Rabbits and Hares
Questions & Answers
Rabbits and hares are among most amazing
and interesting animals. There are many different types or
rabbits and hares with many distinctive features. On this
Rabbit & Hare Q&A
page we are answering common questions about rabbits and
hares. Do not hesitate to send us other questions to
firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy and
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Arctic Hare page and official
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Selected Species Complete Taxonomy
Who are rabbits and hares?Rabbits and hares are small mammals with long front teeth, fluffy short tails, and long hind legs they use for hopping and jumping.
Rabbits are furry-coated and short-tailed mammals. They have long ears and long back legs for running and jumping. Rabbits are herbivores with long front teeth for gnawing. Some make burrows or tunnels in the ground. Rabbits are smaller and have shorter ears than their hare relatives. A hare (pronounced hair) also has long, strong back legs. Unlike rabbits, their young are born with their eyes open and they live above ground.Rabbits and hares are common names, often applied interchangeably, for small, furry mammals with long ears and legs, and short tails. In zoological classification, rabbits are distinguished by the helplessness of their offspring. Young rabbits are born naked with their eyes closed. With the exception of North America's cottontail, rabbits live in underground burrow colonies. The cottontail builds its simple nest on the surface, usually in grass or brush, and rarely lives in social groups. Hares are generally larger and have longer ears with characteristic black markings. The skulls of rabbits and hares are also different.
Both rabbits and hares are distributed throughout the world and possess some common traits. They are often mistaken for each other. Various species and subspecies of rabbits and hares are found in brushy woods, plains and grasslands, mountains, deserts, around rivers and wetlands, and even in the Arctic tundra and snow. Both breed prolifically, bearing four to eight litters each year. A litter of rabbits generally has three to eight young. They have a gestation period of about a month, are sexually mature in about six months, and live in the wild for about six years. Domestic rabbits may live to be over ten years old. Although rabbits and hares are valued as game by hunters both for their food and fur, they are also are pests to farmers and gardeners. They can destroy crops and trees.
Are rabbits and hares related?
Rabbits and hares belong to the same order,
Lagomorpha, which also includes
pikas. The order goes back at least 55 million years.
Are rabbits rodents?
No, Lagomorpha are different from rodents, for instance by having four incisors (two on top and two on bottom) instead of rodent's two.
What is the difference between rabbit and hare?Usually hares are larger than rabbits, have larger ears and hind legs. Hares are born with full coat of fur and opened eyes, rabbits are born blind and without fur.
Hares and have longer hind legs then rabbits and longer ears with characteristic black markings. The skulls of rabbits and hares are also different. Rabbit's fur coat remains its color year-round, while hares change color from grayish brown in summer to white in winter.
Rabbits and hares usually live in different arias. Another difference between rabbits and hares is their diet. Rabbits prefer soft stems, grass or vegetables, hares eat more hard food: bark and rind, buds, small twigs and shoot.
Can rabbits be domesticated?
European Rabbits are the
only domesticated rabbits. Variety of breeds exist, most larger than
wild rabbits, their fur thickness, color and size vary
What was the oldest known rabbit?A rabbit-like fossil dated 55 million years back was found in Mongolia. A creature had long hind limbs and was very close to a modern day rabbit. Some differences include a long tail and squirrel-like teeth. This finding further supports an idea that rabbit family might exists for about 65 million years or more. More from BBC...
Which well-known "rabbit" is a hare?Jack rabbit is actually a common hare. This is the fastest hare and faster than any rabbit (and one of the fastest land animals). It can reach speed up to 50 mph.
"I measured the leaps of one and found them twenty-one feet. They appear to run with more ease and to bound with greater agility than any animal I ever saw."óLewisís journal, September 14, 1804
Can rabbits attack people?
Typically not. Rabbits are usually tame and nice. However, U.S. President, and 2002 Nobel Prize winner Jimmy Carter was attacked by a hare (thought to be a swamp rabbit) while sitting in the boat in a middle of the lake. The event was documented on the photograph.
Where can I find additional information?
There are many
resources about rabbits available on the Internet.
the Internet for your specific question, also try
House Rabbit Society
Send rabbit postcards (House Rabbit Society)
http://www.rabbit.org/-info on house rabbitshttp://www.animalinfo.org/species/caprhisp.htm
http://www.orcca.on.ca/~elena/useful/bunnies.html information on the difference of a rabbits and a hares
This hare changes its coat two times a year, exchanging a thin brown summer coat for a heavy, white, fluffy winter coat. These different colored fur coats help the hare blend in with its surroundings. In the summer, the snowshoe hare is rusty brown with black on the top of the tail and ear tips; grayish-white on its underside. This blends well with summer twigs and leaves. In fall, the new winter white coat comes in; starting with the ears and feet. This transformation to white takes about 10 weeks. The white blends in and hides the snowshoe hare in the snow-covered woodlands. Some people call this animal the "varying hare" because of this seasonal color change.
