The ethologists who study different types of animal behaviors usually define “territory” as a sociographical region that an animal claims to own and guard this particular area against other animals of the same species and sometimes from other species as well.
They may do so by actively being involved in agonistic behaviors or displaying physical aggression to defend their territory. The animal that fights to protect its territory is called a territorial animal, and this behavior is characterized as territoriality or territorialism.
Why Do Animals Show Territorial Behavior?
Studies of Natural Selection often quote a rule: “Survival Of The Fittest” the same rule applies to territoriality. Often a wild animal shows territorial behavior out of competition. The one who wins against others is likely to enjoy all amenities of space and food in that particular region. The purpose of territoriality may differ in different creatures.
Some do this to protect the food resources for themselves and their offspring. Some have transformed their territory into a nesting site. Others use this area to attract a mate and develop bonding with their partners. Even pets also show this behavior to establish their dominance.
How Do Animals Mark Their Territories?
Mostly an animal marks its territory by advertising like “No entry,” of course, it isn’t some signboard with a red cross symbol on it. Instead, an animal transmits this information of no entry through sensory means, which may be auditory, visual, or olfactory. One of these methods is scent marking, in which an animal sprays some strong-smelling substances on its boundary to inform others of it through its smell.
It can be his urine, feces, sweat, or something else. The animal can even use its horns, feet, or hooves to mark a visual boundary. Auditory marking may include some sort of voice. For example, wolves howl to mark their area.
Do Animals Show Aggressive Behavior When Someone Crosses Their Marked Boundary?
An animal may utilize a variety of behaviors to scare outsiders and guard its area without resorting to conflicts or fights, which are both energy-intensive and dangerous. These behaviors are collectively termed ritualized aggression. It makes use of threatening gestures like growling and other forms of vocalization. Some creatures use their claws and lift them up to scare intruders.
Others may beat their tails or pound their bodies to do so. Some beasts like cats enact non-injurious bites to show aggression. Well! Apart from these warning behaviors, an animal may engage in true physical violence to show aggression. Some even injure themselves in an attempt to protect their land.
Benefits of Territoriality
Territoriality in living organisms ensures that only the fittest animal that is powerful enough to claim a place for him can survive in the tough competition among the other members of the same species. After survival, this animal will be able to reproduce and give rise to new offspring in the long run.
Territoriality not only prevents overcrowding of habitat but also makes sure that the limited resources of habitat are being utilized in the most appropriate way. There are several other advantages of territoriality in an animal; some of these are as follows:
No Competition for Food
Food is the basic necessity of life for all organisms. They compete with one another in order to get food. Organisms of different species fight, and the stronger one gets the food. They fight with each other for an available food source and end up eating each other.
The same competition for food can take place among the members of the same species while being vulnerable to another species at the same time. For instance, when some insects or pests are fighting for grass, there is the possibility of a secondary consumer such as rats, eagles, or snakes fighting with another animal of its species for those insects.
Carefree Feeding Young Ones
The territorial system acclimates the animals to the location of food and water. Food in that specific area is also divided equally to all inhabitants. In this way, a mother can feed her young one in a stress-free environment.
A territory, therefore, secures adequate food resources for the young ones as being a perfect nesting place.
Mating Without Interruption
An animal doesn’t have a door to his house that can help him enjoy private space, so a marked area gives him a world where he can get into intimate activities with his partner.
Therefore, this behavior is seen in many males who defend a particular breeding area where no one else is allowed to enter except his mate.
Reduced Conflicts Among Species
Living in the same habitat can bring aggression and competition among the creatures. An animal and a human also do not accept the presence of another being in his house or area. When a family has a definitely marked environment, it can reduce the chances of conflicts among them.
As a result, a family lives and has an even stronger bonding among its members. Still, the members of a particular family can’t stand the sight of another family or any member of it crossing and entering their area.
Do Rabbits Mark Their Territories?
Yes, rabbits are strictly territorial. Both the wild and the pet rabbits show this behavior. They have a hierarchy among them in which does (female rabbits) are dominant. They fight with other rabbits that are dominant in their group. Mostly this fight is over the territory. A subordinate rabbit lives under the leadership of the dominant doe and does not fight with others for territory.
How Do Rabbits Mark Their Territory?
Mostly, the dominant rabbit marks boundaries, but on the onset of puberty, another rabbit can also show this behavior. There are many ways through which they mark their territory, such as:
- Many rabbits rub their chin over the objects around them to mark their area. It is called chinning. They have scent glands under their chin. Neighboring rabbits get used to each other’s scent and don’t cross their boundary. It is because they all have a different smells.
- They also deposit droppings around their area. Wild rabbits mostly undertake the act of placing droppings.
- Rabbits also urinate to mark their designated area.
- They can also dig shallow scrapes.
Benefits of Rabbits’ Territory
A marked area keeps the rabbits of a family fully bonded, leading to positive reinforcement. They are the prey animals, hence can provide better security to their offspring in this way. Moreover, they enjoy all the benefits of a territory that are described above.
Do Rabbits Show Territorial Aggression Too?
Rabbits are docile by birth. They are not mean, nor are they aggressive. But you can find bunnies showing severe aggression when someone crosses their boundary. They don’t see whether the other rabbit belongs to their species or not, they begin fighting. A rabbit bites and can even kick the opponent.
They will also fight if any predator enters their area, but whether they win at making them run or end up becoming prey depends on the strength and the toughness of the rabbit.
The rabbits that humans keep at the house as pets also show aggression when they put their hands in the rabbit’s cage. But it’s not always the case. Some extremely friendly breeds can let you invade their territory without getting angry.
Do Rabbits Get Aggressive Over Territory Only?
No, we can expect rabbits to get aggressive for other reasons. For instance, when you clean their hutch or remove their favorite toy, they get angry. This is because they have arranged their house in the small spaces in their own way. Humans do that too and don’t like anyone messing up with our house setting.
Moreover, when a rabbit is spraying its urine everywhere or around its territory, it has hit puberty. Their hormones start acting up, leading to a behavioral change that can make them aggressive most of the time.
In such cases, it’s advised to make them sterile. Usually, females are spayed, and males are neutered.
After spaying, a female rabbit can take a few weeks to a month for settling her hormones. Male rabbits stay sterile for up to six weeks after neutering. Both of them show aggressive behaviour during this duration.
If a neutered or a spayed rabbit still urinates, take him to a rabbit veterinarian.
Moreover, if he is aggressive and is showing any sign of pain, take him to a pet. Some common signs of unhappiness or a rabbit being frightened include chattering teeth, showing bared teeth, nipping, thumping, and biting.
How to Calm an Aggressive Rabbit?
Whatever the case is, you must know how to care for a vicious rabbit. Petting the bunnies to the head or making them a tasty yet healthy treat can solve the problem as rabbits love eating and getting attention.
Try to hand feed the rabbit, if he allows. Moreover, we can expect a stronger bonding between a human and a bunny in this way.
Rabbits are territorial creatures. The dominant female bunny fight with other bunnies for their designated area. Pet rabbits also show this behavior and sometimes won’t let the owner put their hand in their hutch. It’s a natural behavior shown by bunnies; you and I can’t stop them from marking and protecting their territory.