Genetic mutation causes some rabbits to skip over the bunny hop and head straight to handstand

It’s certainly wouldn’t be the quickest way for the Easter bunny to deliver all that chocolate, but it is the most unique.

Researchers have finally figured out why some rabbits don’t hop, but walk, handstand-style to get around.

The Sauteur d’Alfort rabbits, also known as Alfort jumping rabbits, have a genetic mutation of the RORB gene, which gives them this unique style of locomotion, according to new study published in PLoS Genetics, a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

“We have now characterized a recessive mutation present in a specific strain of domestic rabbits (sauteur d’Alfort) that disrupts the jumping gait,” the authors wrote.

Their lack of normal coordination has caused them to adapt movement by lifting their hindlimbs off the ground and placing all their weight on their forelimbs.

It’s kind of like a human acrobat when walking on their hands, according to the scientists.

It’s just so wild.

And, it took 12 researchers from around the world to sequence the DNA of dozens of rabbits to figure it out.

Typical posture of a sauteur rabbit adopted when jumping. Photo: R. Cavignaux

The study shows expression of RORB gene is drastically reduced in the spinal cord of affected rabbits, which results in a developmental defect.

However, it’s not expected that it puts the animals in any pain.

“Rabbits and hares have a characteristic jumping gait composed of an alternate rhythmical movement of the forelimbs and a synchronous bilateral movement of the hindlimbs,” the authors note. “We have now characterized a recessive mutation present in a specific strain of domestic rabbits (sauteur d’Alfort) that disrupts the jumping gait.” 

All the experimental procedures were approved by the Ethical Committee for Animal Research of the University of Castilla la Mancha, Spain, the study notes.

And, the rabbits were kept under “standard conditions of housing with unrestricted access to food and water” in according with a European Union directive.

Coolest Easter bunnies ever. Photo: Samuel Boucher

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