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What are Some Characteristics of Hares?

Michael Anissimov
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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Hares are leoporids — which means they are members of family Leporidae, which also includes jackrabbits and rabbits — in the genus Lepus. Hares and jackrabbits are both members of the same genus, separated only by the fact that jackrabbits are North American, while hares make up the rest of the range. Both animals can be found throughout Europe and the Americas, as well as parts of Africa and Asia. Hares are rare in Australia, and like other terrestrial vertebrates, cannot be found in Antarctica. The animals and jackrabbits are also members of order Lagomorpha, which also includes pikas, but not rodents.

Hares are similar to their cousins the rabbits, but with several important differences. While rabbits dig burrows, these animals don't, living instead on the open ground. This is reflected in their stronger build, as running from predators is their only way to safety. They can approach speeds of 72 km/h (45 mph) for short bursts, significantly faster than most other animals. Their hind legs are much stronger than those of a rabbit. Another characteristic difference is the hare's ears, which are much larger and longer than a rabbit's, and generally larger than the hare's head. Using these, a hare can hear a predator coming from a mile away.

Unlike rabbits, hares are precocial, meaning their young are born fully furred and with open eyes. The life expectancy of wild hares is between 3 and 5 years, depending on the species and environmental conditions. They are usually grey-brown, except for some northern species that have a white coat during the winter, to blend in with the snow. They are the most successful lagomorph when it comes to colonizing the far north and mountainous habitats, as is reflected in animals like the Arctic Hare and Mountain Hare.

Instead of burrows, these animals live in grassy depressions called forms. They usually don't stray very far from the form, scavenging food like grass, leafy weeds, and low-lying herbaceous plants. In this respect their diet is similar to a rabbit's. They have been a part of human culture and knowledge for millennia, as is reflected in their role in various stories as tricksters, as well as an artistic motif of three hares with adjoining ears found across diverse cultures and times.

All Things Nature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Anissimov
By Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov is a dedicated All Things Nature contributor and brings his expertise in paleontology, physics, biology, astronomy, chemistry, and futurism to his articles. An avid blogger, Michael is deeply passionate about stem cell research, regenerative medicine, and life extension therapies. His professional experience includes work with the Methuselah Foundation, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and Lifeboat Foundation, further showcasing his commitment to scientific advancement.
Discussion Comments
By fify — On Jul 11, 2011

@burcidi-- Is that the kind of hare that grows to huge numbers every ten years and then goes down again because of predators?

I remember a unique cycle being mentioned about a type of hare that multiply in the hundreds every ten years. Scientists weren't able to figure out why this was happening and why the cycle repeated every ten years.

If it's the same type of hare you have near where you live, I think you will notice it.

By burcidi — On Jul 11, 2011

We have snowshoe hares in the forests behind our house. They are so amazing because they keep changing their color between seasons. I used to think that it was a different type of hare emerging in winter but the veterinarian that takes care of our horses told me that it's the same hares we see in the summertime.

I've also seen the baby hares in the forest! They are really adorable. There are a lot of them since the female hares have about four every year. And those little ones start hopping around and fending for themselves after one month!

By SteamLouis — On Jul 10, 2011

My dad breeds Belgian hares. They are pretty large, about eight or nine pounds each but look very bony and thin. They are also fearful, they run away when a stranger comes close to them and stress out if we move them somewhere else. They eat a lot too! My dad has to put in a lot of effort to keep them healthy and happy.

Are the other hare types similar to the Belgian hare? We don't have other kinds of hares on our farm so I'm curious to know if they are all the same way.

By anon54072 — On Nov 26, 2009

We have a pet hare which we caught on our farm. It has been injured (probably shot) and has only one ear and is blind in the same side eye.

He hops around our backyard, being protected from cats by our cocker spaniel dog.

Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov is a dedicated All Things Nature contributor and brings his expertise in paleontology, physics,...
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