A-z - Animals

Hare

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The hare is one of the fastest land mammals in the world.

That speed is absolutely critical to its survival. Lacking any other strong defenses, hares are timid little creatures that can run past predators with incredible speed and stamina. Hares are a very common sight, but many fall prey to ferocious predators or human hunters before dying of natural causes.

hare 1

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3 Hare Facts

  • The hare is an animal that holds an important place in the mythology and folklore of human societies around the world. The legend of the White Rabbit, in which the spirit of a woman takes the form of a hare and haunts the earth at night, is a central pillar of some British folklore. These animals are also common subjects in literature and art, including Alice in Wonderland. In some traditions it is portrayed as a liar.
  • Hares are nocturnal animals, awake at night and sleeping during the day.
  • A hare's front teeth never stop growing throughout its life. Animals must grind down their teeth by chewing grass.

scientific name

Hares are not a single species, but an entire genus called Lepus (which is the Latin name for hare). As you probably already know, genus is the level of scientific classification directly above species. There are about 30 species of Lepus. There is a fair amount of popular confusion between the three terms hare, jackrabbit, and rabbit. Hare and jackrabbit are interchangeable terms to describe the same thing, but the word rabbit applies to an entirely different genus of animals. To add to the confusion, five species of rabbits are actually called hares, including the endangered Nepalese wire rabbit and Africa's red rock rabbit.

hare and rabbit

Both hares and rabbits belong to the family Leporidae and order Lagomorpha (although they were once considered rodents). The main differences are that hares have larger ears, a more solitary lifestyle, and a tendency to give birth to young on the ground rather than in burrows. Since the cubs lack protection, they must be prepared to fend for themselves immediately after birth. Another difference is that wild rabbits have longer muscle fibers, which are better suited for long-distance running.

These animals have a rather distinctive appearance, characterized by extremely long ears, long hind legs, short snouts, large eyes, and a stocky body. They are often decorated in white, black, gray, tan, or reddish-orange to blend in with their surroundings. Some species turn white in winter, or remain white year-round, as a form of camouflage in the snow. To change color, these hares molt in the spring.



Hares differ from rabbits in that they have larger ears, a more solitary lifestyle, and give birth on the ground rather than in burrows.

©Anneli Salo/Creative Commons

evolution

Hares and hares are thought to be descended from the ground-dwelling ancestor Hsiannania . This creature is native to China and lived during the Paleocene period of China. The animal was found in a handful of tooth and jawbone artifacts, but they can definitely be considered to have originated in Asia.

type of hare

There are about 40 species of hares in the world. They are grouped into three distinct genera: Lepus, Caprolagus, and Pronolagus. Here are the 32 species of hares:

  • Abyssinian hare – native to East Africa. Silver gray with black patches.
  • African Savannah Hare – Native to Africa. Taupe, with reddish-brown markings.
  • Alaskan hare – Native to Alaska. Do not dig holes.
  • Antelope Jackrabbit – Native to Arizona and Mexico. One of the largest breeds with large ears.
  • Arctic hare – native to the Arctic Circle. They have thick coats and burrows to keep them warm.
  • black jackrabbit
  • black tailed jackrabbit
  • broom rabbit
  • Burmese hare
  • Cape Hare – Native to Africa, India and Arabia.
  • Chinese hare – Native to China, Taiwan and Vietnam.
  • corsican hare
  • Desert hare – Native to the United States and Mexico. Habitat is desert area. Huge ears help them stay cool in the heat.
  • Ethiopian hare – Native to Ethiopia.
  • Ethiopian Highland Hare – Native to the Ethiopian highlands.
  • European hare – Native to parts of Europe and Asia. The most common species in Europe. Habitat is open area.
  • Granada hare – native to the Iberian Peninsula.
  • Hainan Rabbit – native to Hainan Island, China. Weighs up to 3.3 lbs with a colorful coat.
  • Indian hare – Native to India, there are seven subspecies. Status: No worries.
  • Japanese Hare – Native to Japan. Habitats are hills, forests and bushes.
  • korean hare
  • Manchurian Rabbit – Native to China and Russia.
  • Mountain rabbit – native to Russia and northern Europe. Oversized coats change with the seasons.
  • frosted bunny
  • Snowshoe Rabbit – Native to North America. Coat changes color with the seasons.
  • Tehuantepec hare
  • Tolly Hare
  • White-sided Jackrabbit – Native to North America and Mexico.
  • White-tailed Jackrabbit – Native to North America and Canada.
  • Hairy Rabbit – Native to China, India and Nepal.
  • Shache hare – native to the Tarim Basin in China. Straight fit coat with gray and black stripes. Status: Endangered.
  • Yunnan hare
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snowshoe rabbit
The snowshoe hare is one of more than 40 species of hare.

