Genetic and non-genetic factors affecting rabbit doe sexual receptivity as estimated from one generation of divergent selection

M. Theau.Clément, A. Sécula, G. Saleil, D. Monniaux, G. Brecchia, C. Boiti, L. Bodin, J.M. Brun


Sexual receptivity of rabbit does at insemination greatly influences fertility and is generally induced by hormones or techniques known as “biostimulation”. Searching for more sustainable farming systems, an original alternative would be to utilise the genetic pathway to increase the does’receptivity. The purpose of the present study was to identify genetic and non-genetic factors that influence rabbit doe sexual receptivity, in the context of a divergent selection experiment over 1 generation. The experiment spanned 2 generations: the founder generation (G0) consisting of 140 rabbit does, and the G1 generation comprising 2 divergently selected lines (L and H lines) with 70 does each and 2 successive batches from each generation. The selection rate of the G0 females to form the G1 lines was 24/140. The selection tests consisted of 16 to 18 successive receptivity tests at the rate of 3 tests per week. On the basis of 4716 tests from 275 females, the average receptivity was 56.6±48.2%. A batch effect and a test operator effect were revealed. The contribution of females to the total variance was 20.0%, whereas that of bucks was only 1.1%. Throughout the experiment, 18.2% of does expressed a low receptivity (< 34%), 50.7% a medium one and 33.1% a high one (>66%). Some does were frequently receptive, whereas others were rarely receptive. The repeatability of sexual receptivity was approximately 20%. The results confirmed the high variability of sexual receptivity of non-lactating rabbit does maintained without any biostimulation or hormonal treatment. A lack of selection response on receptivity was observed. Accordingly, the heritability of receptivity was estimated at 0.01±0.02 from an animal model and at 0.02±0.03 from a  sire and dam model. The heritability of the average receptivity of a doe was calculated as 0.04. In agreement with the low estimated heritability, the heritability determined was no different from zero. Nevertheless, the occurrence of pseudopregnancies due to uncontrolled ovulations and the presence of corpora lutea, as assessed by progesterone titrations, could have interfered with receptivity. Further studies would be necessary to confirm the low heritability of female rabbit receptivity.


rabbit; sexual receptivity; divergent selection; pseudopregnancy

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