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Sexual and Aggressive Behaviour in the Wild Rabbit

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image of Behaviour

I. A series of observations was carried out over three years at a colony of wild rabbits, Oryctolagus cuniculus, in which part of the population was marked with numbered ear-tags visible from a distance. 2. In this way it was possible to observe the behaviour of known individuals and to trace the relationships existing between them. 3. Sexual behaviour fell under the heads of (a) chasing, (b) tail "flagging", in which the buck paraded before the doe with the tail elevated over the back, (c) enurination, in which the buck projected a jet of urine at the doe, (d) attempts at copulation and (e) "amatory" behaviour, such as grooming and licking. 4. Agressive behaviour consisted of vigorous chasing especially of young by adult does, which were very intolerant of trespass, and of formalised leaping or "jousting", which occurred between the bucks. 5. The social organisation existing in the warren was as follows: during the breeding season the does stayed near their burrows and were intolerant of approach by other does; the bucks were always less in number and only three or four of the oldest and strongest played a dominating part in sexual approaches. From about August the number of adult does declined and the bucks transferred their attentions to the young ones. Young bucks declined rapidly in numbers, and some were observed to be driven out by the old ones. The sex ratio of the breeding population varied from season to season, but always favoured does.


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