The aim of the study was to assess activity, position and behaviour parameters as indicators of heat stress in rabbits subjected to a circadian heat stress cycle. Ten does (80-105 days old) and 6 bucks (180 days old) individually housed in commercial wire cages were observed during 12 days 12 hours a day by means of videocameras using scan sampling at 5 minutes interval. Rabbits were divided in two buildings. Five females and three males were housed at 18.4ºC mean temperature (control group) and the rest at 20.1ºC, 17 hours a day, and at 27.9 ºC the rest 7 hours (heat stress group). Position in relation to the corridor (watching it, avoiding it or perpendicular), activity (lying, sitting, prostrated or moving) and behaviour (grooming, exploring, resting, feeding and drinking) were assessed. Statistical analyses were performed with Genmod of SAS. No differences were found between treatments in feeding and drinking behaviour and animals moving. The presence of resting behaviour, watching the corridor and be prostrated was higher (P<0.05) in heat stress than control treatment and the contrary (P<0.05) was observed for lying, sitting and exploring. In the case of grooming, a clear compensation could be observed, rabbits reducing this activity in the heat stress period but increasing it just before and after this period in comparison to control animals. It is concluded that rabbits change their behaviour in moderate thermal stress, animals prostrated being a good indicator for the assessment of these conditions.
Rafel, O., Catanese, B., Rodriguez, P., Fuentes, C., Llonch, P., Mainanu, E., … Dalmau, A. (2012). Effect of temperature on breeding rabbit behaviour. 10th World Rabbit Congress, Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypte, 1075–1079.