I don’t have the answer but have thoughts and observations to share. The behavior of the Flemish and the person that commented on her rabbit Clover’s “aggressive” behavior is as we know unusual and falls low on the spectrum of domestic rabbit behaviors. My educational background leads me to look for similarities in human behavior. A small percentage of aggressive or violent behavior can be attributed to a neurological system that is scarred, traumatized or simply wired differently. Tumor and other brain diseases fall in this category as causes. Since many humans and other species suffer a rough beginning, trauma and violence during their life, only a small majority commit violent acts to others. The development of excess fear, an impaired ability to cope, resulting in aggression and quickly triggered fight or flight response sadly compromises the potential of these rabbits to find a home that will stick with them. They often live a lonely life or are euthanized. Hard enough to place unwanted rabbits or to find sanctuary or homes that have the finances for cat-scans, and a veterinarian to figure out what medical issues might be behind the problem behavior.
It is interesting that the rabbit that was written about is more disturbed if interrupted before 7 AM and after late evening. These are the most active periods with the most activity for rabbits. Clearly, a time period that triggers this rabbit, sending a strong message to stay away. I don’t think that he goes to his spot on the mat due to depression as much as for de-compression. If you have ever become extremely stressed, resulting in aggression, you know that the firing adrenaline can take a while to settle down in the body. Let him have this recovery period.
My partner adopted an 18# Flemish rabbit that the shelter staff called, “Cujo” because he too had injured several staff members. Volunteers were not allowed in his 10X10 space. As my partner was an employee the staff let him visit the rabbit at his own risk. He got down on the ground, the rabbit came up to him and allowed petting, never once being aggressive or showed fear. He came to live with us until he passed away five years later. Again, interesting that the rabbit written about also seems attached to two people which he considers his living mates and that he keeps a close eye on. My partner’s rabbit also kept a close eye on him too and would draw blood if he detected another rabbit’s scent on his hands or clothing. Hand washing is not enough with a rabbit like this; a change of clothes is needed too after being around other rabbits. Then named “Bogie”, I once observed him “herding” Victor against the wall when other rabbits were present. He lunged aggressively if Victor moved until the other rabbits were quickly removed from sight. I saw a fearful respect in this former tough guy marine as Bogie stood guard! At other times I have rarely seen such a devoted bond between rabbit and a human. Bogie, groomed his dad daily, snuggled close at every opportunity. We were living in a tourist town and Bogie went with his dad in the pet stroller and as long as dad was right there Bogie loved getting pets from the many hundreds of people he met, closing his eyes and sometimes purring. Dad “Victor” was always right there and was on top of telling people the way to pet Bogie; top of the head back.
The adopted rabbit in the post is extraordinarily fortunate to have the home he has. As I said, I don’t have answers, only observations. I hope that means are found to help this rabbit to trust and live a contended life. Bogie brought more joy to our lives and others he met despite the challenges of his emotional states. Bogie also seriously bit me as well, leaving a 1/4×1 in. scar on my calf. I never went in his pen and only snuck in a pet occasionally. It was not until just after his death that I wrapped my arms around him, held him to my heart. I loved him. He is greatly missed to this day especially by his “dad”.
Never give up, love, accept, learn.
HRS Ed. 1998