How rabbits sort out the group rankings

In order for the coexistence among rabbits to run harmoniously, a clear hierarchy in the group is required. There is usually peace once rabbits have established the order. However, the hierarchy can also falter or some rabbits try to contest the "leader" of the group. These rabbit friends have already clarified the ranking among themselves and get on very well - Shutterstock / Serenko Natalia

If a rabbit comes into a new group, the existing hierarchy gets mixed up and the long ears have to clarify the hierarchy. The same applies if the "boss" is getting old or sick. Then mostly younger rabbits try to secure an upper place in the ranking by challenging the previous head. Below you will learn more about the special features of the hierarchy in rabbit groups.

What is the hierarchy of a rabbit group?

In the wild, rabbits live together in larger groups in a tunnel network. Several such associations live side by side. Each group has a dominant animal at the top that enjoys special privileges. There are also a few animals that are in the middle of the ranking and a few animals that are at the bottom of the hierarchy. It is no different with tame domestic rabbits.

For example, the head of the rabbit may eat before everyone else and take the most delicious bites from the feed. It can also ask other rabbits to brush it. It lays its head on the floor and nudges the other animal under the chin. The rabbit boss himself rarely cleans others and only fleetingly. In addition, the top-ranked rabbits breed more often than the others and are healthier.

How do rank fights among rabbits express themselves?

Each rabbit usually accepts its place in the hierarchy and living together in the group remains peaceful. However, if something changes in the group constellation - a new rabbit arrives or a group member dies - or the "leader" begins to weaken, there will be rank fights.

These disputes about the best place in the hierarchy can be expressed in the following ways:

● The rabbits hunt or run in circles around their competitors.
● The dominant rabbit mounts the inferior animal.
● The rabbit, which is stronger, pinches its peers.
● If the inferior rabbit still does not give in, the dominant animal pulls on its fur and, if necessary, plucks it out.

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When do you have to intervene in ranking battles?

As long as there are no bite injuries requiring treatment, you should let your rabbits fight out the order of rank. After that, the hierarchy is usually clarified and the animals live together peacefully again.

In rare cases, however, it can happen that two animals simply cannot get along with each other. Then the ranking battles continue uninterrupted for several weeks or severe bite wounds occur.

It can also happen that one rabbit in the group is bullied by the others and becomes terribly afraid of its peers. You can recognize this, for example, from the fact that it sits rigidly, its head directed against the wall, and is bitten by the other rabbits. Or the other rabbits keep chasing it.

Then you should separate the dominant animal from the group and try to reunite the rabbits after about two weeks. Sometimes that's enough for peace to come back. If not, you have to separate the animals permanently and place them in separate groups. Single keeping is not an option for rabbits!

Can battles for rabbit ranking be avoided?

You cannot completely avoid rank fights among rabbits - after all, a hierarchy must first be established so that the animals can live together in a relaxed manner. But you can use a few tips for keeping rabbits in a species-appropriate manner to keep the potential for conflict in the group to a minimum - then there is not so much argument.

Take care of, for example

● sufficient feed for the rabbits
● enough space and retreat for the animals
● a balanced gender ratio within the group (there are more disputes in pure female or male groups)
● The castration of your rabbits (castrated rammers are generally more peaceful than uncastrated rammers, castrated rabbits are better protected against certain diseases than uncastrated females)
● species-appropriate employment for the rabbits