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Rabbit Notebooks


Presented here is set of five laboratory notebooks recording William Bateson and Reginald Punnett’s experiments in rabbit breeding, conducted between 1907 and 1912.

In contrast to the experiments on sweet peas or chickens, which were to a great degree seasonal, with hatching and sowing occurring mainly in the spring, rabbit breeding went on all the year round. Although many progeny were killed shortly after birth, some were kept for longer, in some cases up to 18 months to 2 years. Some entries in the books therefore span two to three years. There is no record of where the rabbit breeding was done, or where the rabbits were kept, but there were obviously considerable numbers.

The inside front cover of each notebook usually contains an index list of rabbits. The general format of the record is that each animal has a separate page. The page is headed with the cross, e.g. ex Y81 x YB4, which denotes the parents. The birth date is recorded, together with phenotypic characteristics such as coat colour etc., followed in some cases by a dated series of measurements. What these measurements are is not recorded, but they are probably weights, since the later ones tend to go up and down. Many animals are recorded as being killed shortly after birth. 

This archive documents historical animal experimentation, which some people may find distressing.