Three Little Ladies Rabbitry, Jersey Wooly
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Split Male Genetalia

Occassionally rabbits will have problems that will be difficult to identify, and have a source that is unknown. This is one example. Split male genetalia (name changed so as not to possibly offend younger readers) has very rare occurance. What is it and how can it be avoided?

I remember the first time we had a rabbit disqualified for what the judge told us was split male genetalia (I've modified the name do to sensitivity of younger readers). The judge had spent a great deal of time looking at our rabbit's private area. When he explained what he saw, we were very disappointed. Of course, we had a lot of questions about the cause and remedy for this problem. Unfortunately, our research only brought about more questions than answers.

Split male genetalia occurs in the buck when the side wall of the urethra does not completely close. This leaves a split in the side wall. When we had originally sexed the rabbit we thought it was a female, but when we took him to his first show found out to our surprise he was actually a male. The first clue for the judge that found the problem was that while verifying the gender of the rabbit, the male genital curved slightly rather than standing straight up. He began to try and get more of his private part to show, which is when he discovered the split.

There has been some research done on this problem in humans, but very little research on rabbits. To compound the matter the research conflicts on the source of the problem. There are three possible causes. Two are genetic and one is environmental. Some research indicates that the cause could be a recessive gene. If this is true then both the sire and the dam must carry the gene for the offspring to have this problem. In this case it would be important to remove the buck, doe and all offsprings from your breeding program. The second possible cause is a dominant gene that could be present in either the sire or the dam. If this were the case the sire would exhibit this or it would be the female passing on this gene. The problem could be extracted from your herd by removing just one of the rabbits from your breeding program. Environmental causes are much more vague and difficult to pinpoint. However, the environmental factor would have to be corrected as opposed to removing rabbits from your breeding program.

The oddity of this problem is that a male with split male genetalia can still breed in rare cases. Although most of the seminal fluid would be excreted through the split, it is still possible that some of the fluid may reach the female during breeding.

There are a few things that a rabbit breeder must keep in mind with this problem. First, never breed a buck that has split male genetalia. Cull the buck from your herd. Carefully check all siblings of the rabbit for the problem. If any other rabbits show these signs do not breed the pair that had these kits. Carefully watch other breeding of the sire and dam. If either have additional kits with the problem, remove them from your breeding program. If at any point you sell either the sire or the dam, you have an ethical responsibility to inform the purchaser of the offsprings with split male genetalia. Until more research is done on this problem, your diligence will minimize its existence.