The Story of Tyrone the Rabbit
Rabbits have become very popular pets. They are affectionate and can be taught obedience and use a litter box. They have been selectively bred for coat color and size and many different breeds have resulted, with weight ranging from one to over twenty pounds.
But little attention has been paid to selecting for behavior. Unlike the dog, who has become domesticated over centuries of breeding, the rabbit remains just like its wild ancestors. It has fixed action patterns or instincts that have not changed over time. They are able to use their long ears to hear things we could never dream of. As a prey species, they can never relax their guard even for one second. When a rabbit forages he must always be ready to flee from an approaching predator. A rabbit’s ears may face different directions to catch all the sound waves around him. Their eyes are set wide apart, enabling them to see 360 degrees around them and be aware of approaching danger behind them.
House rabbits don’t need these defenses but they behave the same way nevertheless. A rabbit sensing danger either freezes or runs like lightning.
I recently acquired Tyrone, a three-month-old Checkered Giant. He loved to run and hop everywhere. I taught him how to use a litter box and rewarded good behavior with treats such as romaine lettuce or basil. All vegetables should be washed before giving to a rabbit. You can give one cup per five pound rabbit and 1/4 – cup of fruit. Avoid sugary items such as grapes and bananas as the rabbit is a hind gut fermenter and this can cause diarrhea, a life threatening situation in rabbits.
Rabbits need plenty of exercise and toys, and things to do to keep them happy. Tyrone loved to run up and down the stairs. In addition, he would chase my dog, George, whom he mistook for a female rabbit. If a male rabbit spots a potential mate, he performs a mating dance circling the female leaving a five-foot radius between them. George did not appreciate that too much.
Tyrone would run all over and find new toys in the form ofcardboard boxes, newspaper and old books. He even chewed a book about Mickey Mantle, which my husband did not appreciatel Rabbits sometimes chew on wires, which could be dangerous and should be avoided. They can also ingest foreign objects that could cause an obstruction. It is best to place them in a safe, rabbit-proof room for exercise.
Unfortunately I had to return Tyrone to the breeder for medical reasons (mine, not his), but I am confident the breeder will take good care of him. He has been raising rabbits for 30 years and is a judge at rabbit shows across the country. l know Tyrone may not get the treats, the exercise, or the toys right away but I hope he either goes to an excellent home or is used for reproductive purposes. I know he’ll enjoy that!
Farewell, Tyrone, and good luckl