Abstract The report demonstrates that the induction of apoptosis in peripheral blood granulocytes and lymphocytes of rabbits infected with three non-haemagglutinating RHDV strains (English Rainham, German Frankfurt, and Spanish Asturias) is a crucial determinant of the pathogenesis of rabbit haemorrhagic disease. Apoptosis was measured by flow cytometric detection of caspase activity. These studies demonstrated that the investigated RHDV (rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus) viral strains affected leukocyte apoptosis to varying degrees. Enhanced leukocyte apoptosis was detected between 4 and 36h after infection and was more pronounced in lymphocytes than in granulocytes. The data presented here thus provide a preliminary understanding of the kinetics of apoptosis in leukocytes of rabbits infected with RHDV.