One of the most frequently asked questions about rabbits is as to whether they mate for life. People want to know whether rabbits mate till they die. People also want to know whether rabbits pair for life. This article tackles these and other related questions.
Do rabbits mate for life? With regard to whether rabbits continue mating all their lives, the answer is yes. But with regard to whether rabbits form lifelong monogamous pairs, the answer is no.
On average rabbits reach sexual maturity at the age of 6 months. From that point, they start searching for mates and mating. And they typically continue doing so all their lives. So in that regard, rabbits do indeed mate for life.
Therefore if one wants to know whether specific pairs of rabbits mate for life, the answer is no. Rabbits are simply not in the category of monogamous animals.
How Do Rabbits Mate?
Before proceeding to answer the do rabbits mate for life question at greater length, it is important for us to first understand how rabbits mate.
The mating act in rabbits has three main aspects. The first aspect is where the male rabbit gets hold of the female, and firmly grasps her (typically by her nape) with his teeth.
The second aspect is where the male rabbit, having firmly grasped the female, proceeds to mount her. The male rabbit will normally keep the hind legs on the ground, so that he still bears most of his weight. This way, the female doesn’t collapse under the weight of the male.
The third aspect is where the male rabbit, having now mounted the female, starts to make movements. This goes on for just a few seconds, and the mating is complete.
Once the mating is complete, the male rabbit doesn’t hang around. He goes on his way, often to find the next female rabbit to mount. He will first fall off the female, due to the tensing and relaxing of his muscles that occurs during mating. Then after a short rest, he will be on his way.
Of course, before the start of the actual mating, there will have been a mate selection phase. This typically entails the males asserting dominance over each other. Sometimes this will involve savage fights.
It is the most dominant male who will then proceed to the actual mating phase with the particular female in question.
With that insight on what rabbit mating entails, it should be easier to answer the do rabbits mate for life question later on.
How Often Do Rabbits Mate?
Another key aspect we need to look at, before proceeding to answer the do rabbits mate for life question, is that of the frequency with which rabbits mate.
A good place to start is by asking, how many times does a rabbit mate? And the answer is that it depends on whether the rabbit is male or female.
Typically, a male rabbit is capable of mounting at least one female per day. Thus, from the age of six months (when they reach sexual maturity), male rabbits are capable of mating every day.
Nonetheless, people who breed rabbits are typically advised to ensure that young bucks (6-12 months) only mount one doe each 3-4 days. But beyond 12 months, the bucks can be allowed to mount 4-6 does per week, with one day to rest.
In the wild, a buck will typically get to mate with one doe per day.
Turning to the female rabbits, it is worth noting that they don’t have typical estrous cycles. What they instead have is a scheme where they ovulate after mating!
A female rabbit that is not pregnant will typically be sexually receptive for between 5 and 14 days. Then it becomes non-receptive for a couple of days, before resuming receptivity.
This knowledge, on how often rabbits mate, will be helpful when we eventually start tackling the do rabbits mate for life question at length.
How Long Do Rabbits Mate For?
Another way of posing the do rabbits mate for life question is by asking how long rabbits mate for.
As it turns out, rabbits typically mate all their lives – from the point they reach sexual maturity, right up to the point when they die. In the wild, this can work out to mating for between two and three years.
It is important to remember that rabbits on average reach sexual maturity at the age of six months. For the smallest breeds, that can actually be four months. And for the biggest breeds, it can be nine months. But the average is six months.
Upon attaining sexual maturity, rabbits will start looking for mates. Then they continue mating for two or three years – which is typically also how long they usually manage to live in the wild.
In domestic settings, rabbits can live for as many as 9 years. But sperm quality and egg quality tends to decline after 3 years. This is why people who breed rabbits are typically advised to stop allowing them to mate/breed after 3 years.
But theoretically, they can mate and breed all their lives.
However, in the wild, where rabbits typically live for 2-3 years, they remain sexually active all that while. So for all intents and purposes, they mate for life.
Of course, the question on how long rabbits mate for doesn’t automatically translate into do rabbits mate for life? Someone posing this question may be having an interest in knowing how long rabbit mating lasts.
In that case, the answer is that rabbit mating typically takes just a minute – from start to end of the entire act.
Do Male And Female Rabbits Stay Together?
Quite often, the people who pose the do rabbits mate for life question want to know whether male and female rabbits stay together for life. In other words, do rabbits pair for life?
The answer is that male and female rabbits don’t stay together – unless they have no other alternative.
Male and female rabbits normally get together very briefly for mating purposes. After this, the male goes away. The males don’t seem to have any paternal instincts at all. Their job is to impregnate the females, and get on their way.
