If the word "penis" offends you, please read no farther. It will appear several times in this blog, and you will be seeing pictures of rabbit penises.
Ok, for those of you sticking with me, please take a moment to recite this aloud. "There are problems in every line, in every breed, in every country in the world. Admitting the problems and willingness to talk about them is the first step in educating other people and finding cures."
Today, we're talking about the split penis. We don't know a lot about it- I want to share some theories of mine and give opinions of others I've talked to.
First- what is a split penis? How do you identify it? Thanks to Donna at Snowberry Holland Lops in Canada, for allowing me to post the pictures you're about to see. They ALL are property of Donna, please do not remove them from this blog. You may visit her website to obtain permission for any use you may want to put them to.
This is a split penis from the tip. It is not fully extended in this picture.
See the slit running from the tip down? Yep, a split penis is just what it sounds like- it's split open.Here is "Mr. Flare's" split flared open. This flare was achieved by applying a small amount of additional pressure.
Splits do not always start at the top. I've seen them where the underside gaped open, almost as if someone had used a pen knife to cut a small line lengthwise. I'm trying to locate good pictures of this kind of split, so if anyone could donate some, you can do it either anonymously or with full credit.
I do not believe split penises cause physical pain. Much as if a rabbit were born without a tail or a human born without a finger, it's a situation where they don't know any different. If it had been caused by a tear, yes it might be painful.
Split penises can cause problems with breeding. In some cases, a buck can not fully extend the penis, making it difficult for him to breed. Other times, the penis curls due to the split in such an odd way, he would not be able to "catch" the doe. However, some bucks with this issue can and DO breed.
Is it genetic? I believe it is. We know it has NOTHING to do with feed, cage conditions, thumping the rabbit or calling it names. I believe does, as well as bucks, are carriers- after all, lots of bucks with the split penis problem can't "seal the deal", so it has to continue on from somewhere. I have heard of some instances where a doe bred to two different bucks has thrown babies with splits- whereas neither buck had produced them before. A friend from the Rabbit Habbit forum has also noted that does who throw the split penis babies tend to have a more elongated vulva.
So what are the signs you might have a problem?
*Gender confusion- thinking a buck is a doe beyond the normal period of time. If you have a 4 month old buck you're still confused on, you need to check him very closely.
*Difficulty extending the penis.
* A SPLIT!
None of these (other than seeing the actual split) is a surefire sign that your animal does have a split penis. These are just flags that should get you to check your animal more closely.
So what do you do if a split penis shows up in your line?
My personal preference would be to cull the animal. I do not believe it is worth it to breed in a genetic fault, anymore than I would breed in bad teeth or mismarks. I've been very fortunate in that the only split penis I've had in my barn did not come from a rabbit I bred and was not used in the breeding program before it was caught. I'm not so vain to think that's because I did anything special.
Some folks cull the entire line. That's up to you. I do think if you have a buck that throws a split penis with every doe he's bred to, you will want him gone, even if he doesn't display the split himself. Sometimes splits become more obvious with age.
If you do breed the animal, keep a close eye on the offspring. What is the use of having really beautiful babies if 90% of them are DQ'd for splits?