Exploration of rabbit personality traits - no convergence found between two tools

  • Clare Ellis (Speaker)
  • Wanda McCormick (Speaker)
  • Ambrose Tinarwo (Speaker)

Activity: Academic Talks or PresentationsOral presentationResearch


The study of personality traits in animals has grown in recent years. While domestic dogs have been well studied in this relatively new field, there has been limited research on domestic rabbits in this context. The identification of personality traits in domestic rabbits could support the selection of rabbits for roles in society, such as those used in animal assisted therapies and in training contexts. Additionally, personality profiles have a role to play in the rehoming process for rabbits being adopted from shelters. This study aimed to identify rabbit personality traits using two commonly used assessment methods; knowledgeable person rating survey and behaviour observations within a test paradigm. The rating survey tool included behavioural descriptors only, generated following a literature search for rabbit behaviours. The behaviour tests incorporated variations of the open field, novel item and human-interaction tests. Both assessment tools were tested for reliability and validation criteria, along with being subject to reductive analysis (principal component analysis rotated Varimax, correlation matrix). The rating survey was completed by pet owners and those that worked with rabbits (n=1,234) and reductive analysis indicated that three components be generated from 15 retained items (60.6% of cumulative variance), however, as the threshold for interrater reliability was not met (ICC <0.5 for all but two retained items), the tool is not suitable for application at this time. The behaviour test observations (n=35) were reliable (interobserver, test-retest) for seven items across three tests (open field, latency to enter the open field and novel substrates), which loaded on two components (71.3% of cumulative variance). The rating survey and behaviour tools were not convergent (Spearman rank correlation, p>0.05 for all) but may, with further development of the rating survey, be used together to support our understanding of domestic rabbit personality traits.
Period4 Mar 2020
Event titleInternational Society of Applied Ethology 2020 Regional Meeting
Event typeConference
LocationNottingham, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionNational


  • animal behaviour
  • animal welfare
  • rabbit
  • personality