SEXING YOUR RABBIT – a simple guide to getting it right

CottonTails Rabbit & Guinea Pig Rescue > Information & Resource Centre > Health and Welfare > SEXING YOUR RABBIT – a simple guide to getting it right

Having your rabbit correctly sexed is essential, especially if they are to live with another rabbit.  Sexing rabbits is not easy, and it is very common for people to make mistakes – even vets have been known to get it wrong!  As a general rule, by about 12 weeks of age, the sex of the rabbit becomes much more obvious. Still, before that point, it is sadly all too common for people to mistake a male for a female, as some males masquerade as females to such an extent that it takes a real expert and a thorough examination to see through the “disguise”.  From the photos below, you will see that an adult male is quite apparent, with the penis protruding when the genital area is pressed gently and the pair of testicles being noticeable as long but small balloon-shaped structures on either side of the genitals.

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The female, in contrast, has only a leaf-like structure (the vulva), which, when pressed gently, will be seen to have an opening all the way inside.  A mature female that has not been spayed will have a fleshy, swollen-looking vulva, which can be coloured dark red or purple if she is ready for breeding, whereas a young female or one that has been spayed for a while will have a narrower pale pink vulva.  The photo below shows an immature female.

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The photo below shows a mature spayed female.

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The two photos below show an intact, mature female.

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An immature male is sometimes easy to spot if you know what you are looking for, but BEWARE!  These young males can occasionally “pretend” to be females, and this is where the trouble begins.  An immature male does not have a penis or testicles, the former only developing once the testicles have descended at about 10-12 weeks of age.   The large majority of such males will have, in place of the penis, a tube-like structure, which is apparent when you press gently on the genital area.   Below is a photo of an immature male.

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Males that have been neutered for longer than six months or so will look similar to an immature male, as the penis will have regressed to a tube-like structure again, and there will be no testicles present.  Awareness of this is essential, as some people mistake a neutered male for a female! However, a small percentage of immature males will not have the tube-like structure but will exhibit a leaf-like vulva lookalike; the only difference from the genuine female is that there is not an opening that goes all the way inside.  If the rabbit is only given a quick examination, it is easy to miss this fact, so many rabbits are not correctly sexed.   The photo below illustrates this problem well, as an initial quick look will give the impression that this is a female despite this being a young male.

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