Unlike other animals where the males will jealously protect their offspring, male rabbits will actually try to harm them, if they get a chance!
So, does rabbits mate for life (with regard to forming lifelong monogamous pairs)? The answer is clearly no.
This question, on whether male and female rabbits stay together, is similar to the one on do rabbits mate with their siblings? The answers turn out to be counterintuitive.
That is because, in the latter case, it turns out that sibling rabbits have absolutely no problem with mating – which often causes inbreeding.
While one would expect rabbits to be averse to the idea of breeding with their siblings, no such aversion seems to exist. Similarly, while one would expect male and female rabbits to stay together to increase chances of their offspring maturing, it turns out that the males and females part company as soon as they complete mating.
Do Rabbits Mate For Life?
This question (on do rabbits mate for life) has two aspects. The first is where we seek to find out whether rabbits continue mating all their lives. And the second aspect is where we seek to know whether rabbits form lifelong monogamous pairs.
So, do rabbits mate for life – in the sense of continuing to mate all their lives? The answer is yes. A rabbit will normally continue mating, from the time it reaches sexual maturity (on average at six months age), right up to the time it dies.
On the other hand, do rabbits mate for life in the sense of forming lifelong monogamous pairs? The answer, in this case, is no.
Female rabbits normally don’t show loyalty towards any of the males. They will typically breed with the highest quality male available. So they don’t form lifelong monogamous pairs.
In any event, it is worth remembering that given how rabbits live in the wild (where they are always in flight mode), it would be very difficult to sustain monogamous relationships. This is why they have evolved to only have brief flings, before parting company.
Of course, in the domestic settings, a male rabbit will often find itself in a cage with one single female. So, in this case, the rabbits have no choice, but to form a monogamous relationship.
Nonetheless, should you introduce other rabbits into the cage later, the bond that had formed between the initial two rabbits breaks immediately. They start looking for opportunities to mate with the new bunnies.
Therefore rabbits will only form monogamous relationships when they have absolutely no other choice.
Do Wild Rabbits Mate For Life?
In trying to answer the do rabbits mate for life question, we need to go deeper and try to gain insight on what happens in the wild.
So, indeed, do rabbits mate for life in the wild? The answer is that, in the wild, rabbits continue to mate from the time they reach sexual maturity (typically between 4 and 6 months), right up to when they die (typically after between 2 and 3 years).
So in this sense, it is clear that they ‘mate for life’.
But, one may ask, do rabbits mate for life in the wild with specific/fixed partners? The answer, in this case, is no. On the contrary, what rabbits do in the wild is to mate with the nearest available healthy partner of the opposite sex – regardless of previous affiliations.
Do All Rabbits Mate For Life?
There are individuals who express interest in knowing whether the ‘mating for life’ phenomenon in rabbits is restricted to specific breeds, or whether it is for all rabbits.
That is how questions like do jack rabbits mate for life or do cottontail rabbits mate for life come into the picture. Indeed, do all rabbits mate for life?
The answer is yes. All rabbits endeavor to mate for their entire lives, regardless of their breeds. This is to say that all rabbit breeds endeavor to mate from the time they attain sexual maturity to the time they die.
But, just to reiterate, they don’t mate for life with specific, fixed partners. On the contrary, they mate for life with the nearest healthy partners they happen to find.
Why Do Rabbits Mate So Much?
Normally, the do rabbits mate for life question is followed by another one – on why rabbits mate so much.
Perhaps a good place to start is by asking, do rabbits really mate a lot? Do rabbits mate a lot, or is it just a myth? But the answer, as it turns out, is that rabbits do indeed mate a lot. On average, rabbits mate more frequently than most other animals. And they reproduce prolifically.
Why then do rabbits mate so much? The answer is that rabbits mate so much in order to increase chances of survival for their species. You need to remember that rabbits are, by definition, prey animals. And they normally live in harsh environments.
The only way in which they can survive as species is by reproducing prolifically. This way, even when some are preyed upon, even when some die of various diseases, even when some succumb to climatic conditions… there will still be some left to carry the species forward.
So, for them to survive, they have to reproduce prolifically. And for them to reproduce prolifically, they have to mate a great deal. That is why rabbits mate so much.
Final verdict – Do Rabbits Mate For Life
Rabbits typically start mating from the time they attain sexual maturity, right up to the time they die. In the wild, they live for 2-3 years. In captivity, they can live for 8-13 years. So in that sense, they ‘mate for life’.
But this mating is usually with different random partners, rather than with fixed partners. So they don’t form lifelong monogamous pairs.
For rabbit breeders though, while rabbits theoretically have the ability to breed right up to the time they die, it is advisable to get them to stop breeding after the age of 3 years. This is because their egg and sperm quality declines considerably from that point.