© FotoRequest/Shutterstock.com

appearance and behavior

The hare is the largest animal in the order Lagomorpha. They are even larger than the closely related rabbits and pikas. They are about 16 to 28 inches long from head to tail, making them slightly larger than a typical house cat. The body is equipped with six-inch feet and eight-inch ears. The heaviest species is the arctic hare, weighing about 11 pounds. Males are called Jack, while females are called Jill. Both are very similar in size and appearance, although the females are indeed larger, which is unusual for mammals.

These solitary animals tend to form small pairs or family units called herds. The only time they will congregate among other hares is to find a suitable mate. Unlike rabbits, they tend to live exclusively on the ground. If they need to seek safety, they usually hide in grass or bushes.

While they may not look like it, hares are remarkably built creatures with highly developed senses of hearing, smell, and vision. Their wide viewing angles allow them to detect predators from anywhere in their surroundings except for a small blind spot in front of their noses. They also produce pheromones from scent glands, which may play a role in mating. Some species are capable of short bursts of 40 to 50 MPH, and more steady speeds of around 30 MPH. They can leap up to 10 feet in the air thanks to their powerful hind limbs. They are also excellent swimmers and can cross rivers and large bodies of water with no problem.

Hare runs in the winter forest
In the order Lagomorpha, hares are the largest group of animals.

© Volodymyr Burdiak/Shutterstock.com

long ears

Hares have impressively large ears. In terms of size, they were probably the largest of all living mammals. People think they have long ears for two different reasons. First, the ears allow them to hear sounds coming from almost any direction. Second, the ears serve to dissipate body heat and keep the hare cool, especially during the warmer months of the year. This is critical to the survival of the animals, which cannot sweat or pant to dissipate heat. In fact, when light shines through the ear, you can sometimes see its dense patchwork of blood vessels inside, which expand in the heat to lower body temperature.

Habitat

These animals have a natural distribution in Europe, Asia, Africa and North America. Due to the large number of habitats to which this genus is adapted, each species inhabits a different geographic range. The snowshoe hare is a well-known species found in the mountains from Alaska to California and Nevada. As the name suggests, the African hare inhabits most of Africa. The arctic hare is one of the few species adapted to the extreme cold of northern Canada and Greenland.

The European hare — inhabiting Siberia in Europe, the Middle East, and the Far East — is probably the most common species of hare in the world. In recent centuries it has been introduced as hunting game to Australia, New Zealand, South America and parts of North America. But after spreading out of control, the species is now considered a pest in many parts of the world as it consumes crops and outcompetes native species.

Wherever they are found, these animals prefer open plains such as grasslands, grasslands, deserts, tundra, and savannas. Although this sometimes exposes them to predators, their incredible speed often allows them to escape even on relatively flat ground. If hiding is needed, hares will hide in grass, bushes or hollows. Only a few species live in more forested areas.

diet

Rabbits are herbivores and feed mainly on grasses in the wild. Complement with nuts, fruits, vegetables and fungi. Grass is composed of tough cellulose, which is extremely difficult to digest. Because these animals do not have the multi-chambered stomachs of cattle, deer and other ruminants, it is believed that they have evolved to eat their own feces, which contain many undigested nutrients. This gives them a second chance to digest any nutrients left in their food.

