Nursing, weaning and the development of independent feeding in the rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus)

R. Hudson, A. Bilko, V. Altbäcker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

59 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Maternal care in the European rabbit is limited to one brief nursing visit a day. To investigate the nature of this unusual mother- young relationship, four domestic does and their litters were kept separately except for the once-daily nursing, and the following parameters were recorded; from post-natal days 1 to 30, the duration of nursing bouts, daily milk yield, deposition of faecal pellets in the nest by does. daily weight gain of pups, eating of faecal pellets and nest material by pups, their water intake, and from post weaning days 31 to 44, their weight gain. Does were mated immediately after giving birth, and the measures for the first litters raised when does were pregnant were compared with the results for the second litters raised when does were not pregnant. Four control does and their litters were treated in the same way but without separating mothers and young. Pups progressed from drinking milk alone, to nibbling faecal pellets, to ingesting nest material, drinking water and finally to eating lab food. However, growth rates and the pattern of weaning depended on does' reproductive state. The first litters, raised by pregnant does, were significantly lighter and were weaned earlier than the second litters raised by the same does when not pregnant. The rabbit thus provides a particularly good opportunity to investigate the processes underlying the transition to independent feeding in a mammalian species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-48
Number of pages10
JournalZeitschrift fur Saugetierkunde
Volume61
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1996

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Oryctolagus cuniculus
weaning
breast feeding
litters (young animals)
litter
rabbits
fecal pellet
pups
pellets
nest
nests
milk
weight gain
ingestion
maternal care
drinking
drinking water
milk yield
duration
food

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology

Cite this

Nursing, weaning and the development of independent feeding in the rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus). / Hudson, R.; Bilko, A.; Altbäcker, V.

In: Zeitschrift fur Saugetierkunde, Vol. 61, No. 1, 1996, p. 39-48.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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