without the worry of something destroying them.
These creatures also tend to be fairly social in their own groups. Rabbits often have a semblance of a familial structure with hierarchy or equal distribution of respect, which makes things easier and makes it easier to maintain a relationship.
So why are these things important when talking about rabbit monogamy? Because in the wild, rabbits don’t have these.
Rabbits are small animals that many creatures see as prey, with the only defense a rabbit has against them being to hide or to run, with both of these having little chance of success.
Rabbits also don’t have familial groups as we do. Due to them living in large groups, we assume they have a close-knit familial structure like ours – a view we have imposed upon them – and while they do like or tolerate each other, they are by no means close-knit.
The world is cruel for a rabbit, and they often die young or quickly, so they stay in a group for survival, but little else.
In order for their species to survive and their own genes to pass on, rabbits need to breed quickly with as many other rabbits as possible, with their babies needing to grow as quickly as possible, before breeding themselves.
Can Rabbits Become Monogamous Over Time?
Rabbits only really become monogamous when the situation forces them to be, as instinctively they are polyamorous and will seek out multiple partners to foster the next generation.
If you have two rabbits in a cage together, then they will be monogamous with each other, but as soon as you add another rabbit to the mix, that will end immediately.
Rabbits don’t tend to form deep emotional attachments, unless given the opportunity over a long time, because it would be detrimental in the wild to their survival and that is the same when in the home, especially with other rabbits.
However, this doesn’t mean that rabbits can’t form emotional attachments at all, and in fact they often do. As we stated in the paragraph above, it takes time and circumstance.
If you are keeping a rabbit in your home, they are not forced into a survival mode and over time they will become attached to you and the other rabbits in their environment.
But in the wild, while they will still be social and enjoy the company of other rabbits, the rate of death is far higher, and so they can’t form the same deep attachments.
Can Rabbits Breed For Life?
The other part of mating for life with rabbits is whether they can breed for life.
There is an old idea and saying of someone or something ‘breeding like rabbits’ meaning they have a lot of children and, oh boy, do rabbits have a lot of babies.
So, the average lifespan of a rabbit is between 8 and 13 years of age. A rabbit will reach sexual maturity between 3 and 6 months of age and at which point they can breed and give birth or mate with females until the day they die.
Seeing as how it takes 30 days for the pregnancy to come to term, they can mate several times a year, a single female can produce 4 or 5 litters per year, and each litter can contain between 3 and 7 babies, that is a lot of new rabbits hopping around.
Feasibly, a female rabbit who has 4 babies per litter, 4 litters per year, and lives to be 10 years old could have given birth to 160 rabbits during her life.
The phrase ‘breeding like rabbits’ doesn’t do it justice, that’s breeding like a machine.
As such, if you want to breed rabbits, be careful, as you may get more than you bargained for.
Video On Rabbit Breeding
Successful rabbit breeding isn’t always pretty…
Rabbits can breed for their entire lives, but unless put in a circumstance where they have to mate with one individual for life, they will almost always mate with many different ones.
It is an instinctive part of their nature and something that we should always consider when purchasing multiple rabbits.