Human handling might interfere with conspecific recognition in the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus)

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Abstract

Handled rabbit pups react with decreased fear to a human at weaning. We hypothesized that pups learn species-specific features of their handler. Experiment 1 showed that handled animals' reactions were similar to both a human and their mother. Experiment 2 showed that pups reacted similarly to their mother and other adult rabbits. In Experiment 3, we used nonhandled control pups, and pups in the experimental groups were stimulated either by a human, a cat, or both. Only human-handled animals showed high affinity to approach a human at weaning. Similarly, only rabbit pups exposed to a cat did not show fear reaction towards a cat. Nonhandled controls avoided both the cat and the human, and rabbits stimulated by both species did not avoid any of them at weaning. We demonstrated that handling affected the behavior of weanling rabbits in a selective manner, as they only approached those objects frequently to which they had been exposed to.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-62
Number of pages10
JournalDevelopmental Psychobiology
Volume39
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 18 2001

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Keywords

  • Conspecific recognition
  • Felis catus
  • Handling
  • Human
  • Rabbit
  • Sensitive period

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Developmental Biology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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