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There are four known herpesviruses of rabbits. Leporid herpesvirus 1 (LHV-1, cottontail herpesvirus) and Leporid herpesvirus 3 (LHV-3, Herpesvirus sylvilagus) are gammaherpesviruses and do not affect domestic rabbits. Leporid herpesvirus 2 ( LHV-2, virus 3, virus III, Herpesvirus cuniculi) is also a gammaherpesvirus that was first found in domestic laboratory rabbits in the mid-1920s and is asymptomatic. Leporid herpesvirus 4 (LHV-4) is classified as an alphaherpesvirus and can cause death in domestic rabbits.

  • LHV-1: Found in Sylvilagus floridanus Eastern cottontail.
  • LHV-2: Found in domestic laboratory rabbits in 1924 while looking for causative agent of chickenpox.
  • LHV-3: Found in Sylvilagus floridanus Eastern cottontail.
  • LHV-4: Found in both commercial and pet rabbits in 1990.

Rabbits may also be affected by the herpes simplex virus (HSV) from humans. Infections in rabbits results in fatal encephalitis (brain swelling). Published reports of infections are associated with close contact between affected rabbits and infected humans.[1]

Herpes simplex virus

Two varieties of the herpesvirus family (Herpesviridae) infect humans: herpes simplex virus 1 and 2, also known as human herpesvirus 1 and 2. Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 are found everywhere and contagious. Rabbits are naturally susceptible to HSV-1.[2]:258


  • acute conjunctivitis
  • signs of central nervous system (CNS) dysfunction: circling, ataxia, seizures, and/or powerful spasms that cause backward arching of the head, neck, and spine (ospthisthotonus).

Extra resources

Leporid herpesvirus 1 and 3

Both LHV-1 and LHV-3 were isolated from primary kidney cell cultures of weanling cottontail rabbits. They belong to the subfamily Gammaherpesvirinae. Although H. sylvilagus replicates in kidney cells prepared from the domestic rabbit, attempts to infect New Zealand rabbits with the virus have been unsuccessful.[2]:258 No attempts to infect domestic rabbits with LHV-1 have been reported.

Leporid herpesvirus 4

Main article: Leporid herpesvirus 4

Leporid herpesvirus 4 (LHV-4) is a novel alphaherpesvirus identified in domestic rabbits O. cuniculus. It belongs to the genus Simplex of the subfamily Alphaherpesvirinae. The disease is characterized by a sudden onset with mortality rates up to 30%, mostly among young rabbits.[2]:258

Further reading

See also


  1. Quesenberry, K., & Carpenter, J. (2012). Ferrets, rabbits, and rodents: Clinical medicine and surgery. (3rd ed.).
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Barthold, S. W., Griffey, S. M., & Percy, D. H. (2016). Pathology of laboratory rodents and rabbits. (4th ed.).