Hares are most active at dusk and dawn. They do not dig burrows or build nests but use natural shelters and depressions and rest under branches or bushes. The snowshoe hare travels about on well-established trails or runways which become deeply worn in the snow or forest floor. It is interesting that the winter trails through the deep snow follow the summer pathways.
The chief wild rabbit of North America is the cottontail of the genus Sylvilagus. They feed on a wide variety of plant materialógrasses, buds, twigs, and leaves in the summer and spruce twigs and needles, bark, and buds of hardwood such as aspen and willow in the winter. Its name is derived from the white undersurface of its short tail, which resembles a puff of cotton. The cottontail is noted for remaining motionless to avoid notice when it senses danger. These rabbits, which swim well, also evade enemies by plunging into lakes or streams.Cottontail rabbits are active all year long, foraging mainly at night. During the day they remain concealed in dense brush, protected from predators and harsh weather. In times of extreme weather conditions or to escape predators, rabbits will readily utilize an abandoned woodchuck burrow for protection. A rabbit's home range varies greatly with the quality of habitat, but generally averages about three acres for females and eight acres for males. Cottontails have very keen sight and hearing. When danger is sensed, the animal will usually freeze in place until the danger has passed, but they will flush readily if approached too closely.
Rabbits normally move slowly in short hops or jumps, but when frightened they can achieve speeds up to 18 miles per hour over a short distance. They often zigzag to confuse a pursuing predator. Although they do not take to the water often, rabbits are good swimmers. They will thump the ground with their hind feet regularly, probably as a means of communication. When playing, breeding, or fighting they often make low purring, growling, or grunting sounds. If captured by a predator, the animal may produce a loud, shrill scream.
Food: In summer, cottontails feed almost entirely on tender grasses and herbs; crops such as peas, beans, and lettuce are also eaten. In winter, bark, twigs, and buds of shrubs and young trees are eaten. Rabbits will also re-ingest their own fecal pellets, increasing their level of vitamins and minerals.
Because of its high productivity
rate, the cottontail rabbit is an important link in the food
chain and a principle prey item for many species. It is also
a popular game species throughout its range. Depending on
its availability, the cottontail can be considered a buffer
prey species, meaning if rabbit numbers are high, predators
will concentrate on them, thus reducing the pressure on
other prey species.
Photo: Eastern Cottontail
Normally shy animals, hares change their behavior in spring, when they can be seen in broad daylight chasing one another around meadows; this appears to be competition between males to attain dominance (and hence more access to breeding females). During this spring frenzy, hares can be seen "boxing". This is where hares strike one another with their paws. For a long time it had been thought that this was more inter-male competition, but closer observation has revealed that it is usually a female hitting a male, either to show that she is not yet quite ready to mate or as a test of his determination.
Photo: European Hare from the Hilton Pond.
The Alaskan hare (Lepus othus), also called the tundra hare, populates much of the western coast of Alaska, including the Alaska Peninsula, but has a spotty distribution along the Arctic coast and the north slope of the Brooks Range. These hares are closely related to the arctic, snow shoe, and mountain hares.The Alaskan hare is generally found on windswept, rocky slopes and upland tundra, often in groups. These big hares usually avoid lowlands and wooded areas. They feed on willow shoots and various dwarf arctic plants.
Photo: Alaskan Hare from the Univercity of Alaska MuseumSumatran rabbit (Nesolagus netscheri) is probably the rarest rabbit. It lives in the Barisan Mountains forest of Sumatra, Indonesia. Until recently there was only one confirmed sighting (in 1972) since 1916 of this rabbit. In 1997 - 1998 the rabbit was photographed via photo trapping. It is so rare that local people are said to be unaware of its existence and have no name for it.
This rabbit is 35-40 cm long, with gray soft fur striped with brown color. It has a small red tail, its ears are shorter than , other rabbits'. it is completely nocturnal.
In 1999 a new species of a rabbit similar to Sumatran rabbit (bold stripes, red tail) was spotted in the Annamite mountain between Laos and Vietnam.
Photo: Sumatran rabbit from the NatureWatch.orghare is living in southern Himalayan mountain chain and was thought extinct in 1964 until spotted again in 1966. An estimated population in 2001 was 110 hares. Very little is known about these animals. The hispid hare usually eats bark, shoots and roots of grasses, including thatch species, and occasionally crops. The hispid hare is a brown hare. Unfortunately this hare is on the endangered list. Only about 100 are known to exist. The hispid hare weighs 2 - 2.5 kg (4.5 - 5.5 lb) and its length is about 38 - 50 cm (15 - 20").
