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What Makes a Rabbit Cute? Preference for Rabbit Faces Differs according to Skull Morphology and Demographic Factors

Harvey, Naomi D.; Oxley, James A.; Miguel-Pacheco, Giuliana; Gosling, Emma M.; Farnworth, Mark

Authors

Naomi D. Harvey

James A. Oxley

Giuliana Miguel-Pacheco

Emma M. Gosling

Mark Farnworth



Abstract

Domesticated rabbits typically exhibit shorter, flatter skulls than their wild counterparts (brachycephalism). However, brachycephaly is associated with considerable health problems, including problems with dentition. The aim of this study was to establish which type of rabbit face people prefer, with a particular emphasis on skull morphology and brachycephaly. We grouped 25 images of rabbit faces by cephalic degree based on ratings assigned by 134 veterinary professionals. An online questionnaire was then launched, in which people could rate each of the 25 images according to preference for the rabbits’ faces, and a total of 20,858 questionnaires were completed globally. Repeated-measure, multi-level general linear modelling revealed mildly-brachycephalic rabbits to be the most preferred type of rabbit, and moderately-dolichocephalic (longer skulled) rabbits to be the least preferred. The preference for brachycephalic rabbits was stable across continents, and as such it is highly plausible that human preference has been a driver for the shortening of the skull typically seen in domestic rabbits, perhaps as a result of the ‘baby-schema’. Additional features of rabbit faces that were preferred include a soft, medium-light fur appearance and being generally short-furred. These novel insights may prove useful in the improvement of the public understanding of rabbit health and welfare. The relationship between preference and skull shape is particularly pertinent to future work concerning rabbit health, given the cross-species evidence that having a flat face is associated with chronic health conditions.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date 2019-10
Journal Animals
Publisher MDPI
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 9
Issue 10
Article Number 728
Institution Citation Harvey, N. D., Oxley, J. A., Miguel-Pacheco, G., Gosling, E. M., & Farnworth, M. (2019). What Makes a Rabbit Cute? Preference for Rabbit Faces Differs according to Skull Morphology and Demographic Factors. Animals, 9(10), https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9100728
DOI https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9100728
Publisher URL https://www.mdpi.com/2076-2615/9/10/728

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