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Trapping, then breeding Rabbits
Hey all,
I had a "wild" idea. I want to start raising rabbits eventually. My thoughts were doing a rabbit tractor (or rabbit tractors,) allowing them to graze on grass in the fields.

After listening to some stories about it taking some a few generations to get their rabbits back onto eating grass, assimilated to my ecology, and weaned off of unnatural inputs, I was thinking that it I would really have to do some research into the breeds and history of the rabbits I acquire. Then it occurred to me.

Why don't I just trap some local rabbits that have been eating wild/grass, are already assimilated to my ecology, and have survived without any unnatural inputs? Trap a few bucks and does, and start domesticating them? They should be very resilient to disease and the elements and fairly healthy right? It kind of seems like it would be the permaculture way? Also, down the line, I could introduce new genetics to the line by trapping a few more doe's.

Sure, they might not be as big as the common meat rabbit species, but I think they would be healthier. I think I heard Joel Salatin say that is the only trait to look for when selecting genetics. Not meat, not coat, but health. Eventually I could start selecting some of the larger bucks and does for selective breeding.

Any thoughts??
Just fyi , wild american rabbits are not the same kind of rabbit as domestic rabbits. The eastern cotton tail is Sylvilagus floridanus. They don't handle being caged, or tractored well at all.
Wild rabbits forage multiple species over a wide area. Not just pasture grasses, but shrubs and woody stems as well. They will still need to adapt to different diet and conditions if you plan on tractoring them, as their diet will be more restricted and they won't be able to tunnel as in the wild.

Also, wild rabbits tend to grows smaller and leaner than domesticated meat breeds. If you want a rabbit a bit more feral than the usual domestics you might try a mixed breeding program to introduce some of the local genetics to domesticated breeds. Then select for vigor under your raising conditions.
Hi John P.S.,

Well besides being "illegal" it is not plausible with the skill sets that most "just starting" would have. These are "wild" rabbits and do not respond in anyway like domestics to most conditions. There baseline ethology is very different. I would start with domestic meat rabbits like Flemish Giant or some other you may like. As for multi generations before they go to natural food?...not sure who is telling that story...yet not my experence...They must be "acclimated" but that can be rather quick depending on breed, and other applied husbandry modalities.

Good luck to whatever you choose.

1) its illegal! Very illegal!

2) wild rabbits are just that... wild... they will panic every timethey see people or anything and try to flee.. most likely ending up with them litterally being scared into a heart attack and dying. Or they will ram themselves into the sides of the cage to try and escape. Or they will just keep panicking and break their backs etc.

3) wild american rabbits arent the same as european rabbits.the wont interbreed. No babies, like breed a housecat and a lion.... both are cats but they are totally different.

4) wild rabbits arent **that** thrifty and disease resisant, we just dont know the actual total numbers and how many die.

5) wild rabbits only breed once or twice per year. Most the kits dont make it to adulthood. They are tiny even when grown. They are all dark meat, whereas domestic rabbits will be white meat.

6) wild rabbits forage. They need very large amounts of space to forage for them to balance their natural diets.

7) wild rabbits dont do well on pellet feed. People who "rescue" wild rabbit kits most times they just die even after big enough to eat solids.. if they make it that long..

wild rabbits do not almost ever become tame. I had an amish neighbor told me about he tilled a field and found this screaming bunch of wild kits. His kids kept em and fostered em with their meat rabbits. One ended up living and i saw it and it was nearly two years old and it was scared stiff the whole time. He said he hated the dumb thing and the moment the kids dont take care of it he would eat it. He said its always like that, scared half to death anytime anyone walks by or when the kids feed em.
And btw flemish giants arent really regarded as meat breed. If anything a 1/4 or less flemish with the rest a meat breed like new zealand or californian, silver fox, american, etc.
Well It seems clear that this Is not a good Idea, but does anyone know why trapping and domesticating wild rabbits is illegal?
Im guessing something concerning disease...
Hi William, et al,

Yes, one reason is they are a know dieses vector species. Yet, this is not the only reason. Like so many wild animals and exotics, when they are "imprinted on" by humans and have their normal ethology altered they can become an issue...inturn they are often released to not a good ending, and/or brought to an area that makes them an "invasive species." Crossing them with a domestic (which has been done) is not for the "average breeder" and would require a wild "european rabbit" as this is the species (O. cuniculus ssp) modern breeds came from.

It has been my experience, with the proper skill sets, that they can be "tamed" yet I do not recommend it accept by a professional animal handler and for no other reason than "research or natural history education." When I have worked in zoos and natural history programs we had several "wild rabbit" species including a "Jack" that was well acclimated to being around humans, so yes, it can be achieve, yet I stress again...IT IS NOT RECOMMENDED.

Not that I condone such activity, yet if you like a "wild rabbit type" there are Beagle Hound enthusiasts that have "dutch & calico rabbits crosses" that emulate well wild hares for training these dogs. They have bred the "wild" back into them and they behave and resemble the O. cuniculus you would find in Europe, North Africa, and regrettably as an invasive Australia and other locations.

As for "meat breeds," as you have noted by now, there are many "opinions" about this. Flemish Giant, is but one of several breeds that were developed for the rabbit "meat trade," and like other meats each breed has characteristics that some like over others. I preferred Flemish crosses for size and "free range" abilities....and the list goes on from there of what can be done with bunnies...


Seems like the good reasons especially since we already have so many rabbit breeds to choose from.
I do believe domesticating animals, plants, microbes etc is one of our ancestral gifts, that should not be given up on.
Where I live the raccoon, deer, coyote and opossum all proliferate in the spaces dominated by man. perhaps they could be new partners. Deer in particular, I would as soon have deer as goats, all other things being equal.
Hmmm...well, William..now you are moving into a entirely new area of discussion that deserves a post all of its own...Feel free to start it and I will comment there...

For this post, I will say that "breeding wild rabbits" it is best done in the "wild," the way they intended even though you live in a state with very lax "wildlife and exotic pet" laws (which is changing.) As for "wild harvesting" it made up most of my life and upbringing...then again I eat raccoon, coyote, opossum and many other "atypical" species...plus the deer, which is routinely lived with, bedded with and ate with my goats...Which now have a higher population density than when the Europeans first arrived in North America to started their shenanigans.....
I tractor my rabbits and I never had a problem. They all took straight to eating grass and forage. I've been doing it for a few years now. I've even thrown new rabbits I bought for breeding in the tractor with no issue, maybe it's dumb luck?
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