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what do hares eat
Hares eat herbs, grasses, twigs and shrub bark.

© AZ-Animals.com

Predators and Threats

Hares are natural prey for many of the world's big cats, birds and reptiles. Snow hares are the most common prey of the mighty bobcat. The species goes through an unusual boom/bust cycle in which numbers decline due to overhunting and then slowly begin to recover. This cycle occurs over the normal 8 to 11 year time span. Meanwhile, brown and European rabbits are prey to foxes. Other common predators include bobcats, hawks, hawks, snowy owls, wolves, coyotes, bears, and even weasels.

Wild rabbits have traditionally been a common food source for people, and today they remain one of the most hunted animals. Most hunting is done responsibly. A bigger threat, however, is habitat loss and fragmentation, which is causing population declines around the world.

lynx in the log
Bobcats are common predators of hares.

©Don Mammoser/Shutterstock.com

Reproduction, Babies and Longevity

The breeding season for hares is competitive and energetic. Males will fight each other for access to a female, and the female will force the male to chase her, testing his stamina and determination. This also helps keep the animal healthy. If the female isn't ready to mate at all, she may punch the male in the face harshly. Breeding seasons for hares vary by species. Some species can breed any time of year, while others only breed in spring and summer.

Both hares and rabbits are known for their high reproductive rates. Females can usually give birth to 1 to 8 young (rarely as many as 15) in a litter, with up to 3 litters per year. The number of young usually depends on the abundance of food. Mothers usually carry their babies for about 40 days. Young hares hiding in tall grass or depressions, also known as bunny bunnies, are born with their eyes open and their fur fully grown. They are able to start jumping within minutes of emerging from the womb. This is because they will not have the protection of the larger group. The mother herself visits the children only once a day, for a short time, usually to nurse them.

Weaning usually begins around 10 days after birth and lasts up to 23 days. Although they become functionally independent shortly after birth, it takes about one to two years for most hare breeds to reach sexual maturity. Typical lifespan in the wild is four to eight years. If the hare avoids disease and predation, the maximum possible lifespan is about 12 years.

Wild European hare sitting in a clover field
Young hares, also known as bunny bunnies, are born with their eyes open and their fur fully grown.

©Liga Gabrane/Shutterstock.com

population

Most hare species appear to be in relatively healthy condition. Most hare species are currently listed as being of least concern, according to the IUCN Red List, which tracks the conservation status of many animals. Some species, such as Corsican hares, jackrabbits, and black jackrabbits, are vulnerable. The Hainan rabbit in Hainan, China, and the Tehuantepec jackrabbit in Mexico are both endangered. No exact population numbers are available, but some species appear to be in decline due to agriculture and other habitat loss.

What Jackrabbits Eat - European Hare
The IUCN Red List lists hares as a species of least concern.

©iStock.com/MriyaWildlife

human consumption

For centuries, hare meat and hare blood have been used worldwide as a source of protein. Hares are ubiquitous and plentiful, which is why hunting is unregulated compared to other game. They are also used for sport hunting in the US, many European countries and the UK.

Compared to beef, lamb/goat, turkey, or even chicken, hare is lower in fat and is therefore not considered a good survival food. However, lean meat does make it a healthy choice, as it is a great source of protein. Here are some nutritional facts about wild rabbit meat (per 100 grams), which yields 173 calories when eaten:

  • Protein: 100 grams of meat contains 33 grams of protein, which can meet 66% of the daily protein required by the human body.
  • Fat: Contains only 3.5 grams of fat and 1.1 grams of saturated fat.
  • Cholesterol: 123 mg can be found in 100 g of meat.
  • Vitamins: Good source of B vitamins.
  • Minerals: Contains iron, potassium and sodium.

