Levels of testosterone, progesterone and oestradiol in pregnant-lactating does in relation to aggression during group housing





rabbits, agonistic interactions, progesterone, testosterone, oestradiol


The neuroendocrine regulation of rabbit maternal behaviour has been explored in detail. However, little is yet known about the hormonal regulation of aggression in concurrently pregnant-lactating does, a reproductive condition that prevails during group housing of rabbits on farms. Therefore, in this study we determined the relation between a) the levels of progesterone, testosterone, and oestradiol during lactation; b) the anogenital distance at artificial insemination; and c) the timing of grouping with the intensity of agonistic behaviour, published previously. We performed four consecutive trials, where three groups of eight does each were artificially inseminated on day 10 postpartum (pp) and grouped on either day 12, 18 or 22 pp. Using Dipetalogaster maxima, a reduviid blood-sucking bug, we collected blood samples during the pregnant-lactating phase (days 13, 15, 17, 19, 21, 23 pp) on one or two randomly chosen does per treatment group. Testosterone levels varied little across the pregnant-lactating phase, agreeing with results from pregnant-only rabbits, while progesterone levels increased from day 3 (=13 dpp) to day 7 (=17 dpp) and remained unchanged until day 13 (=23 dpp) of pregnancy. All oestradiol concentrations fell below the limit of detection. Overall, all concentrations were slightly lower in comparison to rabbit studies with pregnantonly does. The agonistic behaviour was not related to the respective hormonal concentrations at grouping. In conclusion, the time point of grouping does after artificial insemination (AI) in the semi-group housing system only had a weak influence on aggression and the hormonal profile did not indicate an optimum time for grouping.


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Author Biographies

Michèle Braconnier, University of Bern

Centre for Proper Housing of Poultry and Rabbits (ZTHZ), Division of Animal Welfare, VPH Institute

Gabriela González-Mariscal, CINVESTAV-Universidad Autónoma de Tlaxcala

Centro de Investigación en Reproducción Animal

Jella Wauters, Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research

Division of Reproduction Biology

Sabine G. Gebhardt-Henrich, University of Bern

Centre for Proper Housing of Poultry and Rabbits (ZTHZ), Division of Animal Welfare, VPH Institute


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