Imagine bonding two male rabbits and putting them in a cage together, only to discover one has gotten pregnant and kindled a litter of 7 baby bunnies? No one would fault you for thinking the one buck changed genders to suddenly get pregnant. But can rabbits change gender?
A rabbit can’t change gender, nor do rabbits develop both male and female sex organs. As a rule, mammals like rabbits aren’t hermaphrodites. It’s abnormal for a rabbit to have both male and female reproductive organs. Identifying a rabbit’s gender isn’t easy: a male rabbit can easily be mistaken for a female, and vice versa.
Ready to learn why the one bunny “changed” genders and suddenly became pregnant? Let’s examine this fascinating topic of rabbits and gender.
Are Rabbits Hermaphrodites?
Rabbits aren’t naturally hermaphrodites. In fact, no mammal is meant to be born a hermaphrodite. When this does happen, it is a freak of nature and an abnormality.
A hermaphrodite is an animal (or a person) that has female and male sex organs and/or other sexual characteristics.
Hermaphroditism either occurs abnormally or not naturally among mammals. Amphibians are known to change their gender or become hermaphrodites when in a stressful environment.
There is at least one documented case of a rabbit that was born a hermaphrodite. But this is the exception rather than the rule.
Sexual Dimorphism in Rabbits
Since rabbits don’t have female and male reproductive organs, how did two bucks mate and one fall pregnant? Honestly, it’s a case of mistaken gender identity.
It’s really easy to wrongly sex a rabbit. You can only tell a female rabbit apart from its male counterpart by looking at the rabbit’s genitals, and even then, you need to know what you are looking at and looking for.
When a species is sexually dimorphic, males and females have different biological and physiological characteristics. We use these differences to tell males and females apart.
Unfortunately, rabbits aren’t really sexually dimorphic. You can only tell that a rabbit is a doe or a buck when you sex the bunny.
Sometimes, a doe will be slightly bigger or weigh more than a buck, but you can’t use size or weight as a determiner of the rabbit’s gender. Perhaps a fur parent feeds their buck a little too much. Then that male rabbit may weigh more than a female rabbit in the same breed.
Also, a female rabbit may develop a dewlap (a fatty layer of skin underneath her chin) when she becomes sexually mature unless she is spayed early enough. Does pull out the fur from their dewlaps to nest before they kindle.
However, some bucks also develop a dewlap, but this is because the rabbit is overweight.
Thus, you can’t even use the dewlap feature to tell a rabbit’s gender.
On the other hand, other animals and humans have various tells. For example, a male or female may be bigger or more colorful in a species. Or you can visibly see the animal’s genitals to tell the males apart from the females as with lions or horses.
How Can You Tell a Male Rabbit From a Female?
Sexing a rabbit, or telling a male rabbit from a female rabbit, isn’t easy. And the younger the rabbit, the less reliable sexing is.
This is probably why the two bucks turned out to be a doe and a buck – they were (incorrectly) sexed. And then once sexual maturity hit for the buns, well, one ended up pregnant.
Before we look at how you can sex a rabbit, it’s essential to know when you can tell a male and female rabbit apart and when it’s most reliable.
When to Sex a Rabbit
It’s best to tell the gender of a rabbit when they are 3 months or older as their sex organs are more developed. However, you can also try to identify your bun’s gender when they are older than 4 weeks.
It’s a real challenge to sex a young kit younger than 4 weeks – it isn’t easy to hold these small bunnies and their genitalia may not be fully developed yet.
Step-by-Step Guide to Tell a Male Rabbit From a Female Rabbit
We’ve got a detailed guide on sexing a rabbit, but if you are in a hurry, here are the steps to follow.
Step 1: Gather What You Need
You need the following to sex your rabbit:
- Information on what a rabbit’s sexing parts look like
- Another person to help you hold the bunny (optional)
- A pair of protective gloves
Step 2: Get Your Bunny and Gently Place Them on Their Back
This is the first real step. Fetch your bunny and gently (and properly) pick them up.
If you have someone helping you, you can place the bunny on their lap, with the rabbit’s head toward their tummy area and the hind legs toward you. If you don’t have help, you can place the rabbit in the same position, with the bun’s hind legs on/toward your knees.
Remember that rabbits don’t like to be in this vulnerable position, so don’t force your rabbit. It’ll only break your bond.
Step 3: Put on Gloves
You need to wear gloves before touching your rabbit’s genitalia, so put on the gloves now if someone is holding the rabbit for you, or do this before picking up your bun.
Step 4: Identify the Vent
Next, you need to identify the vent, located between your rabbit’s hind legs and tail. The vent is like a figure-8-shaped pink bump, and the anus is part of the vent.
Step 5: Check the Rabbit’s Genitalia
You need to move the fur covering the vent aside. Gently press your fingers on either side of the vent to see the sex of your bunny.
For a doe, there’s an “I”-shaped slit, and for a buck, it’ll be an “O”-shaped slit.
You can also check for testicles – purple lumps on the vent sides.
Also, press on the base of the vent. If you have a buck, you’ll see their penis. For a female rabbit, you’ll see the vulva.
Do Rabbits Know Their Gender?
Rabbits don’t think as we do about gender and sexual identities. So no, a rabbit doesn’t know whether it is a boy or girl.
Each rabbit has their own personality, and if you treat a doe in a kinder way than a buck, your rabbit will respond accordingly.
My Last Bunny Thoughts
Wondering if animals change their gender leads to interesting discoveries, but as a rule, mammals can’t change their sex organs and they aren’t (normally) born as hermaphrodites.
As such, a rabbit is born to be a buck or a doe, so they are either male or female.
And that’s why it’s essential to separate rabbits when they become sexually mature so you don’t have a surprise litter, therefore you should sex the female rabbits and the male rabbits.