Girl bunny humps girl bunny. Is this a problem?
July 2, 2009 4:47 PM   Subscribe

What does it mean when a female rabbit humps another female rabbit?

We have three female rabbits who are around 5 months old. We bought them together and they have always lived together, and groom each other often, and lie on top of each other when they're sleeping and generally seem very affectionate toward each other.

They're presumably going through puberty right now, and we've been having a few behavioural problems with them fighting (this started last week). I haven't seen them fighting but we surmise they were because there was a lot of noise and when we ran into the room, they all looked freaked out, one of them was soaked from the water bottles, and there were tufts of hair on the bottom of the cage. Nobody was hurt. That happened twice in the same day.

We solved the fighting issue by finishing our rabbit-proofing of the room they're in and leaving their cage open, so instead of having an hour or two a day out of the cage, they have all night and part of the day (we shut them up in the cage when we need to clean or when my husband, whose office they're in, needs to concentrate). There hasn't been any fighting since then. They're a bit more destructive than usual, but since we provide boxes and bits of wood for them to destroy that's not a problem. They seem happy and continue to groom each other and generally seem fine.

So today I went in to feed them and one of them was humping another one. The one being humped seemed totally blase and unconcerned about it, and just kept eating hay, exactly the same reaction they have when one of them climbs over another one to get someplace. I picked up the one doing the humping and checked her genitals to make sure she wasn't actually a boy and we hadn't noticed, but she still looks like a girl to me. I checked the other one, same thing. I'm almost certain they're all girls (I'd be 100% certain except that I know people can make mistakes sexing rabbits when they're still babies, and I'm not a vet or anything, so I could be missing something).

We intend to get them all spayed, but since we're both unemployed right now we don't have the money to do it immediately. We were planning to do it in the fall when we will both have jobs.

So what I am wondering is, should I be concerned about this humping business? Is this why they were fighting (and has the fighting stopped because the humpee can hop away now that they're out of the cage)? Is it just a normal part of girl bunnies growing up, and, as long as the other one doesn't object, not a problem? Or does this just never happen and it means we actually have a male rabbit who needs to be neutered?
posted by joannemerriam to Pets & Animals (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Domesticated animals of all sorts hump each other all the time. Male, female, inter-species. I've actually been leg humped more often by female dogs than male dogs. I also once had the dubious pleasure of witnessing a cow hump a hog. Awkward! I wouldn't worry about your bunnies. Bunnies are about the humpingest creatures under the sun. Nature - gotta love it (before it loves you)!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:53 PM on July 2, 2009 [4 favorites]

Dominance games. They'll probably figure things out for themselves.
posted by Leon at 5:11 PM on July 2, 2009

I had a female rabbit that would hump anything round. She especially loved nerf balls and balloons... although the balloons were always a doomed love affair, as she inevitably popped them with her claws by accident and looked around, startled at the abrupt departure of her lover; so sad, so deflating.
So to answer the question-- no, it is not at all abnormal for a rabbit to be both female and humpity. Perhaps you could give them some balloons if it disturbs your sensibilities to see them practicing on each other.
Alternatively, I've found with other small rodents that having a nest box type area really ramps up the sexual/breeding urges, leading to fights and sorrow, so maybe try only having open topped boxes for a while.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 5:17 PM on July 2, 2009 [15 favorites]

yep, dominance... someone has to be boss...
posted by HuronBob at 5:42 PM on July 2, 2009

A book called Animal Exuberance will show you everything you might want to know about female animals humping other females, male animals humping other males, and all sorts of other kinky and queer animal behaviors.

From memory, one of my favorite examples was a male fish that mimics a female, prompting other males to attempt to inseminate him, so that when he finds a female he is the one who hasn't shot his load yet, thus insuring his male spawn inherit the trait of impersonating a female fish.
posted by idiopath at 5:57 PM on July 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Five years ago we brought home two female bunnies who loved to hump each other, and lo and behold a few weeks later the one who was actually female gave birth (oops!). Unfortunately, she rejected the babies and we only managed to save one of the six (who is now a healthy adult bunny, thank goodness, but she loves to aggressively hump her mother).

So yeah, even though female animals hump just as much as males do, you might want to make sure you actually have all females.
posted by amyms at 6:51 PM on July 2, 2009

Cold Lurkey: Is this your bunny? :)
posted by amyms at 6:56 PM on July 2, 2009

amyms, no, alas, my balloon-ophilic rabbit has been dead for over 14 years. But were she alive today, I would certainly have put her short-lived encounters up on the youtube. Fortunately, she lived in a much more innocent era.
But, we know, emphatically, that she was female because after a brief encounter with one of my friend's rabbits, declared by the petstore to be female, our rabbit gave birth to a litter, which our rabbit promptly ate.
So, beware, joannemerriam, not all pet store sexings are accurate. Such that your rabbits may be now sexually mature, and in month or so there could be some litters revealing the true genders of all three...i.e. you can have both humpity females and males.
Regardless, balloons for all!
posted by Cold Lurkey at 7:21 PM on July 2, 2009

Dominance, particularly in adolescence. You can get an idea of who thinks they're on top by who presents themselves for grooming - the receiver is the dominant one. Since yours have been together since they were young, they may not have determined the hierarchy yet. Just be prepared for the possibility they may not all get along as adults.
posted by tommasz at 7:21 PM on July 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

tommasz: the book I linked to above has an interesting take on the dominance explanation. Not that who is humping on whom is not part of animal social hierarchy, but homophobic biologists have historically used talk of dominance as a way to avoid the implications that would arise if animals were doing the nasty because it felt good.

A dominant animal will also steal another animal's food, but we don't ignore the fact that the dominant animal also has a simple desire for more food - the dominance is not a reason to steal food but a reason they get away with it. Animal Exuberance proposes that sexual behaviors are similar.
posted by idiopath at 7:48 PM on July 2, 2009

It can be very hard to sex rabbits -- even the experts get it wrong sometimes.

You can just "look down there" because boy parts don't stick out on bunnies like they do on other species. Press your fingers on either side of the genital area until the genitals pop out. Boys' will be round (like the end of a tube) and girls' will be more elongated.

Here is a page with some pictures which might help you.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:02 PM on July 2, 2009

Oops, I mean you can't just look down there.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:05 PM on July 2, 2009

I should also add: it's easy to mistake a boy for a girl if you don't pop the penis all the way out -- if one side pops out and the other does not, it looks for all the world like a vagina. Make sure to press hard enough that you are sure you are looking at the entire sex organ.

Or, take your rabbits to a rabbit-savvy veterinarian.

OK, I'm done now.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:08 PM on July 2, 2009

When our two neutered dogs do dominance battle (which involves humping and facing off belly-to-belly on their hind legs), we call it "Spartacus." Total dominance behavior.
posted by davejay at 1:17 AM on July 3, 2009

they're bunnies. they hump everything. sounds normal!
posted by molecicco at 7:25 AM on July 3, 2009

It seems like a balloon could have some hazardous properties to old bunny loved his basketball. He would roll it around and around and around the room until he cornered it somewhere and had his way with it. Perhaps a volleyball or something could be provided.
posted by redsparkler at 11:31 AM on July 3, 2009

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