Can Rabbits Change Gender / Sex?

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

Amazingly in nature there are some instances where an animal can change its gender. Take for example a clown fish. Clown fish live in schools. Within that school is a leadership structure led be a female clown fish. When that clown fish dies, the highest male in leadership takes over for the female and changes gender including reproductive functions. This is however a rarity for this type of biological change to take place. In fact there are even more rare cases of humans that have changed gender as a result of either 5-alpha-reductase deficiency (5alpha-RD-2) or 17-beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase deficiency (17beta-HSD-3).

Rabbits do not fall into that strange and rare category of animals that change gender. A rabbit born a buck, will be a buck at 6 months, will be a buck at a year. A rabbit born as a doe will be a doe and 6 months, will be a doe at a year.

At young ages it can sometimes be difficult for experienced breeders, and even more difficult for inexperienced breeders to sex a rabbit. The majority of "sex changed" 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 mis-sexed rabbit. A buck with a split penis will often be sexed as a doe. Using unreliable techniques to determine the gender of a rabbit will often result in mistakes. We will soon have an article on how to properly sex a rabbit.

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

Rob Usakowski

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