Among domesticated traits, pre-harvest sprouting (PHS) caused by the early breakage of dormancy leads to severe economic losses. Therefore, regulating PHS is important for cereal crop improvement against changes in climate. In this study, we surveyed naturally occurring variations in seed germination in diverse rice germplasm for the available resources of this trait, and investigated the changes of abscisic acid (ABA) levels during grain development by the distinguished PHS-resistant groups. We discovered wide variations in germination among the 205 rice accessions examined and found that 90 accessions are resistant (germination <20%) to PHS. Tropical and subtropical accessions, which are subjected to long wet periods, are more resistant to PHS than the other accessions. We detected an increase in germination of detached seeds from the panicle compared with intact seeds in panicle at harvesting time. This might be attributed to a weakening of the mechanical barrier that prevents water imbibition and radical emergence. ABA levels were maximal at 10 d after flowering and decreased thereafter. Interestingly, PHS-susceptible accessions maintained higher or similar ABA levels compared with PHS-resistant accessions, suggesting that the key factors for seed dormancy and its breakage are ABA perception and signal transduction rather than total ABA content. The diversity of germination ability detected in this study could be sustainably used for crop improvement and to help unveil the genetic and physiological basis of this quantitative trait.