When introducing two animals of the same sex together, you always need to take some special care to ensure that they are getting along. At the very least, even if the two animals are not getting along right away, they will require frequent supervision to ensure that they are not getting into fights with each other.
This is because, in many domesticated species that people will take on, the animals in question will be fairly competitive from a social standpoint, so two animals of the same gender will easily become rivals.
This type of behavior pattern is not exclusive to just predators and carnivores though. It is found all throughout nature, and in some animals, it can be harder to tell what is going on between the animals of the same sex.
A good example of this would be trying to introduce two male rabbits to each other, only to come back to the rabbit hutch later in the day to find that one rabbit keeps trying to mount the other.
At first, this can be an incredibly confusing and worrying sight. After all, if a rabbit that you thought was a male turned out to be a female, and you come across the rabbits mounting, then you may have a whole litter of rabbits to care for in a short amount of time.
It should generally go without saying, but when you choose to take on caring for a pet, you should have a good idea of what your pet’s normal social behaviors are, and which ones require a separation when you are trying to introduce two animals to each other.
Why Do Rabbits Mount Each Other?
There are a few reasons why you might come across your rabbits mounting each other. The most common reason is always going to be if one of the animals is in heat and if there is a difference between sexes.
This form of mounting is completely normal and to be expected, and it is not something that you should try and stop, unless you don’t want to deal with a litter of rabbit kits.
You may also notice the rabbits jumping over each other.
There is, however, another reason that your rabbits will mount each other and it is going to be significantly more common if you are working on introducing rabbits to each other. As a whole, rabbits are known to be incredibly social creatures that have a rich social hierarchy.
For rabbits to assert their dominance, the dominant rabbit is going to end up mounting the submissive rabbit. If both of your rabbits have dominant personalities, this is where things can begin to clash and you are going to have to pay more attention to their interactions.
Some degree of mounting when your animals first meet each other is something that you should expect to see, as it is a common way for animals to indicate “I am the dominant one here.”
Depending on the age of the rabbit, it could very well be similar to a young teen experiencing his or her first feelings. Rabbits reach their sexual maturity at a fairly young age compared to their peers in the animal kingdom.
When an animal reaches its heating season, it can make it harder for the rabbit to carry on with its regular life, and it may try to mount a cage-mate, even if the two rabbits have already been acclimated to each other, which is why there tends to be a strong argument toward neutering and spaying pets.
These are the most common reasons why rabbits will mount other rabbits in the first place, and this will usually happen regardless of gender. Though, one problem with housing two male rabbits together is that it is very unlikely that the male rabbits are going to be submissive to the other, which can lead to infighting between the rabbits, especially during the introductory phase.
Remember, some degree of mounting is normal as the rabbits get to know each other and assert their dominance over the other, but there are certainly some signs that your rabbits are having more than a simple “getting to know each other” meeting.
The first thing you need to remember about letting your rabbits get to know each other is that, yes, it is completely normal for two rabbits of the same sex to mount each other. You should not disturb them in the process of this (unless you are breaking up an actual fight), as this is an important step in establishing a social hierarchy.
The Signs of Unwanted Mounting
While mounting is a standard part of the bonding process between rabbits who were not raised as littermates, there does come a point where you, as the pet owner, need to step in and break the rabbits up before things escalate further.
Knowing what the signs of distress are is going to be important, as arguments between male rabbits can get violent fast, especially if a dominant rabbit is being forced into a submissive position.
For one, mounting during the bonding process should only last about a week or so as the rabbits assert their dominance and accept their roles. Mounting that extends beyond this period might be a sign that the rabbits are disagreeing with each other and that bonding may not be going as smoothly as it should. It may also be a sign that the rabbits need to get to know each other more from a distance before you introduce them to each other again.
Mounting will often involve what appears to be biting. If there is only minor biting, and neither rabbit seems to be in significant distress, then you will not need to worry. Much like how the mounting behavior as a whole is considered a way for rabbits to establish dominance in their social hierarchy, nipping each other during mounting is a similar part of this. It will almost always be the rabbit that is initiating the mounting that is nipping the other rabbit.
Animals will disagree with each other much as humans do. If the rabbit that is being mounted also has a dominant personality, it is not going to want to be subjected to the mounting process and may tell the other rabbit off with a nip.
In an ideal situation, this warning nip would be enough to get the other rabbit to stop mounting, but as a pet owner, you need to be aware of situations that are far less than ideal.
