Fertilization in the Rabbit

  • Michael G. O’Rand
  • Barbara S. Nikolajczyk


Discovered by the Phoenicians in ancient times, the rabbit has been bred in captivity for hundreds of years. In the monasteries of the 16th century, domestication of the rabbit (Oryctolagus) and hare (Lepus) led to the continued breeding of rabbits because of their ability to reproduce easily in leporaria (Fox, 1974). Today’s modern laboratory rabbit is a decendent of the European rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus and now exists in dozens of different breeds, from the 15-lb Flemish giant to the 2 1/2h-lb. pound Polish white. Because of such a long history of domestication, evolutionary changes from the true wild type have undoubtedly occurred; nevertheless, researchers have continued to study the reproductive biology of the domestic rabbit for over 300 years. In fact, early observations on ovarian follicles, which later became known as “Graafian follicles,” were made in the rabbit by De Graaf in the late 17th century. For the next 200 years numerous investigators reinvestigated ovulation and early development in the rabbit, using the rabbit as a model for mammalian development because it is easily bred in captivity and ovulation is induced by coitus. By 1839, Barry had clearly established the time of ovulation as 10 hr after coitus, and he made the significant observation that the interaction of the spermatozoon with the egg was responsible for the development of the embryo.


Zona Pellucida Acrosome Reaction Female Reproductive Tract Epididymal Spermatozoon Cortical Granule 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael G. O’Rand
    • 1
  • Barbara S. Nikolajczyk
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Cell Biology and AnatomyUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA

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