When you think about rabbits mating, the expression “humping like rabbits” may come to mind. But is this an accurate description of the mating habits of rabbits? Just how do rabbits mate?
Rabbits are always in heat, so when two wild rabbits want to mate, the buck will follow the doe. She will either lay down or try to box the buck. Or the buck will circle the doe until he can spray her with urine. The buck will then mount the doe, and after discharging, fall off her.
Let’s dive into the topic of rabbits, their mating rituals, and more.
At What Age Do Rabbits Mate?
The age at which rabbits mate depends on the breed and their gender.
Rabbits become sexually mature much earlier than most other mammals. Generally, a rabbit is sexually mature when they are 4 to 6 months old. A buck (male rabbit) also reaches sexual maturity a little later than a doe (female rabbit).
With small or dwarf breeds like the Dutch rabbit or the Polish Dwarf rabbit, these buns can start mating as early as 3½ months old.
Medium-sized rabbits are ready to start mating when they are 4 to 4½ months old. And large or giant rabbit breeds only become sexually mature and start mating when they are between 6 to 9 months old.
Heat Cycle in Rabbits
Here are details about the heat cycle in male and female rabbits:
A Doe in Heat
When a doe is sexually mature, her estrous cycle starts. As such, a female rabbit – unless spayed – is permanently in heat (or in estrus). She is ready to mate with a buck 24/7 (#prettymuch).
Signs of a female bunny in the heat:
- Guarding her space jealousy and becoming aggressive when you try to clean the rabbit hutch
- Increased affection toward you – like rubbing against you or circling your legs
- Marking her area with urine – like an “I’m ready to mate” sign to the buck
- Feeling restless; not relaxing, sleeping, drinking, or eating
- Mounting objects or other rabbits
- A dark red swollen vulva – there should be no bleeding; if there is, take your bun to the vet
An unaltered doe stays in a heat sequence for 16 days, and she’s fertile for 14 of these days. Once the 16 days pass, the cycle loops and start again.
So your doe is never really out of the heat once she’s sexually mature unless she is pregnant.
Another quick note: A female rabbit’s body only ovulates and releases an egg when a buck mates with her.
A Buck in Heat
Bucks also don’t have a traditional heat cycle. Like a doe, an intact buck wants to mate 24/7 once he is sexually mature.
Signs your male bunny is sexually mature and frustrated:
- Mounting objects and other rabbits
- Spraying urine to mark his territory
- Becoming more territorial and acting aggressive when you enter the rabbit cage or hutch
- Having a lot of pent-up energy
- Chewing everything in his path
- Severe mood changes, from being overly affectionate the one minute to scenting and being aggressive the next
What Do Rabbits Do When Mating?
There are some differences in how wild rabbits and pet rabbits mate.
The act is the same, but there’s a kind of selection process that happens in the wild.
In a domesticated situation, the doe and buck mate with each other when they are in the same cage and ready for action or when breeders put the doe in the male’s cage to encourage copulation.
In the Wild
In the wild, rabbits groom each other by nibbling on fur and nudging noses. This is kind of what we humans consider courtship and flirting. Essentially, it’s how the rabbits bond with each other.
Mating typically occurs during dusk or dawn, which ties into the fact that rabbits are crepuscular – most active during the twilight hours.
The act of mating is fast – rabbits are aware that predators may be around and a male rabbit’s main purpose in life is to procreate and increase the local bunny population.
But let’s go back a bit.
When the male rabbit wants to know if the doe is receptive to mating with him, he follows (aka stalks) her at a distance.
Once he is sure she is “ready for business,” he gets closer and closer while lifting his tail and “walking with a swagger.”
The doe may be coy and play hard to get. The male knows what she is playing at, so he rushes past and squirts her with some urine. He may also circle her until he can spray her.
This lets the doe know exactly what the male rabbit wants, and if she’s interested, they groom each other.
The doe may also just lay down, encouraging the buck to mount her. Or the female rabbit can face the buck and box him with her front limbs.
The rabbits can continue boxing each other until one of them jumps into the air.
When the other rabbit jumps into the air, mating will start.
When it’s time, the male mounts the female rabbit and bites her with his teeth to hold her in place. After a few thrusts, the buck discharges and makes a noise like a honk or a grunt.
Then he falls unconscious on his side for a while before getting up and foraging for food.
In a Domesticated Environment
If you have two unaltered rabbits living together, they’ll continuously mate once they are mature.
If you are breeding rabbits, you’ll keep the rabbits separate and only put a mating pair together when you want to breed the rabbits and when the doe shows signs that she’s in heat (remember those 14 out of 16 days in a cycle?).
When you place the doe with the buck, they will sniff at each other. The buck will do the same circle dance as in the wild.
Once the doe is receptive, she’ll lift her tail, and then the buck mounts the female rabbit.
A few thrusts later, the buck grunts and fall off the doe.
How Long Does It Take for Rabbits to Mate?
The actual mating act does not take long. Once the male rabbit mounts the female rabbit, it’s over in less than a minute.
How Many Times Can a Rabbit Mate in a Day?
Rabbits can mate many times in a day.
Once the buck recovers, he can mount the female again, and this can continue as long as the rabbits are together.
According to a study, a buck can copulate at least 43 times before reaching sexual satiety. A male rabbit may feel sexually exhausted after mating continuously for 2 to 15 days.
When Is Rabbit Mating Season?
Pet rabbits can mate all year round.
However, wild rabbits typically mate from February to September because the kits aren’t born with fur, so it’s best for the does to kindle during the warmer months.
How Do I Know If My Rabbits Are Mating?
You’ll know your rabbits are mating when the buck mounts the doe and emits a grunt after a few thrusts. The buck will fall off the doe, or he may also thump his hind legs in victory.
My Last Bunny Thoughts
And there you have it. All the ins and outs to rabbit mating.
It’s best to neuter and spay your buck and doe if you don’t want to deal with the aggressive, territorial, and mounting behavior that sexually mature rabbits display – all year round.