Reingestion in the Wild Rabbit, Oryctolagus cuniculus (L.)



An attempt was made to determine the times of day at different seasons when wild rabbits in Hawke's Bay, New Zealand, were reingesting soft faecal pellets.

The faecal material eaten by the rabbit varies from distinct mueus-coated pellets to a semi-liquid material in which the individual pellets are almost, or completely, unformed. These last are usually produced at the start of the reingestion period.

Pellets can be recognized in the stomach up to nine hours after they have been eaten, so that the time when reingestion is occurring must be determined from the presence of the soft faeces in the rectum.

The majority of rabbits are reingesting from 08.00 to 12.00 hrs. (N.Z. Standard Time) but there is considerable individual variation so that some may start three hours earlier than this and some continue up to three hours longer. There is no apparent seasonal variation in the peak time of this activity but there are indications that the fist animals may start about sunrise.

At the beginning of the reingestion period the soft pellets are produced intermittently in short periods alternating with the production of hard pellets.

Young rabbits begin reingesting as soon as they start eating grass and before they are fully weaned.

The quantity of food in the stomach varies with the time of day and indicates that the main feeding time is in the early morning before the reingestion time.

The main times of reingestion appear to be the same in New Zealand and in England, yet there are individual variations and differences in detail which suggest that the behaviour is easily modified by the environment.