Rabbit Development

From Embryology


As an embryological tool, the rabbit (Taxon- Oryctolagus cuniculus) along with human was a species which show birth defects with thalidomide (teratogenic effects not detected with prior testing on other species). These animals are herbivores with a very high breeding rate and number of offspring produced. Rabbit ovulation is induced by mating allowing an accurate staging of embryonic age and pregnancy.

Rabbit Links: 2009 Student Project | Category:Rabbit | Animal Development
Historic Embryology - Rabbit 
1889 Uterus and Embryo | 1905 Normal Plates | 1905 limb veins | 1908 Pancreas | 1908 Pharyngeal Pouches | 1908 intestinal diverticula | 1909 Lymph glands | 1918 Pituitary | 1929 ovulation | 1931 prochordal plate | 1935 Oocyte | 1935 Somites | 1964 Placentation

Some Recent Findings

  • Stability of the reproductive variables and fetal malformations from control animals and animals treated with thalidomide in Kbl:JW rabbits over two decades[1] "We retrospectively analyzed the reproductive variables and the spontaneous malformations in the historical control data from the embryo-fetal development studies conducted in our laboratories with Kbl:JW rabbits over two decades (1990-2010) and fetal malformations induced by thalidomide in 1988, 1995 and 2007. ...Therefore, it is concluded that Kbl:JW rabbit is one of the useful rabbit strains to evaluate the effects of test substances on embryo-fetal development, especially in view of the chronological stability of spontaneous or drug-induced malformations in the fetuses." Thalidomide
  • Rabbit whole embryo culture[2] "Although the rabbit is used extensively in developmental toxicity testing, relatively little is known about the fundamental developmental biology of this species let alone mechanisms underlying developmental toxicity. This paucity of information about the rabbit is partly due to the historic lack of whole embryo culture (WEC) methods for the rabbit, which have only been made available fairly recently. ... During this 48 h culture period, major phases of organogenesis can be studied including cardiac looping and segmentation, neural tube closure, and development of anlagen of the otic system, eyes and craniofacial structures, somites and early phases of limb development (up to bud stage), as well as expansion and closure of the visceral yolk sac around the embryo."
  • Ultrasonographic characterisation of prenatal development in European brown hares (Lepus europaeus PALLAS, 1778) [3] "In contrast with the European rabbit, a distant relative, European hares give birth to precocial young. A comparison of the prenatal growth rate of both species suggests that the precocial state of the hare neonate is a more recently derived evolutionary characteristic, whereas the altricial condition of rabbits represents the ancestral mode."
  • Promoter analysis of the rabbit POU5F1 gene and its expression in preimplantation stage embryos [4] "The POU5F1 gene encodes the octamer-binding transcription factor-4 (Oct4). It is crucial in the regulation of pluripotency during embryonic development and widely used as molecular marker of embryonic stem cells (ESCs). ...Notably, we are the first to report that the rabbit POU5F1 is not restricted to ICM cells only, but it is expressed in trophoblast cells as well."


Oryctolagus cuniculus

Taxonomy Id: 9986 Rank: species

Genetic code: Translation table 1 (Standard) Mitochondrial genetic code: Translation table 2 Other names: New Zealand rabbit[includes], rabbits[common name], European rabbit[common name], Japanese white rabbit[common name], domestic rabbit[common name], rabbit[common name], Lepus cuniculus[misnomer]

Lineage( abbreviated ): Eukaryota; Metazoa; Chordata; Craniata; Vertebrata; Mammalia; Eutheria; Lagomorpha; Leporidae; Oryctolagus


  • The Oryctolagus cuniculus haploid genome is estimated to be 3500 Mb.
  • The diploid genome is organized in 21 pairs of autosomes and two sex chromosomes.
  • Rabbit gene sequences are more similar to human sequences than rodent ones.
Links: Genome Project Report

Rabbit Reproductive Cycle

  • Rabbits are seasonal breeders with the peak of reproductive activity occurring in the spring and early summer.
  • The female is always in estrus and mating induces ovulation (reflex ovulators).
  • Following mating the ovarian follicles remain active for 12 to 16 days if the doe is not fertilized.
Page | Play | Audio

Developmental Timeline

Early growth of the rabbit morula and blastocyst.[5]

Early development data from an in vitro development study.[6]

Fertilization - penetration of most ova during the first hour after ovulation.

  1. 0-16 h - pronuclei
  2. 16-22 h - 2 cell
  3. 22-29 h - 4 cell
  4. 29-32 h - 8 cell
  5. 32-77h - morula
  6. 77-98h - blastocyst
  7. 98h + - hatching blastocyst
  8. 6 Days - gastrulation starts.

Historic Drawings

The following drawings were compiled in the textbooks: Bailey, F.R. and Miller, A.M. (1921). Text-Book of Embryology. New York: William Wood and Co; Foster, M., Balfour, F. M., Sedgwick, A., & Heape, W. (1883). The Elements of Embryology. (2nd ed.). London: Macmillan and Co.

Foster096.jpg Rabbit's ovum between 70-90 hours after impregnation, after E. van Beneden.
Bailey066.jpg Historic drawing of a Transverse sections of embryonic disks of rabbit, (a) Kolliker, (b) Rabl.
a, section through primitive streak of embryo of 6 days and 18 hours; b, section through Hensen's node of embryo of 7 days and 3 hours.
Bailey078.jpg Transverse section through primitive groove of rabbit embryo, van Beneden.
Bailey079.jpg Transverse section through primitive groove of rabbit embryo, van Beneden.
Foster106.jpg Embryo rabbits of about nine days from the dorsal side, Kolliker.
Foster107.jpg Embryo rabbit of about nine days transverse section through the head, Kolliker. B. is a more highly magnified representation of part of A.
Bailey161.jpg Surface view of area vasculosa of a rabbit embryo of 11 days, van Beneden and Julin.
Foster108.jpg Advanced embryo of a rabbit (about twelve days), by Mr Weldon.

