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Educators' Guide for Pedagogy and Assessment

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Unit: 3. Rabbit Care and Genetics


Learning Outcome: 1. I can understand the morphologies and genetic principles of rabbit production.

1 I can state the most important features required in common rabbit breeds and hybrids in relation to their breeding purpose.
History: the wild rabbit, domestication of the rabbit, economic importance.Rabbit anatomy: overview of skeletal, muscular, respiratory, circulatory, digestive and nervous systems of the rabbit, skin, external appearance.
Common Rabbit Breeds:

  • Meat Market: New Zealand White; Californian; Hyla

  • Pet: Netherland dwarf; Lionhead; Flemish giant;

  • Fur Industry: Rex; Angora

Important features:

  • Meat Market: rapid growth and maturation; high muscle to bone ratio.

  • Pet: long life span; friendly personality;

  • Fur Industry: dense coat and homogenous coat; colour; 

2 I can define the terms allele, gamete, gene/DNA, and chromosome.
3 I can outline Mendel's first law and second law.
Mendel's first, second and third laws and their implications.
4 I can distinguish between the basic concepts of mitosis and meiosis.
Basic overview of Mitosis: for cell replication;
Basic overview of Meiosis: for gamete formation.

1 I can select the rabbits with the required features for future breeding
Selection of rabbits:

  • General Features: alert and lively; has clear eyes; shiny coat; free from disease; free from disorder; parents have the required physical traits; blood lines;- For meat production: weight gain; final weight;
    - For show rabbits: according to standards for four breeds;
    For fur industry;

  • Males: at least six months old; in possession of robust and good muscular structure; are not indifferent to females; testes should be well visible;

  • Females: correct weight according to breed; have at least eight visible mammary glands, produce a good number of kits per litter.

I can predict the distribution of traits in F1 and F2 generations using Mendel’s laws.

Terms: Homozygous dominant; Homozygous recessive; Heterozygous.
Distribution of traits in F1 and F2 using genetic diagrams through Mendel's law: Genetic cross diagram or Punnet square diagram.

Learning Outcome: 2. I can undertake adequate feed, water and housing conditions for rabbits at different growth stages. 

5 I can describe favourable microclimatic conditions for growing rabbits.
Microclimatic conditions: Quality of air/ventilation; temperature; lighting; humidity.    
3 I can explain the feed, water and housing/cage requirements of meat/show rabbits in different stages of their lives.
Life stages: e.g. Kit, juvenile, adult, parent stock.
Digestive System

  • General nutritional requirements: proteins; carbohydrates; fats; fibre; minerals; vitamins;

  • Special dietary requirements according to the type of rabbit and life stage:

       - Meat Rabbit: protein; fat; calcium
       - Show Rabbits: protein; fibre; calcium

Water: Available and uncontaminated;
Housing/Cage requirements:

  • General requirements: LN 244 of 2013 Protection of Animals offered in Pet Shops (Minimum Standards) Regulations; inner nest box for breeding females (does).

  • Meat rabbit: fattening cage:

  • Show rabbit: large cage.

1 I can demonstrate correct practice for feeding, watering and cleaning tasks in rabbit production using appropriate PPEs. 

Correct Practices:

  • Feeding: amount and type of feed according to life stage; according to growing objective; good feeding practice;

  • Watering: free flowing;

  • Cleaning: cleaning of the cage and nest box; cleaning of  equipment for feeding and watering; removing of excrement;

  • PPE: gloves; overall; appropriate attire.

Learning Outcome: 3. I can apply adequate preventive and curative measures against diseases, parasites and disorders common in rabbits.

6 I can identify the most common rabbit diseases and disorders.
Rabbit diseases:

  • Gastrointestinal: coccidiosis;

  • Respiratory disease: snuffles; pasteurellosis;

  • Viral disease: myxomatosis; viral haemorrhagic disease;

  • Ear and skin: ear canker;

Rabbit Disorders: malocclusion/buck teeth; sore hocks;
7 I can identify the causes of rabbit diseases and disorders and the correct prevention measures for rabbits.
Probable Causes - Diseases:

  • Gastrointestinal: e.g. transport stress, not enough crude fibre, too much protein, watering from contaminated sources; 

  • Respiratory: e.g. dust/ammonia; abroupt change in temperature; airflow;

  • Viral diseases: lack of proper vaccination;

  • Ear and skin: mites;  

Probable Causes - Disorders:

  • Malocclusion/buckteeth: inbreeding;

  • Sore hocks: inadequate flooring for breed.

Prevention measures: good hygiene; vaccinations; regular inspection; proper microclimatic and housing conditions; farm bio-security; good recordkeeping; adequate feeding; clean and disinfect water system; good feed storage; farm disinfection. 
4 I can justify the proper treatments for different diseases, disorders and pests.

  • Diseases: e.g. Coccidiosis, Snuffles, Pasteurellosis

  • Treatment: drugs and/or antibiotics


  • Diseases: Myxomatosis, Viral haemorrhagic disease

  • Treatment: culling;

Parasitic Disease:

  • Disease: Ear canker

  • Treatment: ear drops/vaccination;


  • Types of disorders:Malocclusion/buckteeth, sore hocks

  • Treatment of Malocclusion/buckteeth: cutting the teeth with sharp pliers to the gums

  • Treatment of sore hocks: applying disinfectants,


  • Types of Pests: Mites, Fleas

  • Treatment: insecticide/vaccination

2 I can monitor a rabbit's health condition to assess current status through documentation and by using the appropriate PPEs. 

  • Rabbit's health condition:

    • free from disease, disorders and pests
      • check-up: eyes, ears, mouth, genitals, rear, coat, feet.

    • normal appetite

    • vaccinations

  • PPE'S: gloves and overall to protect against zoonoses and allergies.

Learning Outcome: 4. I can explain the reproductive system and the reproduction phases of rabbits. 

8 I can describe the structure and function of a rabbit's reproductive system.
Males: e.g. penis, testes, prostate, Cowper's gland, seminal vesicle, urethra;
Females: e.g. ovaries, vulva, uterus, cervix, vagina, uterotubal junction.                                        
9  I can describe a rabbit's behaviour and anatomical features as related to its reproductive stage
Anatomical features:

  • Males: well developed genitals;

  • Females: vulva becomes red and is larger


  • Males: become more agressive; mounting; spraying of urine; scent marking;

  • Females: raise tail; assume lordosis

3 I can conduct a basic reproductive scheme for commercial rabbits.
Reproductive phases: copulation; ovulation; fertilisation; gestation; birth; lactation;
Phases as affected by surrounding environment: lighting; temperature;
Planning breeding activities: seasonal breeding; breeding schedule.

Learning Outcome: 5. I can understand the importance of humanely slaughtering rabbits for meat production.

10  I can outline the different methods of rabbit slaughtering.
Different methods: Stunning; dislocation; halal; striking.

5 I can explain the importance of slaughtering rabbits using a humane technique in accordance to legislation.
  • Importance of humane slaughtering - LN 260 of 2003: Animal Slaughter or Killing (Protection) Regulations

  • Act 25 of 2001: Animal Welfare Act

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