Aspects of the Social Organisation of the European Wild Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus)


Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Worplesdon Laboratory, Tangley Place, Worplesdon, Nr Guildford, Surrey GU3 3LQ, U.K.


The social organisation of a free-living population of wild rabbits was examined. Discrete breeding groups were recognised which consisted of individuals who shared access to underground refuges. Males attempted to maximise their access to females by a) occupying large home ranges; b) defending female access indirectly through territorial defence; c) defending female access directly within groups. Females defended nest site access within groups. Intergroup interactions between females were rare because of limited home range overlap. Interruption of female-female aggression by males was observed suggesting that conflicts of interest arose between the sexes. Adult-juvenile aggression was primarily intra-sexual; females initiated more interactions than males who adopted a protective role in some cases.