Limb Vasculature (veins)
Bailey203.jpg Bailey204.jpg Bailey205.jpg
Rabbit embryo of 14 days (11 mm), modified from Lewis. Rabbit embryo of 14 days and 18 hours (14.5 mm), modified from Lewis. Rabbit embryo of 17 days (21 mm), modified from Lewis.

Rabbit Placentation

Rabbit implantation and placentation is a centric (or fusion) type, where the blastocyst adheres only to the epithelial cells (apical region) by trophectoderm forming projections.[7]

Neural Development

The data below is summarised from an excellent study of early neural development in the rabbit.[8] The same authors have studied neural development in the pig.

  • 6 - 8 somite stage - the flat neural plate transforms into a V-shaped neural groove (beginning at rhombo-cervical level)
  • 8 and 9 somite stage - multiple closure sites occur simultaneously at three levels
  1. incipient pros-mesencephalic transition
  2. incipient mes-rhombencephalic transition
  3. level of the first pairs of somites

results in four transient neuropores

anterior neuropore

  • 9-11 somite stages - anterior and rhombencephalic neuropores close
  • mesencephalic neuropore is very briefly present

posterior neuropore

  • largest and remains open longest
  • 9-10 somite stages - tapered (cranial) portion closes fast within
  • wide (caudal) portion closes up to a narrow slit
  • further closure slows
  • 22 somite stage - full closure occurs

compared with chick and mouse - sequence of multiple site closure resembles that of the mouse embryo, but other important aspects of neurulation resemble those of the chick embryo. In contrast to mouse and chick, no time lag between closure at the three closure sites in the rabbit was seen


Ultrasound day16 rabbit.jpg
 ‎‎Rabbit Embryo
Page | Play

Rabbit Immune Development

Rabbits generate their antibody repertoire in three stages.[9]

  1. Neonatal repertoire is generated by B lymphopoiesis in fetal liver and bone marrow (limited by preferential V(H) gene segment usage).
  2. Between 4 and 8 weeks after birth gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) a complex primary antibody repertoire.
  3. The primary antibody repertoire is subsequently modified during antigen-dependent immune responses (the secondary repertoire).

Rabbits uniquely develop a primary antibody repertoire through somatic diversification of Ig genes (dependent on intestinal microbial flora).

Postnatal Rabbit Growth

Postnatal growth data from 2 to 34 weeks of age at biweekly intervals for New Zealand white rabbit.[10]

  • 17 male and 12 female rabbits, with the data tabulated separately.
  • Skeletal growth was complete at 28 weeks, with the 34 week values mature adult lengths.

Mean body weight

  • 2 weeks of age was 6% that at 34 weeks
  • 16 weeks was 72% of the weight at 34 weeks
  • weight continued to increase in the adult.

Mean body length

  • 2 weeks was 40% that at 34 weeks
  • 16 weeks was 91% of mature adult

Mean femoral length

  • 2 weeks was 38% of adult
  • 16 weeks was 95% of adult

Mean tibial length

  • 2 weeks was 38% of adult
  • 16 weeks was 94% of adult


  1. <pubmed>23181494</pubmed>
  2. <pubmed>22669668</pubmed>
  3. <pubmed>20047730</pubmed>
  4. <pubmed>19732419</pubmed>
  5. <pubmed>12683919</pubmed>
  6. <pubmed>19245751</pubmed>
  7. <pubmed>15579585</pubmed>
  8. <pubmed>9543335</pubmed>
  9. <pubmed>10933605</pubmed>
  10. <pubmed>3712130</pubmed>


<pubmed>22580370</pubmed>| Reproduction


Search PubMed

  • rabbit development - All (26270) Review (1568) Free Full Text (5693)
  • rabbit embryo - All (11734) Review (744) Free Full Text (2500)

Search Pubmed: rabbit development | rabbit embryo | Oryctolagus cuniculus development

Animal Development

Animal Development: axolotl | bat | cat | chicken | cow | dog | dolphin | echidna | fly | frog | goat | grasshopper | guinea pig | hamster | horse | kangaroo | koala | lizard | medaka | mouse | opossum | pig | platypus | rabbit | rat | sea squirt | sea urchin | sheep | worm | zebrafish | life cycles | development timetable | development models | K12
Historic Embryology  
1897 Pig | 1900 Chicken | 1901 Lungfish | 1904 Sand Lizard | 1905 Rabbit | 1906 Deer | 1907 Tarsiers | 1908 Human | 1909 Northern Lapwing | 1909 South American and African Lungfish | 1910 Salamander | 1951 Frog | Embryology History | Historic Disclaimer

Glossary Links

Glossary: A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z | Numbers | Symbols | Term Link

Cite this page: Hill, M.A. (2020, October 23) Embryology Rabbit Development. Retrieved from https://embryology.med.unsw.edu.au/embryology/index.php/Rabbit_Development

What Links Here?
© Dr Mark Hill 2020, UNSW Embryology ISBN: 978 0 7334 2609 4 - UNSW CRICOS Provider Code No. 00098G