Department of Education

Animal Ethics

Animal Ethics


Varietal range difference

Rabbits were once classified as rodents but are now are classified in the Order Lagomorpha, together with hares, pikas and American Cottontail rabbits. The domesticated rabbit was derived from the European wild rabbit, which was introduced to Britain, Australia and New Zealand.

There are a number of varieties of domesticated rabbit, but these can be divided into five main groups:

  • Californian and New Zealand White rabbits – large (2-5kg) animals bred for meat and research
  • Smaller breeds (up to 2kg) used as pets and research animals
  • Long-haired Angora varieties
  • Lop-eared rabbits with broad, pendulous ears (2-4kg).
  • Giant breeds

European wild rabbits may not be kept as pets and if held illegally may be confiscated by the Department of Agriculture and Food.

Physical characteristics

Size varies depending on breed
Weight small breeds approximately 2kg; large breeds 4kg - 8kg; giant breeds can be heavier
Age at adult size male 6-10 months; female 4-9 months
Average life span normally 5-10 years, have been known to live to 12
Weight at birth 30g - 100g
Gestation period 30-33 days
Number of offspring 4-10
Weaning age 5-8 weeks
Range of breeding ages may become sexually mature from 18-22 weeks of age (can be bred from 6-36 months; ideally breeding range is 1-3 years); breeding animals over 6 years is not recommended; on average rabbits breed 4 times per year
Body temperature 38°C - 39°C
Heart rate 150-300 beats/minute (average 220)
Respiration rate 32-65 breaths/minute (average 45)
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