|The 3-Bell Ranch||
Until I started visiting 3 Bells I hadn’t had any real experience with rabbits, As Tara’s mom, of course, I’d overseen a menagerie during the growing- up years: cats, dogs, mice, ponies, birds, but no bunnies. I found them fascinating. Bunnies are very social. They form friendships and have definite preferences. Because of the large cages these bunnies are able to interact fairly naturally.
A big difference between baby cats and dogs and baby rabbits is in their play. While kittens pounce and stalk, wrestle and bite, and puppies snarl, squeak, tumble, and bite, bunnies run, sniff, and explore. No biting. The difference, I soon realized, is that bunnies are not predators. They are prey animals. Just as kittens and puppies are practicing killing; bunnies are practicing staying alive. They run races, hide behind their mothers, and eat.
If one finds a delicious dandelion blossom, or a long piece of grass, they all gather around and nibble on it until the dandelion becomes the center of a flower with bunny petals, or the grass brings two little noses together in a kiss. I’ve never seen baby bunnies practice any aggressive moves at all. Predators practice immobilizing holds – legs close to the body, back of the neck, throat holds, and belly biting.
Recently another guest at the ranch brought 3 adult Jack Russels and two puppies. The adults had to be watched constantly, as the predatory instincts were stimulated by Molly, Tara’s Jack-Wawa, and all those mouse, chicken and bunny smells. Within a few days 5 good layers had been murdered and the fierce little dogs were turning their attention to the bunnies, sniffing the cages and growling. Scolding produced only brief interruptions in this perfectly natural behavior...
As for the puppies, at around 6 weeks of age they were rolly pollies. They didn’t know anything at all about the world, and were taking their cues from their parents and their auntie, who were encouraging them to be ferocious. It seemed that what they really wanted was cuddling and attention; but they were more than willing to snarl, growl, threaten and chomp on their mentors, each other, and various humans.
I decided to try an experiment. At this size the 7 baby rabbits were just the size of the puppies. I called little Janey, the little female pup, into the rabbit yard, and let her come into the large cage where the bunnies were romping in their benign way, racing nuzzling, sniffing, and munching. Bunnies saw Janey, their natural enemy. They sniffed her as they sniff each other. Janey saw the bunnies, her natural prey. She sniffed them as they sniffed her. Then she joined the bunnies. For about a half an hour I watched this group of baby animals play together with the caution and circumspection of bunnies. Had Janey attempted to bite them, they would have run away. No friends for Janey. What would have happened? If only I had had more time to observe them, I have no doubt that when they became weary, Janey would have joined their nap pile, snuggling and squeaking in comfort and bliss. Without her mom and dad and auntie, Janey had no encouragement whatsoever to attack her little friends, and for all I know, had she been left in the cage with the 7 bunnies, she might have grown up as one of their best friends, for as a Jack Russell she will never become larger than an adult rabbit.
Unfortunately for my Great Experiment, the 5 “Jacks” moved on with their Person the very next day, and since as Tara’s Septuagenarian mom, I’ll probably never again find that combination in this life, and thus I’ll never know for sure.