Pictures & Fun
| A Study of Rabbit Relationships|
From House Rabbit Journal Vol. 4, Nr. 7 - Summer 2002
RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN SPAYED/neutered rabbits living indoors, as members of a human family, have been little studied. We have a unique opportunity to observe and ponder these fascinating interactions, cruelty-free experiments in social structure and group behavior.
In the past six months the rabbit population at our house has reconfigured twice. I have watched the changes with much interest and some puzzlement. One thing was obvious: like humans, rabbit behavior is dramatically affected by the company they keep.
The changes began when we were asked to adopt Gus and Harvey, a pair of 5- year-old neutered males. Snowie, Chloe, and Joey had come to us as a bonded trio. When Snowie died, Joey and Chloe, age 6, became inseparable. Gus and Harvey, who had spent most of their lives in a shed, looked like they needed liberating. Chloe and Joey, bereaved over Snowie, looked like they needed a diversion. We agreed to take Harvey and Gus on a trial basis, our first attempt at introducing rabbits.
We followed the recommended steps: side-by-side but separated, then on to neutral ground, and finally into the heavily marked home base. Gus and Harvey's initial space was a back-yard playhouse surrounded by a fence. They could look out at the garden and get familiar with our rabbits, cat, and guinea pigs who roam there (under our watchful eyes, of course), and Joey and Chloe could get used to the newcomers.
Luckily, Harvey and Gus arrived in July, which afforded lots of daylight hours for getting everybody together outdoors. This first stage went smoothly, with all creatures meeting and greeting at the playhouse fence. Stage 2 began abruptly when Harvey broke out of his guest quarters.
AN UNPLANNED ADVANCE
Gus and Chloe remained relatively passive throughout these first intense weeks. Gus tried sporadically to put the moves on chow-loving Chloe, who was lured by the food bowls in Gus and Harvey 's quarters. When she came calling Gus tried to mount her. Chloe took it in stride and never fought with him or Harvey.
Finally there was a truce between Harvey and Joey. As so often happens (and not just with bunnies), the little guy was the boss. Chloe took little interest in the boys' hierarchical goings-on. All four began to graze together in the mornings and spent afternoons napping in separate corners of the garden. Harvey and Joey took to napping together and even grooming each other, with or without Chloe present.
A FRAGILE PEACE
Gradually, Gus became part of the group. He came up to breakfast with the others, and Joey didn't drive him away. Then one morning I heard the familiar sound of scuffling on the deck. Harvey and Gus were fighting. Joey joined the fray and broke it up. He assumed the role of peacemaker several more times before Harvey and Gus finally buried the hatchet.
A GREAT LOSS
Up to this point I had been an observer. Now I was ready to bond with the new arrivals myself. Harvey and Gus related to me with great interest and affection. True to house-rabbit form, the move indoors changed them from flighty and cautious to friendly and trusting. That gives me confidence to try matchmaking again.
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