Mastellone, V., Bovera, F., Musco, N. et al. 2019. Mirrors improve rabbit natural behavior in a free-range breeding system. Animals 9(8), 533.
The aim of this research was to evaluate the possible usefulness of mirrors in improving rabbit behavior in a free-range breeding system. Three groups (each consisting of nine replicates of three animals) were compared: isolated, isolated with mirrors and separated by a wire mesh (possible visual and olfactory contacts). Rabbits allowed to have a visual and olfactory contact showed a significantly higher expression of important natural behaviors (olfactory investigation, gnawing, alertness, stretching, locomotion) compared to the isolated rabbits (with or without mirrors); while rabbits in the mirror group showed higher allo-grooming activity than those isolated and no different locomotion activity than those separated by wire mesh. Thus, mirrors seemed to be able to modify the behavioral repertoire of isolated rabbits by acting on social perception in rabbits reared in small groups in a free-range system. Nevertheless, despite it being advisable to use a combination of different indicators in order to assess the stress level of an animal, the accuracy of serum cortisol, as well as of some secondary stress markers assay, appeared to be limited in this type of breeding.