In this case, if you notice that the bottom rabbit is beginning to bite with its full strength, you need to separate the rabbits from each other as soon as you can. This is usually a sign that things between the rabbits are about to escalate from a mild dispute over who the dominant rabbit is to a showdown to see which rabbit can hold its ground in a fight.
What About Backwards Mounting?
There is also a practice that is known as “backwards mounting,” and there is some debate in the community over whether or not this behavior should be actively discouraged while your rabbits are getting to know each other. In it of itself, backwards mounting is not indicative of a problem.
What is problematic is if the bottom rabbit decides that it has had enough and tries to nip at the rabbit on top, it may do some damage to the underbelly of the rabbit, which is considered to be the most vulnerable spot on a rabbit.
Backwards mounting, as the name might suggest, is a form of mounting where, rather than mounting from behind as most rabbits will do, the dominant rabbit will try to mount from the front.
It is not entirely clear what makes it different from standard mounting, although some people believe that it is more of a friendly sign of affection, rather than a bold statement about domination.
Some people believe that it is a form of playfulness, a rabbit that is overwhelmed by its heat, or simply just a more noticeable way of the rabbit reaffirming its place as the dominant rabbit of the pack.
If you notice that your rabbits are mounting backwards, you may feel torn as to what you should do. On one hand, it poses more of a threat to your rabbit’s well-being, as it exposes a rabbit’s soft underside to the mouth and teeth of a rabbit who may not want to be in this position.
On the other hand, some scientists believe that backwards mounting is rooted more in the form of playfulness and it is less degrading than it looks when you consider a rabbit’s social hierarchy.
Will the Behavior Ever Stop?
Chances are that you own your rabbits because you wanted to own a pair of precious and adorable rabbits that you can watch from time to time, and that when your rabbits are still in the phase of mounting, you will not be seeing what you want to see. This can be somewhat distressing to people who simply wanted some cuddly animals to look at and play with.
The good news is that as long as your rabbits are both mentally healthy and properly developed, the mounting behavior will usually end once it is completely familiar with its territory.
With proper management and good, vigilant eyes when you are watching the rabbits bonding with each other, you can rest assured knowing that you will be able to spot when your rabbits are acting up and put a stop to potentially harmful behavior before anyone gets severely hurt.
One thing that you should keep in mind is that neutered rabbits will engage in mounting as a way to communicate their social hierarchy, though there is a better chance that they will not be as aggressive about it. When rabbits are bought at pet stores, they are almost always neutered.
If your rabbit was not neutered when you purchased or adopted it, you should try and have it neutered before it reaches six months of age, which is considered sexual maturity in rabbits.
If a rabbit is not neutered before it fully begins to learn and understand what socialization is, then it may not stop mounting as a way to communicate its social position, and this can become problematic.
Should Mounting Be Stopped?
The bottom line, for most people who own rabbits, is that you should not stop the mounting process as long as there isn’t a physical fight. Mounting is an important part of the way that rabbits communicate and socialize with each other.
If you completely discourage your rabbits from mounting, there may be some degree of stunted communication and intrapersonal growth between your rabbits, and if this behavior is not corrected soon enough, then your rabbit may eventually end up being even more aggressive and less likely to befriend the other rabbits in its home.
Without the ability to mount, your rabbits will lose one of their biggest facets in being able to communicate what they are thinking, especially in terms of social hierarchy. As unpleasant as it might be to watch two male rabbits mount each other, it is something that the rabbits will need to do, as it is a part of their natural behavior as animals.
There are many reasons both for and against allowing your male rabbits to mount each other. At the very least, you should try and allow some degree of mounting for your rabbit, as it will help your rabbit feel better about its situation as well.
When all is said and done, as long as you keep a watchful eye when you are monitoring your rabbits and their interactions with each other, you can feel confident in knowing that your rabbits will soon get along with each other as friends.
As long as you pay attention to signs of the mounting process turning into an aggressive fight, you can stay on top of caring for your pets. When you know a fight is beginning to break out between your rabbits, you will also know the appropriate time for you to step in and remove the poorly behaved rabbits from the scene.
I have a bachelor’s degree in Film/Video/Media Studies, as well as an associates degree in Communications. I began producing videos and musical recordings nearly 15 years ago. I am a guitarist and bassist in Southwest MI and have been in a few different bands since 2009, and in 2012 I began building custom guitars and basses in my home workshop as well. When I’m home, I love spending time with my three pets (a dog, cat, and snake) and gardening in my backyard. I also like photographing wild birds, especially birds of prey.