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Maternal behaviour and welfare of the domestic and wild rabbit doe and its litter

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Authors: P. González-Redondo, G. González-Mariscal, M. López, J. Fernández-Carmona, A. Finzi y A. Villagrá
Issue: 111-4 (326-347)
Topic: Animal Production
Keywords: Oryctolagus cuniculus, ethology, breeding, kit, endocrinology, alternative

The European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), in addition to its faunal interest in the western Mediterranean, is a relevant species which in several European countries is the basis of a meat-oriented, industrial livestock subsector, while in many developing countries rabbits are raised under alternative systems aimed at income integration and food security. In addition to meat production, other productive orientations exist that generate a variety of rabbit production systems. This paper reviews the ethology of maternal behaviour of the breeding doe and her litter, including its endocrine regulation, both in wild animal and in industrial and alternative farming systems, and its relation to management factors, productivity and performance as well as the welfare of the species. It also discusses the implications of the regulations concerning animal welfare on housing, management and satisfaction of behavioural needs of breeding does and their litters, which in some countries tend to provide more space and environmental enrichment in cages.

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