How to Tell if my Rabbit is Male or Female
In the case of rabbits, as happens with other pets like cats or turtles, it can be difficult to distinguish males from females, especially when they are young. It is quite important to know the sex of your pets if you have a pair of rabbits, specifically because rabbits are animals with a high reproductive rate that, if not controlled, could lead to a lot of bunnies in a short amount of time.
The most effective way to tell a rabbit's sex is to assess the ano-genital distance, that is, the distance between the anus and genitals. It is shorter in females than in males, but there are other details you need to take into account. In this oneHOWTO article we'll explain how to tell if your rabbit is male or female. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about sexing rabbits.
The first step when you want to determine the sex of your rabbit is is to place it belly-up to inspect the genital area comfortably. Do this gently, rabbits are quite nervous and prone to stress, therefore, when sexing rabbits, care needs to be taken.
It's better if you have someone to help you hold the rabbit during this rabbit gender process. Do not pick them up, but rather lay them on a cushion or low table to prevent accidents if it jumps or tries to escape. If the rabbit refuses to lay down, you can examine it while it is sitting on its tail. It is very important to prevent them from kicking and avoid holding them by their ears.
If the bunny is very young, examine them with gloves on to avoid passing on diseases or your smell, which could lead the mother to reject it. Once the examination is done, let them go: lying exposed is a serious cause of distress in rabbits.
Once your rabbit is upside down, to find out the rabbit gender, locate the opening of the anus and the genitals. In female rabbits, you will see the anus will be very close to the tail. Following it very closely, nearer the abdomen, you will see an oval hole, as in the picture below. That is the rabbit's vulva, what lets you know that your rabbit is female.
If we look at male rabbit anatomy, in male rabbits you can also see the anus, approximately in the same location as in females. However, unlike in female rabbits, the next opening - where the penis is situated - is farther from the anus: there is a clear separation. Furthermore, the orifice is more circular than in females, as you can see in the image.
Some experts sex their male rabbits by externalizing the penis. This is done by applying gentle pressure on the edges of the hole and extracting it: however, it is not at all recommendable for inexperienced owners, as you could seriously hurt your rabbit.
Another easy way to know if a rabbit is male or female is to check if you can notice the testicles. Unlike most other animals, male rabbits have a scrotal sac for each testicle, and they are not behind the penis but at each side, and slightly forwards, nearer the belly.
A male rabbit's testicles are easy to notice, because they are usually hairless and of a purple shade. However, they may be retracted in situations of stress. If you can't find the testicles, that is not a completely sure sign that a rabbit is female.
Checking the genitals is the obvious way to tell male and female rabbits apart, but they often show behavioral or appearance differences.
Female rabbits tend to be more aggressive. They show nesting behaviors, and you will often find them digging or protecting their territory. On the other hand, males are more affectionate and curious, although both sexes are likely to spray.
Male rabbits are usually smaller, while females are the only ones who have nipples or, in some large breeds, a dewlap - a fold of skin under the chin.
If despite the above you still have doubts regarding your rabbit's sex, we recommend that you take it to a vet who will be able tell you for sure if it is male or female. Bunnies reach sexual maturity at only three months old, so if you have more than one you should sex them as soon as possible to neuter or separate them if necessary. If you don’t want your female rabbit giving birth, be careful with male and female rabbits living together.
It is important that you have a basic understanding of how to take care of a rabbit so that your pet has a healthy, happy life. When you adopt a rabbit, contact a vet to establish your rabbit's medical records and vaccinations.
Caring for a rabbit: what you need to consider
- You will need to provide objects for your rabbit to gnaw on in order to file its teeth, such as driftwood or special toys for rabbits.
- Let your rabbit exercise outside the cage daily.
- Offer your rabbit a healthy diet for rabbits which must include vegetables, hay and dry feed.
- You should never bathe your rabbit, as can cause stress in rabbits and illness. Rather brush it frequently, which will prevent trichobezoars or hairballs in the stomach.
For more, read our article where we discuss everything you need to know about how to care for a pet rabbit.
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- R. G. EDWARDS & R.L. GARDNER. Sexing of Live Rabbits Blastocysts. Nature International Journal of Science. 214,576-577 (1967).