Apr 24, 2014

Sexing Rabbits

I did a quick Google search to see if there was a good reference for people new to rabbits on how to sex a rabbit.  To my surprise, none of the results on the first page seemed like good references; they either seemed to provide an overload of information or only gave general information and not-so-helpful diagrams.  So, my remedy is to provide one here.  Please feel free to share this post around if you find it helpful.

Mature rabbits are by far the easiest to sex.  However, as you can see from the above picture, simply looking at the vent--that's the term we use to refer to all rabbits' private areas, including the anus and vulva or penis--is not enough to determine sex.

Scrotum on a mature buck.
Many mature bucks have very obvious scrota when you flip them over.  Sometimes, especially when it's cold or the buck is stressed out, they suck their testicles inside their bodies, leaving only the scrota external, often hidden in the fur around them.  If you look near the vent, you may be able to find areas of loose flesh, which are the scrota.  Do not mistake a bald area for a scrotum, though--many does will have a bald area in the same place as you would find testicles, but the flesh will be more firm, rather than an empty(ish) sac.
However, a buck that has been neutered, or a buck which hasn't matured to the point of his testicles descending, is still indeterminable from a doe unless you actually expose the vent.  To do this, you'll first have to flip the rabbit over.

Once you have the rabbit on its back, use your free hand to expose the vent.  One finger (or your thumb) should be on the tail, and another finger (or your thumb) should be on the furry mound, such that your fingers frame the vent.
Finger on tail, thumb on mound to frame rabbit's vent.
The anus is the slit that has fur.
The mound is a raised area of fur,
opposite the tail.

With your fingers framing the vent, push the tail gently away from the vent, and press gently into the mound. This will make the genitals pop out so you can see if it is a penis or vulva.
Mature doe - note the slit and
close proximity to the anus

Mature buck - note the pointed-cylindrical protrusion
and distance from the anus.

With younger rabbits it can be a bit trickier.  Not only are they smaller, but their hormones haven't kicked in to bring their genitals into their final form.  As such, it can be very easy to over- or under-expose the genitals, making them look like one gender when they're really the other.  I find that it is best that the tail-holding finger only holds the tail in place, without pulling back on it, and the mound-pressing finger presses gently down into the belly and slightly toward the vent, until a shape becomes apparent.  You may have to readjust your finger placement until you can get it to pop definitively.
5-week-old doe: slit very near anus

5-week-old buck: tube protrusion slightly away from anus

3-week-old buck: tube protrusion slightly away from anus

3-week-old doe: slit very near anus
5-week-old buck slightly overstretched,
looking like a slit, but still very far
from anus.
3-week-old buck very overstretched,
looking like a slit, but note the gap
between the slit and the anus.
Many people are unable to sex kits under 6-8 weeks old, so don't worry if you have a hard time: you're not the only one! Just keep practicing.

It is also possible to sex kits that are only a day or two old! (click to read that article)