Behavioural activity of wild rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) under semi-natural rearing systems: establishing a seasonal pattern


  • Carlos Díez Valle IBERCUN Cinegética
  • Carlos Sánchez García-Abad Universidad de León
  • José Antonio Pérez Garrido Universidad de León
  • Daniel José Bartolomé Universidad de León
  • Vicente González Eguren Universidad de León
  • Chris Wheatley The Game&Wildlife Conservation Trust
  • Marta Elena Alonso de la Varga Universidad de León
  • Vicente Ramiro Gaudioso Lacasa Universidad de León



wild rabbits, rearing, behaviour


The activity of 2 populations of wild rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus, L. 1758), consisting of 14 adults (>9 mo of age) each (4 males and 10 females), was analysed over 2 consecutive years. Rabbits were captured in the wild and kept in 2 separate enclosures of 0.5 ha, with each enclosure divided into 2 zones: a smaller area where warrens were located (breeding area) and a larger area where food and water were provided (feeding area). Seven rabbits in each enclosure were individually tagged with a microchip (2 males and 5 females) and, after installing 2 detection devices, it was possible to identify which of the 2 areas they were located in and record the length of time spent in each. To regulate the size of the breeding population, young rabbits produced in the enclosures were captured and removed regularly. Considering the number of movements between areas and the time spent in the feeding area, a circadian activity pattern was found, reporting 2 maximum activity peaks coinciding with twilight (18.35% of the total movements, 6-8 a.m.) and daybreak (22.95%, 7-10 p.m.) while activity was dramatically decreased during the midday hours (1.86%, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.). Rabbits displayed a seasonal pattern throughout the year, with maximum activity levels during winter (45.76% of the total movements, January-March) and spring (42.91%, April-June), which could be related to higher reproductive activity at this time of the year as a higher breeding output was reported in June and September. The levels of activity exhibited by males (13.44% daily activity rate) were significantly higher than those displayed by females (9.80%). No significant differences were found regarding time spent on the feeding area in relation to season or gender. The average duration of each foray to the feeding area was higher during the summer, higher for females than males and higher during the middle of the night than the rest of the day.


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Author Biographies

Carlos Sánchez García-Abad, Universidad de León

Grupo de Producción y Gestión Cinegética. Departamento de Producción Animal

José Antonio Pérez Garrido, Universidad de León

Grupo de Producción y Gestión Cinegética. Departamento de Producción Animal.

Daniel José Bartolomé, Universidad de León

Grupo de Producción y Gestión Cinegética. Departamento de Producción Animal

Vicente González Eguren, Universidad de León

Grupo de Producción y Gestión Cinegética. Departamento de Producción Animal.

Chris Wheatley, The Game&Wildlife Conservation Trust

Assistant research

Marta Elena Alonso de la Varga, Universidad de León

Grupo de Producción y Gestión Cinegética. Departamento de Producción Animal.

Vicente Ramiro Gaudioso Lacasa, Universidad de León

Grupo de Producción y Gestión Cinegética. Departamento de Producción Animal.


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