Cloned rabbits have been produced for many years by somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). The efficiency of cloning by SCNT, however, has remained extremely low. Most cloned embryos degenerate in utero, and the few that develop to term show a high incidence of post-natal death and abnormalities. The cell type used for donor nuclei is an important factor in nuclear transfer (NT). As reported previously, NT embryos reconstructed with fresh cumulus cells (CC-embryos) have better developmental potential than those reconstructed with foetal fibroblasts (FF-embryos) in vivo and in vitro. The reason for this disparity in developmental capacity is still unknown. In this study, we compared active demethylation levels and morphological changes between the nuclei of CC-embryos and FF-embryos shortly after activation. Anti-5-methylcytosine immunofluorescence of in vivo-fertilized and cloned rabbit embryos revealed that there was no detectable active demethylation in rabbit zygotes or NT-embryos derived from either fibroblasts or CC. In the process of nuclear remodelling, however, the proportion of nuclei with abnormal appearance in FF-embryos was significantly higher than that in CC-embryos during the first cell cycle. Our study demonstrates that the nuclear remodelling abnormality of cloned rabbit embryos may be one important factor for the disparity in developmental success between CC-embryos and FF-embryos.