Monday, November 21, 2016

Are Rabbits Left Pawed or Right Pawed?

Many long time friends of Ralph’s Rabbit Ranch know we get all sorts of questions each week from people around the world. Last week was no exception.  A young girl from Abilene, Kansas, a High School sophomore named Melissa, wrote seeking help with a term paper she is writing on Animal Husbandry.   Her question was:  ‘are rabbits right pawed or left pawed’.  I thought it was a good question so I will share our reply back to her.  

Science tells us that 10 - 12 % of the human population is left handed and that that percentage has remained constant the past 300,000 years.  We are told 30,000,000 people in the U.S. are left handed and that woman are more likely to be righted than left. 













Up until the mid 1950’s scientists claimed that “handedness” was only a human trait that did not apply to lower forms of animals.  Today we know this is wrong.  Animals of all species display traits of “handedness” whether they are Cats, Dogs, Cows, Horses or even Goldfishes.  “Handedness” is a universal phenomenon in all living creatures.

To help you think about ‘Handedness’ here’s a question for all NASCAR enthusiasts.  Which way to NASCAR vehicles race around a track?  Clockwise or Counter Clock wise?. For those of you who don’t understand the difference – clockwise races are designed to favor right-handers drivers while counter clockwise races favor left hander drivers.

Try this. Think about baseball.  Do ball players run the bases clockwise or counter cock wise?  When a player runs from first to second base and then to third and finally home is he running clockwise or counter clockwise?  If you said counter clockwise you are correct. Ball players run a left hander lap just as NASCAR drivers drive counter clockwise.

What about thorough breed horse racing - either saddled or buggied?  Do the horses run clockwise or counter clockwise. The answer = “left-handed” laps.  There’s no real plausible explanation for this however since the vast majority of professional athletes (human and horses) normally lead with their dominant hand or foot going left makes them have to excel harder in order to win. 

My understanding of rabbit ‘handedness’ has been acquired over the 14 years I have been raising rabbits commercially. Even though experts say 10 - 12 percent of the human population exhibits left handedness our personal observations here at the ranch reveals almost 30% of any given rabbit population is left pawed. We know this from three things.  First, by the way rabbits initiate their leaps and hops.  Left pawed rabbits push off with their left paws whereas right pawed rabbits kick off with their right paws.

Second, when rabbits position food a left pawed rabbit will use the left front paw more than a right pawed rabbit will.  Finally, when a rabbit gnaws on food like a carrot - left pawed rabbits gnaw from their left side while right pawed rabbits begin gnawing from the right side.

Since we keep accurate records on our breeding cycles we know that older does tend to give birth to more left pawed kits then younger does.  We also know that left pawed rabbits are more aggressive and appear more intelligent.  How do we know this?  Left pawed rabbits are generally the first ones to come out during feeding times and they push and buck to defend their position in the feeding line.

Studies conducted by the AMA suggest left handed males have higher levels of testosterone and mature later sexually than right hander’s - which we agree.  Left pawed bucks are always more prolific during our scheduled breeding sessions; unfortunately the downside from a Rabbit Ranchers perspective is since left pawed bucks sexually mature later we get less quality breeding time out of them.

Finally and this is an easy test for you to perform on your own.  The next time you see a rabbit in your yard or in a field take a moment to study it.  Left pawed rabbits tend to look to their left about 70% more often than their right pawed counterparts.  Right pawed rabbits favor looking to their right side seldom to their left.


Hope this all makes sense and gives you a better appreciation for rabbits.  Your friend Ralph
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