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Training rabbits to run for raptors?

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Training rabbits to run for raptors?

Post Number:#1  Unread postby mike17l » Tue Jan 26, 2016 1:38 am


Does anyone have any information on training (full litters at a time) rabbits to run. I have stumbled on a potential market for rabbits. Some falchoners are willing to pay a premium for rabbits that will deadbolt run when released from a cage. How could I train an entire litter at once to do this?

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Re: Training rabbits to run for raptors?

Post Number:#2  Unread postby Miss M » Tue Jan 26, 2016 2:39 am


I understand falconers needing to feed their birds, and we have a number of members who sell dead rabbits for snake food and such.

We have had a couple of inquiries about using rabbits to train hunting dogs. Replies to these have been somewhat neutral to very negative.

Members here do focus quite a lot on humane treatment of rabbits, though, and there is no way to train rabbits to do such things humanely. Running for your life and being caught and eaten by a raptor is not a humane end for a domesticated rabbit. Yes, these same birds will catch wild rabbits and eat them, but the wild rabbit has a much better chance against a bird, because it knows its surroundings and knows how to behave in the wild. A farmed rabbit released from a cage has no clue where it is, where to run, where to hide, or anything.

Even the training... how to get a litter of rabbits to bolt from a cage when it is opened? The only thing I can think of is to make the cage terrifying. This is not humane, either. And it might not even work -- put the cage down in an unfamiliar area and open the door, and even rabbits who have learned to bolt may very well just sit there afraid to leave the cage.

Most here tend to concentrate on making life as good as is possible in the individual situation, even for meat rabbits (this varies... a small rabbitry is going to be more capable of giving individual attention and maybe toys and treats than a large one), and then strive for a swift dispatch so there is no suffering.

You may get some help... if I recall correctly, the members who asked about hunting dogs did get a little help. I just wanted to explain the prevailing thoughts here.
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Re: Training rabbits to run for raptors?

Post Number:#3  Unread postby Knacker » Tue Jan 26, 2016 12:00 pm


Members here do focus quite a lot on humane treatment of rabbits, though, and there is no way to train rabbits to do such things humanely. Running for your life and being caught and eaten by a raptor is not a humane end for a domesticated rabbit. Yes, these same birds will catch wild rabbits and eat them, but the wild rabbit has a much better chance against a bird, because it knows its surroundings and knows how to behave in the wild. A farmed rabbit released from a cage has no clue where it is, where to run, where to hide, or anything.


This reminds me of one hunting season a few years ago when I was working for a waterfowl outfitter. It was a warmer fall and the geese and ducks were taking their time migrating south, so we had to fill in some hunts with pheasant hunting. We took the hunters to a pheasant farm that raised the birds for hunting. It was so pathetic because someone had to nudge the birds every few minutes to get them to fly.

Big difference between wild and domestic.

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Re: Training rabbits to run for raptors?

Post Number:#4  Unread postby MamaSheepdog » Tue Jan 26, 2016 12:35 pm


Domestic rabbits rarely "bolt" unless they are being actively chased, and even then they will often just hop a few paces and then freeze.

The only way to ensure "bolting" would be to put a dead rabbit on a cord and have a human or device simulate the behavior. As far as I know, this is in line with how falcons are customarily trained to come to a lure, with the exception that a dead bird on a cord is used to simulate prey.
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Re: Training rabbits to run for raptors?

Post Number:#5  Unread postby heritage » Tue Jan 26, 2016 12:55 pm


Well said Miss M!

I think the idea of pulling a rope with a dead rabbit attached is totally feasible... I mean, look at dog racing! You could still have the market for the actual meat, but in a different form. You could arrange to dispatch at feeding time (whenever/however often that is!) so it is still warm and rigor hasn't set in. Maybe design some kind of pulley contraption with a quick release for when they do latch onto the prey to further market it?
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Re: Training rabbits to run for raptors?

Post Number:#6  Unread postby Zass » Tue Jan 26, 2016 3:00 pm


For most domestic rabbits a cage = safety. It seems like it would be very tricky to get them into a state of enough terror to run out of their "safe" area, and into an unknown area.

