Domestic rabbits are of the descendants of oryctolagus cunniculus specie that is native to the western Mediterranean basin. The rabbit was domesticated recently with most breeds being developed by humans and are not older than 300 years (Lebas and Colin, 1992).
The rabbit has being used as an experimental animal in genetics and reproductive physiology since the beginning of the century but it was not until 1950 that the first findings on quantitative genetics were published. To upgrade the performance of rabbits, breeders should use local rabbits, either native or imported populations that have been locally adapted and make use of genetic variability that is available (source). Priority should be given to research on rural and backyard rabbit production since they require little investment and by using local resources that will be reasonable for production (Finzi, 1992).
The most strategy of any mammal is to produce offspring and thereby perpetuate the species. Therefore if the high demand for meat in future years will have to be met, much of the increase in production would have to come from short cycle animal such as rabbit which have gestation period between 30-32days and a rapid growth rate that makes it ready for breeding at five (5) months of age and under good management conditions which compares favourable with the growth rate of other animals such as chicken (FAO, 1991).
Rabbit appears to be the most sustainable means of producing high quality animal protein for the expanding populations of the lesser develop country like Nigeria. Rabbit meat consumption has never violated any religious or social taboos, therefore, rabbits seem to have good potential as meat producing animal and also suitable solution to solve the lack of protein, especially when productive and reproductive efficiency are considered.
Therefore, it is desirable that young rabbits are properly managed to prevent delays in the onset of puberty (FAO, 1992). The reproductive performance of an animal determines to an extent, the turn over from animal production and the ratio of its growth rate. Growth rate varies from one breed of animal to another which provides information on genetic variation which will be of help in selecting breeding stock.
Litter size in rabbits varies considerably usually ranging from 6-10 kittens in domestic rabbits.
Although the milk supply of mammalian mothers is reported to be partly adjusted to variation in litter size by the adaptative stimulation of pre-partum mammogenesis (Fossyth and Hayden, 1977, Jameson, 1998). There is evidence from a wide range of species that an increase in the number of siblings reduces the share of milk obtained by individuals. This result in a negative correlation between litter size and growth rates of dependent kits (Mendl, 1998,Mock and Parker, 1997, Hudson and Trillmich, 2007) There is a clear negative relationship between sibling number and kits growth rates or weaning weight in domestic breeds (Drummond el al 2000) as well as in European rabbits living under natural breeding conditions (Radel et al 2008).