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What Makes a Rabbit Cute? Preference for Rabbit Faces Differs according to Skull Morphology and Demographic Factors

By Naomi D. Harvey, James A. Oxley, Giuliana Miguel-Pacheco, Emma M. Gosling, Mark Farnworth

Category Journal Articles

Domesticated rabbits typically exhibit shorter, flatter skulls than their wild counterparts (brachycephalism). However, brachycephaly is associated with considerable health problems, including problems with dentition. The aim of this study was to establish which type of rabbit face people prefer, with a particular emphasis on skull morphology and brachycephaly. We grouped 25 images of rabbit faces by cephalic degree based on ratings assigned by 134 veterinary professionals. An online questionnaire was then launched, in which people could rate each of the 25 images according to preference for the rabbits’ faces, and a total of 20,858 questionnaires were completed globally. Repeated-measure, multi-level general linear modelling revealed mildly-brachycephalic rabbits to be the most preferred type of rabbit, and moderately-dolichocephalic (longer skulled) rabbits to be the least preferred. The preference for brachycephalic rabbits was stable across continents, and as such it is highly plausible that human preference has been a driver for the shortening of the skull typically seen in domestic rabbits, perhaps as a result of the ‘baby-schema’. Additional features of rabbit faces that were preferred include a soft, medium-light fur appearance and being generally short-furred. These novel insights may prove useful in the improvement of the public understanding of rabbit health and welfare. The relationship between preference and skull shape is particularly pertinent to future work concerning rabbit health, given the cross-species evidence that having a flat face is associated with chronic health conditions.


Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Date 2019
Publication Title Animals
Volume 9
Issue 10
Pages 21
Publisher MDPI
DOI 10.3390/ani9100728
Language English
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal roles
  2. Domestication
  3. open access
  4. Pets and companion animals
  5. preferences
  6. rabbits
  1. open access