If you force them out, they might run towards a wall or shelter of some kind. In general though, rabbits don't deadbolt run anywhere for long, unless there is a recognizable threat in immediate pursuit.

Like Miss M said, their instinct is to run for a bit, and then freeze to hide. They would only bolt again if they perceived that they had been discovered, but in general, bolting at the wrong time can mean death, and rabbits have fairly strong instincts against it.
Last edited by Zass on Tue Jan 26, 2016 3:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Training rabbits to run for raptors?

Post Number:#7  Unread postby SoDak Thriver » Tue Jan 26, 2016 3:05 pm


We have a family of hawks, a mated pair of great horned owls, and a bald eagle who all visit our yard to hunt. When any of them comes around and I have rabbits hopping around on the deck doing the prison yard workout, the rabbits make one or two hops to the railing or the house, sidle up to it, and freeze. If the rail is more than two hops away, they just freeze where they are. Prey instinct is to avoid flat out runs because that heightens the predator instinct to give chase.

Something would have to threaten the rabbit more than the falcon. Like a dog trained to chase them, but not kill them.

I do appreciate that falconers need to train their falcons to hunt (it's less a need to feed them; they're trained to kill and hold or kill and return with the game). I cannot imagine a way to train rabbits to serve this purpose.
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Re: Training rabbits to run for raptors?

Post Number:#8  Unread postby heritage » Tue Jan 26, 2016 3:10 pm


SoDak Thriver wrote:I do appreciate that falconers need to train their falcons to hunt (it's less a need to feed them; they're trained to kill and hold or kill and return with the game). I cannot imagine a way to train rabbits to serve this purpose.


Really? I never thought about that... I assume as a hunting technique? (as in, to get food for the owner/trainer, not just teaching the bird to hunt for themselves)
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Re: Training rabbits to run for raptors?

Post Number:#9  Unread postby akane » Tue Jan 26, 2016 3:15 pm


You'd probably have to not cage them. They'd have to be pen or run rabbits on the ground so they are used to running on the ground in the first place and never associate a cage with food or shelter. There would still probably have to be some aggressive training to make them hate a cage enough to run into an unfamiliar area. Like others said there's not really a way to do that humanely. You'd have to make rabbits fear for their survival all the time like the wild ones. If you did accomplish it I then wonder about transporting such rabbits. If a cage has been deemed a location of probable death and a human around is a threat then they aren't going to just sit there while being hauled in one.

In falconry you often take young falcons and hawks from their nest, raise them safely, teach them to hunt wild game, and then release them. It helps the predatory bird population. Only some are kept.
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Re: Training rabbits to run for raptors?

Post Number:#10  Unread postby MamaSheepdog » Tue Jan 26, 2016 3:29 pm


heritage wrote:
SoDak Thriver wrote:I do appreciate that falconers need to train their falcons to hunt (it's less a need to feed them; they're trained to kill and hold or kill and return with the game). I cannot imagine a way to train rabbits to serve this purpose.


Really? I never thought about that... I assume as a hunting technique? (as in, to get food for the owner/trainer, not just teaching the bird to hunt for themselves)


Falconry was a sport of the nobility. "Commoners" were forbidden to own falcons... as well as coursing hounds such as Borzoi and Wolfhounds. In the 17th century the peasant classes developed coursing hounds known as "lurchers" in order to poach small game. They were dogs of mixed ancestry (greyhound and terrier, generally), and were perceived by the noble classes to have no value.
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Re: Training rabbits to run for raptors?

Post Number:#11  Unread postby SoDak Thriver » Tue Jan 26, 2016 3:38 pm


Here's a good video of a falconer. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rB-EpomnJ_w

A lot of the vids out there are by people who are showy and engaging in their "rich* hobby" (Dubai Falconers Club, anyone?) and have special effects and lots of heavy metal music, but this guy is really neat. I like his philosophy ("I didn't train her to hunt; I trained her to let me watch her hunt") and early on, he talks about how the rabbits react differently when there's a predatory bird in the air. You can also see on the second catch that he dispatches the rabbit right away with cervical dislocation. I've only met a couple of falconers in my life, but they were both like this guy. If I could find a way to train rabbits to help a guy like this, I would.

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