BOOKS: Rabbit Handbook

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 2000:

Rabbit Handbook:
A Family Guide to Buying,
Keeping & Breeding Rabbits
by David Taylor, BVMS, FRCVS, FVS
Sterling Publishing Co., Ltd.
(387 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016), 2000.
96 pages (all with color photos), paperback; $12.95

Every other guide to rabbit-rearing that I have ever seen, including several bad examples kept on file here, emphasizes the fecundity of rabbits, their limited space needs, and their inexpensive diet as an opportunity to get rich quick–– or at least win a 4-H ribbon––by raising them for meat.

David Taylor takes an opposite direction right from page one, where he thanks “my wife Christine, who persuaded me years ago that rabbits are people and not for eating, ever.”

Taylor covers rabbit breeding not so much by way of approval as because he must. As he explains, “If you have both a buck and a doe and neither have been neutered, can you cope with the animals’ proverbial fecundity? After all, it took only 50 years for rabbits to colonize Australia, and the most prolific breeds of rabbit can produce 90 to 100 offspring per year! Only if you can properly accommodate or find excellent guaranteed homes for the youngsters should you contemplate breeding your rabbits. Otherwise,” Taylor continues, “responsible ownership means having your rabbit or rabbits surgically castrated or spayed under general anesthetic by a veterinary surgeon. Such neutering has other advantages,” Taylor reminds. “It removes the risk of uterine cancer, very common in does, and reduces the odor and spraying tendency of bucks.”

If this advice seems too obvious to be worth quoting, please recall that only five years ago then-American SPCA president Roger Caras soberly asserted in his opus A Perfect H a r m o n y that rabbits reproduce by immaculate conception––and the ANIMAL PEOPLE reviewers were the only ones, among dozens in the humane community, to point out the error.

Apart from covering the practical aspects of rabbit care, Taylor’s Rabbit Handbook is filled with entertaining anecdotes about rabbit history and behavior, photos of the many different breeds of rabbit, and photos of children gently handling and playing with their rabbits. The latter are a refreshing contrast to the illustrations in the other rabbit-keeping guides at hand, which aspire to teach children how best to kill rabbits.

Accordingly, Taylor’s alert but unassuming R a b b i t H a n d b o o k is not only both pleasant and useful, but also an encouraging indicator of progress.

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