Published: 26 Jan 2021 | Last Updated: 26 Jan 2021 17:17:02

Supervisor:   Charlotte Burn, Dan O’Neill, David BrodbeltJoanna Hedley

Department:  Pathobiology and Population Sciences


Project Details

There is early evidence that rabbits may experience compromised welfare because of artificial selection for extreme morphological traits, with ear morphology and the associated skull shape being a possible example. Two recent studies have suggested that lop-eared rabbits may have more dental and ear disease than rabbits with more naturalistic morphology, but this has never been examined on a large scale and the breed differences and clinical implications are not well understood. Using the VetCompass database with approximately 100,000 rabbits annually presenting at UK veterinary practices, we will compare dental and ear disease associations between lop- and erect-eared rabbit breeds.

The Objectives of the study are to:

  • Write a literature review of the animal welfare impact of skull conformation and dental and/or ear disease, focussing on rabbits.
  • Report the frequency and clinical management of dental and ear disease in rabbits under primary veterinary care at practise within the VetCompass Programme (approximately 30% of UK practices).
  • Evaluate skull conformation as a risk factors for each of dental and ear disease in rabbits, with particular focus on rabbit breed and associated ear conformation.

This MRes studentship will commence on October 1, 2021. The ideal candidate for this exciting MRes role will have evidence of at least one from the following criteria: a veterinary professional or other animal management background, epidemiology, experience in rabbit health/welfare, general animal welfare experience or working with large datasets. The student will be trained in companion animal welfare and epidemiology and will be expected to prepare scientific reports and presentations to help disseminate the results. The findings can raise public awareness, help owners and breeders make informed decisions when selecting and caring for rabbits of differing conformations, and assist veterinarians in recognising which conditions may or may not be linked with conformation. This MRes will be particular interest to candidates who plan to follow a career in either epidemiology or animal welfare. The studentship will cover the registration fees but does not come with a stipend. 



  1. Johnson JC and Burn CC 2019 Lop-eared rabbits have more aural and dental problems than erect-eared rabbits: a rescue population study. Veterinary Record 185: 758-766
  2. O'Neill DG, Craven HC, Brodbelt DC, Church DB and Hedley J 2019 Morbidity and mortality of domestic rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) under primary veterinary care in England. Veterinary Record: 105592
  3. Richardson J, Longo M, Liuti T and Eatwell K 2019 Computed tomographic grading of middle ear disease in domestic rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculi). Veterinary Record 184: 679-679
  4. Harvey N, Oxley J, Miguel-Pacheco G, Gosling E and Farnworth M 2019 What Makes a Rabbit Cute? Preference for rabbit faces differs according to skull morphology and demographic factors. Animals 9: 728 



The successful candidate will undertake a literature review. They will then apply a data analysis approach to extract clinical information from a large randomized sample of rabbits in VetCompass. These data will be statistically analysed and the results will be written up as an MRes dissertation. The results will also be prepared for publication and presentation at conferences.It is essential that candidates have:

  • A university honours degree in a relevant discipline e.g. biological sciences, animal welfare science, or a veterinary or medical degree.
  • A demonstrable aptitude for statistical analysis, with some experience of working with databases and original data analysis.
  • Willingness and enthusiasm to learn new methods, including statistical analysis techniques.
  • Good scientific writing skills.
  • Willingness to present and discuss work with an audience.
  • Commitment to equality & diversity, and research integrity.
  • Ability to self-motivate and to work collaboratively across teams.

The following are also desirable:

  • A first or upper second class university honours degree
  • Experience of designing, conducting, analyzing and reporting an original research project.
  • Experience of writing a literature review.
  • Contribution to scientific publication or conference presentation.  Knowledge of epidemiology, exotic animal medicine, or animal welfare science.

This project will be full-time commencing in October 2021, and will be based at RVC's Hawkshead campus. In the case of continuing to Covid-19 restrictions, it will be possible to start this MRes by working remotely.



This project is part-funded. It does not come with a stipend, but "Home" tuition fees and the main running costs for this project will be funded by The Universities Federation for Animal Welfare ( International students (which will include EU citizens from the 2021 academic year onwards) are welcome to apply but will be expected to pay the difference between "Home" and overseas fees.

We welcome informal enquiries - these should be directed to


How to Apply

For more information on the application process and English Language requirements see How to Apply.

Interviews will take place toward the end of March 2021, and will be held remotely.

Deadline: 23rd February

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