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Newborn rabbits and the importance of smell



Newborn rabbits and the importance of smell

Young rabbits develop through relationships with their mothers, the nature of the nutrients they consume and the level of physiological and behavioral autonomy. Y The perinatal period is in which these relationships are created. Now, we may wonder if smell is important for newborn rabbits during this period.

We will review this topic in more detail and answer this question.

Olfactory signals that shape the behavior of newborn rabbits

Neonatal mortality in newborn rabbits and their causes

The first cause of neonatal mortality is the inability to consume milk. The rabbits, at birth, are forced to look for the nipple and start drinking the milk.But mothers are only available for this for 3-5 minutes a day for the first 2 weeks postpartum. And of course, there are usually more offspring than nipples, making access to food difficult for everyone.

Despite the difficulties, access to milk usually improves as the days go by, as the motor and cognitive abilities of the gazapo develop.

The second cause of mortality is due to the transition period between exclusive milk feeding and post-southeast feeding. As energy needs increase, small rabbits are testing food sources other than milk.

First they begin with the cecotrophs and remains of the material used to create the nest. And later they are incorporated into the diet of adults, combining it with milk.

From day 20 postpartum, milk production by mothers begins to decrease, and weaning occurs. And that’s when we see the young feeding only solids based, along with the mother. And as this happens, true cecotrophy begins.

What a rabbit should eat

Does something have to do with the development of smell with this neonatal mortality?

During these periods, the behavior of the rabbits depends on olfactory stimuli mainly, since they are practically blind and deaf. Thanks to smell they find the nipple. And later they use it for social integration with the rest of their brothers.

Importance of olfactory signals for newborn rabbits

From a young age, the rabbits develop different responses to odors from their mother. It has been thoroughly demonstrated thatodor learning in young mammals is essential for early adaptive development. And rabbits are no exception to this rule.

These olfactory signals, and especially pheromones, are therefore essential for the development of the behavior of young rabbits.

Does its importance vary depending on when the gazapo is?


The nest of a rabbit is composed of plant materials and hairs of its belly. Therefore, at the time of delivery, the smell of the nest comes from the female and the environment.

As the days pass, we go from a predominantly feminine environment, in terms of smell, to a medium constituted by the odors coming from the young. In any case, these odors help little rabbits identify it as “home.”

Rabbit's Nest


The evidence indicates thatlittle rabbits are attracted to the smell of milk and colostrum. These olfactory signals contact the chemoreceptors of the nasal mucosa of neonates, and cause an attraction stimulus. But they are equally attracted to the smell of the placental remains that usually stain the mother’s abdomen after childbirth. That is, all the stimuli seem prepared to attract the gazapo to milk.


Perinatal memory is maintained for quite some time. This is demonstrated with the following experiment:

A female in the nest fed with certain foods, exposes its young to those odors and flavors through milk and cecotrophs. Therefore, later, when the gazapo feeds on solids, it will have a preference for foods that remind you of those odors and flavors.

It is even considered thatthe consumption of adult cecotrophs, by the offspring, can help them identify the members of their colony. This is because these special feces are covered with secretions from the anal glands.

Cecotrophy helps to improve the intestinal immunity of the young, to mature their digestive system, and even to nourish themselves.

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