Marsh rabbits have dark brown coats and white bellies. Their ears are relatively short, but wide. They can walk on their hind legs, which are shorter than those of their cousins. They live near water and flee there in case of any danger. They can float in the water with their eyes and noses outside.
Photo and information: the Wildlife of the Alligator River.Amami rabbits live on isolated Ryukyu islands in Japan. It looks different from an ordinary rabbit or hare with its short rounded ears and short legs. It is known to make pika-like sounds. Amami rabbits are nocturnal and live deep in the forest. It is brown in color and has no tail. Amami rabbits are endangered species. More from BBC...
Pygmy rabbit is the smallest rabbit (and Leporid) living in North America. It is one of only to American rabbit species digging its own borrow. These rabbits look very differently from their American cousins, among the distinctive features are small size, short ears and hind legs, grey color (no white tale). Pygmy rabbits are totally dependent on one specific plant, sagebrush for food, especially during winter time. They are federally endangered species.
We have an entire page on this hare.
Leporidae contains eleven genera of rabbit and hares including Lepus (common
hare or jackrabbit) with about 30 species, Sylvilagus (cottontail rabbit) with
13 species and others with 1 to 3 species in each genera.
Common Hares/Jackrabbits (Lepus)
Antelope jackrabbit (Lepus alleni) - Southern Arizona, Northwest Mexico (NORTH AMERICA)
PoecilolagusSnowshoe hare (Lepus americanus) - NORTH AMERICA
Arctic hare (Lepus arcticus)
- Nothern Canada, Newfoundland (NORTH AMERICA), Greenland
Black jackrabbit (Lepus insularis) - Baja California
(Mexico, NORTH AMERICA)
Broom hare (Lepus castroviejoi) - Northern Spain (EUROPE)
Ethiopian hare (Lepus fagani) - Ethiopia (AFRICA)
Hainan hare (Lepus hainanus) - Hainan Island, Southern China
Chinese hare (Lepus sinensis) - Korea, Eastern China (ASIA)
Yarkand hare (Lepus yarkandensis) - Southern Sinkiang, China (ASIA)
European rabbit (Orytolagus)European (Orytolagus cuniculus) - native to Southern EUROPE <THIS SPECIES HAS BEEN DOMESTICATED>
Hispid hares (Caprolagus)Hispid (Caprolagus hispidus) - India, Nepal, Bangladesh (ASIA) <ONE OF THE RAREST HARES>
Cottontail Rabbits (Sylvilagus)Audubon's or Desert cottontail (Sylvilagus audubonii) - USA and Northern Mexico (NORTH AMERICA)
Brush rabbit (Sylvilagus bachmani) - Western coast of NORTH AMERICA
Dice's cottontail (Sylvilagus dicei)
Eastern cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) - Southwest USA, Southern Canada, Eastern Mexico and Central America (NORTH AMERICA) <MOST COMMON NEW WORLD COTTONTAIL>
Marsh rabbit (Sylvilagus palustris)
Mexican cottontail (Sylvilagus cunicularius)
Mountain cottontail (Sylvilagus nuttallii)
New England cottontail (Sylvilagus transitionalis)
Omilteme cottontail (Sylvilagus insonus) - found only at Sierra Madre del Sur, Mexico (NORTH AMERICA) <CRITICALLY ENDANGERED, HAD NOT BEEN RECORDED SINCE the 60s)
San Jose Brush rabbit (Sylvilagus mansuetus)
Swamp rabbit (Sylvilagus aquaticus) - swamps of Southern USA (NORTH AMERICA)
Tapeti or Forest or Brazilian (Sylvilagus brasiliensis) - CENTRAL and SOUTH AMERICA
Tres Marias cottontail (Sylvilagus graysoni)
Sumatran Rabbits (Nesolagus)
Sumatran Short Eared or Sumatran Striped (Nesolagus
netscheri) - Western Sumatra, Indonesia (ASIA)
Pygmy Rabbits (Brachylagus)Pygmy (idahoensis) <WORLD'S SMALLEST RABBIT>
Riverine rabbits (Bunolagus)Riverine or Bushman (monticularis) - South AFRICA <ONE OF THE RAREST RABBITS>
Ryu Kyu rabbits (Pentalagus)Amami (furnessi) - Ryukyu islands, Japan (ASIA)
African harsh-furred hares (Poelagus)Bunoyoro or Central African (marjorita) - Central AFRICA
Rock hares (Pronolagus)Natal red (Pronolagus crassicaudatus) - Southern and Eastern AFRICA
Jameson's red (Pronolagus randensis) - Southern and Eastern AFRICA
Smith's red (Pronolagus rupstris) - Southern and Eastern AFRICA
Volcano Rabbits (Romerolagus)Volcano (diazi) - Mexico (NORTH AMERICA) <WORLD'S SECOND SMALLEST RABBIT, MAKES HIGH-PITCHED SOUND
Last modified on 1/15/06