How to Cook a Hare

Typically, hare is cooked on a spit, grilled, baked or fried to make sandwiches or serve with sauces. Here are some popular recipes from around the world:

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Rabbit stew

All over the world, especially in Europe, hare meat is slow cooked with various vegetables such as onions, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, celery, garlic, and sprinkled with regional sauces and spices.

  • In Italy, agrodolce sauce is used to make stews, a sweet sauce made from wine, raisins and pine nuts, sugar, vinegar, and bitter chocolate.
  • In Germany, England, France, wine and rabbit blood are used to thicken gravy or sauces.
  • Other ingredients such as dry white wine, sour cream, bacon, eggs, garlic, mushrooms, etc. are also used locally to create delicious dishes.

Other uses

Jugging Hare: The blood of hares is collected in a process called jugging. The blood is then used to cook the rabbit and thicken the gravy or sauce. The hare is first skinned and eviscerated, then the hare is hung upside down so that all the blood pools in the chest cavity. Hares can be hung for long periods of time to collect blood. That's why it's mixed with red wine to keep it from setting and chilled.

Their pelts were and are used by native peoples living in the Americas, Europe, and arctic regions to make winter clothing.

The hare of global myth and folklore

In many cultures and folklore, hares are regarded as heralds of prosperity, fertility, and abundance. They were also seen as representations of the moon god, resurrection and rebirth. Here are some facts that will interest you:

Celtic Myth: The Celts regarded hares as a connector to the other world, and eating them was forbidden. Celtic mythology is full of stories of shape-shifting rabbits becoming humans.

Native Americans: Many Native Americans viewed hares as creators, probably because of their propensity to reproduce so quickly, and worshiped them.

Egyptians: The Egyptians saw the hare as a representation of fertility and immortality.

Africa: Native Africans view hares as liars who survive by exercising their wits.

Greek: In Greek mythology, hares are associated with Eros and Aphrodite, and they were considered romantic gifts for partners and potential love interests.

East Asia: In Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Korea, Cambodia, and India, the hare is considered a moon god. The Chinese regard the hare as the companion of the moon goddess Chang'e.

The Mid-Autumn Festival in Asia is a festival to worship the moon god, which originated from the legend of the moon god.

Another great example of a celebratory hare is the Easter bunny, which represents the beginning of spring and is essentially a celebration of fertility, rebirth and reproduction.

See all 104 animals that start with H

Rabbits and hares can sometimes be difficult to tell apart, but you can recognize hares by their larger size, giant ears, and tendency to live in pairs rather than large herds. Another difference is the tendency to give birth on the ground rather than in burrows. Wild rabbits also produce offspring that can survive independently from the moment of birth.

Despite their similar appearance, hares and rabbits are not genetically compatible. Too much time has passed on an evolutionary scale since they shared a "last common ancestor" from which both lineages diverged. They also have different numbers of chromosomes, which makes them completely incompatible. To understand why this is the case, just consider this fact. A species is usually defined as a discrete breeding population capable of reciprocally producing viable offspring. In contrast, hares and rabbits belong to completely different genera. This will be the difference between a domestic cat and a tiger.

Unlike rabbits, hares have not been domesticated by humans and do not make good pets. They are quite timid and irritable and need plenty of space to run around.

Currently, hares occupy every continent in the world except Antarctica. They originally evolved in North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa, but were later introduced to South America and Australia.

Wild rabbits eat mostly grass, sometimes mixed with fruits, vegetables, nuts and fungi.

Sea hares are not hares at all. It's actually a mollusc.

Hares belong to the animal kingdom.

Hares belong to the class Mammalia.

Hares belong to the phylum Chordate.

Hares belong to the family Lagodae.

Hares belong to the order Lagomorpha.

The hare is covered with fur.

The hare belongs to the genus Lepus.

Predators of hares include owls, hawks and coyotes.

The average number of babies a hare has is 6.

The scientific name of the hare is Lepus.

Wild rabbits can live from 2 to 8 years.

Hares can travel as fast as 45 miles per hour.