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Cutest rabbit survey launched to inform safer breeding

An irresistible ‘rabbit cuteness’ survey has been launched to help animal scientists understand what makes a bunny cute and which facial features make some bunnies cuter than others.

Rabbits are the third most common pet in the UK

The Rabbit Face Survey has hopped onto the internet thanks to animal welfare experts at the University of Nottingham, Nottingham Trent University and two independent researchers in the field.

The team wants to ask people all over the world what factors influence their preference for breeds of rabbit with different face shapes, ear and fur types so they can better understand what drives breeding for some of the more unusual looking rabbits available.

The results of the survey could inform safer breeding methods to help prevent some of the health problems that can happen as a result of intensive breeding to produce rabbits with more extreme facial features.

Rabbits are the third most common pet in the UK. There are an estimated one and a half million kept as pets at the moment but very little is known about these animals and where they come from as the rabbit breeding industry is to a large extent unregulated.

Zoologist and animal welfare expert, Dr Naomi Harvey from the University of Nottingham’s School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, said: “Bunnies are arguably one of the cutest animals on the planet but sadly nowadays there is a trend for breeding by artificial selection for rather extreme facial shapes and conformations that in some instances can be bad for the animal’s health. For example, the flat-faced rabbits that have become popular in recent years can suffer from really bad dental problems and some of the more extreme lop-eared rabbits can develop ear infections.”

Independent researcher, James Oxley added: “Our Rabbit Face survey is easy to do and we think people will find it fun and engaging. We ask you to rate 25 images of rabbits for how appealing you find their faces, it only takes 10 minutes and you don’t have to own a rabbit to do it. So far, people have reported that they really enjoy taking part! We are keen to get as many people from all over the world to join in, particularly in China and South East Asia, as there are national and cultural differences in what features are desirable to rabbit owners. We don’t ask for your name or any personal information and all the data we collect is anonymous for the purposes of research only.”

Associate Professor Mark Farnworth of Nottingham Trent University's School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences -  whose previous work on people’s preferences for facial features in cats is the basis for this study - said: “We don’t know what drives demand for the certain breeds of rabbit and so we want to find out what drives people’s preferences when making that choice. An online survey is a great way to find out and the data we collect will allow us to assess people's preference for rabbit facial features, to help us gain an understanding of how these influence their appeal to a potential owner.”

The Rabbit Face Survey is available online at and you can help the team spread the word on social media too #RateTheRabbit.

Published on 25 July 2018
  • Subject area: Animal, equine and wildlife
  • Category: Press office; Research