Can rabbits change gender / sex?

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I have seen this question on many forums and have heard breeders discuss the fact that their rabbit changed genders. In fact, the rabbits that have won awards at ARBA conventions as doe have been shown later only to find that it was actually a dollar. Does this mean that a rabbit has changed sex?

Surprisingly, in nature there are some cases where an animal can change its gender. Take, for example, a clown fish. Clownfish live in schools. Within that school there is a leadership structure led by a clownfish. When that clownfish dies, the highest male in leadership replaces the female and changes gender, including reproductive functions. However, this is a rarity for this type of biological change to occur. In fact, there are even rarer cases of humans who have changed their sex as a result of a deficiency of 5-alpha-reductase (5alpha-RD-2) or a deficiency of 17-beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (17beta-HSD-3 ).

Rabbits don’t fall into that strange and rare category of gender-changing animals. A rabbit that is born with a dollar will be a dollar at 6 months, it will be a dollar a year. A rabbit born as a doe will be a doe and at 6 months, it will be a doe per year.

At young ages, it can occasionally be difficult for experienced breeders, and even more difficult for inexperienced breeders to sex a rabbit. Most “sexed” rabbits are actually the result of rabbits mis-sexed by the breeder. We have rarely made this mistake. You can usually trust a breeder who has been breeding for several years.

There are other factors that can contribute to a rabbit having the wrong sex. A male with a split penis will often sex like a female. Using unreliable techniques to determine the sex of a rabbit will often result in errors. We will soon have an article on how to correctly sex a rabbit.

The bottom line is that it is genetically impossible for a rabbit to change gender. The next time you hear that, remember, it is a rabbit that was not sexed correctly.

Rob usakowski

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