Like all animals used to residing in large groups, hierarchy is of critical importance to bunnies – really essential to keep the peace in a big warren. In the wild, bunnies reside in male/female pairs and typically within a household group, with one pair or household being at the top of the tree and other pairs/families subordinate to it. This is the best method to ensure survival of the warren by producing the optimum number of litters who endure to their adult years. Newcomers or young rabbits not yet developed in a pair are not easily accepted and have the tendency to live a relatively miserable life on the outskirts of the warren.
Hierarchy is crucial to rabbits; in the wild it is essential to keep the peace in a big warren and domestic bunnies are likewise hierarchical, among themselves and with us…
Domestic rabbits live best in neutered male/female sets and still abide by this requirement for a firm hierarchy.
Why Rabbits Start Fighting
Why do rabbits fight with each other? Here are 3 main causes:
1. Measuring the competition
The first idea in a bunny’s mind when encountering another rabbit is “are you exceptional or inferior to me?” Classic signs of supremacy are installing (this can be done by either a male or female), chasing, circling around and, if the other rabbit does not send, nipping and fur pulling. If the ‘inferior’ rabbit submits by laying its head on the ground, the show of dominance may continue for a great while longer, often even weeks, so great is a rabbit’s have to establish its location at last in the hierarchy.
Bunnies do in some cases approach each other as equates to once bonded one bunny – nearly constantly the woman – will constantly rise to the top, even if in a really mild, easy-to-miss way. Other rabbits may take an instant dislike to each other and right away begin an appropriate fight, scratching and biting hard enough to draw blood, however this is really uncommon in neutered male/female intros.
2. Leading bunny
As soon as the hierarchy is developed, the ‘top bunny’ enjoys particular benefits, the most noticeable of which is grooming. A leading bunny will ask for grooming from a subordinate by laying her head flat on the ground close to the other rabbit, typically pressing her head under his chin. She may return the favour sometimes as an act of affection but generally speaking the top bunny gets much more grooming from her subordinate(s).
Confusingly, rabbits also lay their heads on the ground to reveal submission and you may often see subordinate rabbits doing this however the usual response from leading bunny is either to neglect or give a fast ear or eye lick.
The leading bunny also has “first dibs” on food and might chase after off any rabbit who she feels is threatening her food, in specific if it is a treat food such as a piece of carrot or banana. She might also anticipate her subordinate(s) to “keep guard” for her while she sleeps; for instance, she might entirely unwind and roll on her side or back to sleep while her subordinate(s) stay in the “loaf” position (legs tucked under body, eyes half open – the timeless rabbit sleeping postion).
3. Hierarchy and humans
How the human beings of your home fit into this hierarchy is less clear. On one level, we might be seen as subordinates to the leading bunny, but on another level we are, obviously, the general boss – determining when meal times, nail clipping, litter tray cleaning etc occurs. To puts it simply, there are certain aspects of her life that top bunny can not manage and is happy to leave to us. However, when it pertains to basic interaction with our rabbits, we are consisted of in the hierarchy. Many top bunnies see themselves as exceptional to us and request grooming from us in the very same way they would from another rabbit. Others may groom their people by licking their hands, feet and face however this is most likely to be a sign of love instead of a recognition of inferiority. Subordinate bunnies are generally extremely pleased to accept grooming from us however do not require it in the method a leading bunny would.
When engaging with your bunnies, it is necessary to be familiar with this hierarchy and refrain from doing anything to distress it. For example, if top bunny feels her subordinate(s) are getting too much attention or grooming from us, she might become jealous and this may negatively impact their relationship. On the other hand, you don’t want the subordinate(s) to feel neglected so the safest thing is to treat each rabbit similarly but when in doubt groom top bunny first – this is what she and her subordinate(s) anticipate.
Also read: Main Causes of Sudden Death in Rabbits