When choosing a pet rabbit, you will want to know if you’re getting a male or a female, especially if you have other unneutered rabbits. Rabbits reach sexual maturity when they're around 3 months old, so they need to be separated at that point if they’re different genders. You also may have a gender preference based on behavioral and physical differences, although the main criteria should be the individual animal’s personality.
Even the most experienced rabbit owners sometimes make a mistake when sexing baby bunnies. The differences become more obvious as the rabbit gets older. To determine your rabbit’s gender, hold the rabbit on its back in your lap, which will put it into a trance-like state. It may be easier to have its hind legs facing you. Look for the two holes at the base of the rabbit’s tail; the back one is the anus and the front one is the genitals.
Apply gentle pressure above and below the two holes. A female’s genitals will appear oval with a slit, even though you may see a slight protrusion when applying pressure. A male’s penis should protrude in a round tubular shape. If the buck is at least 10 weeks old and unneutered, you can also see the testicles on either side of the penis. They may sometimes withdraw into the abdomen, but the sacs are still visible.
When rabbits get older, you will see some other physical differences. The males tend to be smaller than females of the same breed, and their heads are blockier in shape. Females of many medium to larger breeds also have a large fold of skin below their chins, which is called a dewlap. Only females have nipples as well, and they are especially prominent in those that have had litters.
Males have a tendency to spray to mark their turf, but this behavior is virtually eliminated in neutered males or those that live alone. Unspayed females can also spray if they feel a need to compete for a mate, so in general it’s better to get all rabbits neutered unless you are breeding them, or else keep them as solo pets.
Females will often dig a lot, which is a nesting instinct, and they can become aggressive if they feel their nesting space is in danger. This protective behavior can include grunting, growling or lunging at you or other female rabbits. So if you want two rabbits, a neutered pair is often the best combination.
Male rabbits are the most attentive, affectionate and curious, so they generally make the best pets, claims All Ears, a rabbit breeder in Australia. Kids especially like how easy it is to handle a male rabbit. However, All Ears goes on to say that females can also make good pets if they are spayed, which makes the animals much more docile and friendly.
Other breeders claim that both genders are equally desirable once they’re fixed. Rabbits are naturally inquisitive, sociable and highly intelligent, which makes them fun house companions regardless of gender.
Neutering a buck is less expensive than spaying a doe, but spaying brings a larger benefit than just behavioral changes. Spaying a female also greatly reduces her risk of uteran cancer.