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What is a Hare?

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Hares are small, fast-running mammals in the genus Lepus, family Leporidae, order Lagomorpha, with long ears and legs, big hind paws, a short and bushy tail, and young born with fur and eyes open. All other Leporidae members are known as rabbits, and they are differentiated from hares by shorter ears and smaller size, as well as the fact that their young are born without fur and with closed eyes (Angerbjörn 2004). The pikas of the family Ochotonidae are also classified as Lagomorphs. True hares (genus Lepus) are also known as jackrabbits and have the common name rabbit.

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Hare Animal Classification

  • Kingdom:  Animalia

  • Phylum: Chordata

  • Class: Mammalia

  • Order: Lagomorpha

  • Family: Leporidae

  • Genus: Lepus

Despite their scientific classification as rabbits, certain Leporidae members outside the Lepus genus—notably the hispid hares of the Coprolagus genus and the red-rock-hares of the Pronolagus genus—are given the common name "hare." The focus of this article will be on the Lepus genus.


Some of the adaptations that help hares survive and reproduce also contribute to their importance to the environment and to humans. Hares are important components of many food chains due to their high reproductive rate, as they provide food for foxes, raptors, lynxes, ferrets, and raccoons. The hare's fur has traditionally been valuable in the fur trade, their protein-rich meat is common in areas where they live, and their elusiveness adds to the thrill of sport hunting. Hares appear often in folklore, but unlike the domestic European rabbit, they are rarely kept as pets.


Home of Hare

Hares and rabbits can be found in most parts of the world, including Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas, but not in Australia, New Zealand, or other Oceania islands, Madagascar, southern South America, or the majority of Amazonia. Hares and rabbits have also been introduced to Australia, New Zealand, Java, South America, and over 500 oceanic islands. Argentina, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, Scandinavia, and southern Siberia have all earned European hares.


Hares prefer open areas, which can range from arctic tundra to deserts to grasslands, due to their speed. European hares live in open areas ranging from arid steppes to woodland steppes. They can elude predators in such a setting by running quickly, but they also use their brown or grey fur to blend in with shrubs and rocks for camouflage. Although most rabbits prefer to hide in the trees and shrubs, and hares prefer open areas, the snowshoe hare, as well as some mountain hares and Manchurian hares, prefer mixed or coniferous forests.


In comparison to most rabbits, which live underground in burrows or warrens, homes of hares are typically simple nests above ground (an interconnected maze of burrows). 


Hare Characteristics

Hares live solitary lives for the most part, though they may congregate during mating season. A party of hares is referred to as a "drove of hares." Males and females are promiscuous, mating with separate individuals rather than forming long-term pair bonds.


Normally a timid animal, the European brown hare's behaviour changes in the spring, when hares can be seen chasing one another across meadows in broad daylight; this tends to be a battle between males for dominance (and hence more access to breeding females). Hares can be seen "boxing" during this spring frenzy, with one hare punching another with its paws (probably the origin of the term "mad as a March hare"). For a long time, it was assumed that this was inter-male rivalry, but closer inspection has shown that it is normally a female hitting a male, which is thought to indicate either that she is not yet ready to mate or to put his resolve to the test.


Rabbits, on the other hand, prefer to remain in the vicinity of secure hiding places in home ranges or territories and to avoid predation by running into burrows and holes. Hares can fly long distances and have wide home ranges, and they tend to escape predators by running away. To alert predators, several species of hares and rabbits make alarm calls or thump their hind feet. Hares and rabbits have wide, laterally set eyes that provide a nearly circular field of vision, allowing them to detect motion and avoid predators.


Hares have a keen sense of smell and communicate primarily through their sense of smell. They rub pheromones on their fur during grooming and leave scent traces on rocks or shrubs, or they use urine or faeces to leave scent markings, using glands on their cheeks, groyne, or chin. These odours are used to advertise reproductive status or to label territory.


Hare Animal- Diet

The hare eats a diet that is somewhat similar to that of the rabbit. They are strict herbivores that graze on grasses, clover, and dandelions, as well as parts of plants such as leaves, twigs, buds, young tree bark, roots, and seeds.


Hares and rabbits eat a lot of cellulose, which is difficult for them to digest. Coprophagia, or eating one's own droppings, is how lagomorphs solve this dilemma (faeces). The majority of their digestion occurs in the large intestine and caecum since they are hindgut digesters. The caecum excretes soft faeces, which is then reingested and digested in the stomach and small intestine. Lagomorphs often produce hard round dry pellets, which are mechanically removed in the digestive system and usually contain lower-quality particles; these hard pellets are passed rapidly. Although it is commonly assumed that hard pellets are not consumed, research has shown that lagomorphs consume them on a regular basis.


Basically, leporids eat fresh food in the evenings and at night, then excrete and reingest their hard and soft faeces throughout the day.


Hare Animal- Reproduction

Hares, unlike other Leporidae, do not give birth to their young in a burrow or warren (an interconnected labyrinth of burrows), but rather in a shallow depression or flattened nest of grass called a shape. Hares are born completely furred and with eyes open, allowing them to adjust to the lack of physical protection provided by a burrow. As a result, they are able to fend for themselves very quickly after birth, making them precocial. The associated rabbits, on the other hand, are altricial, having blind and hairless young.


While the scarcity of resources will cause this ability to be suppressed, most hares produce a large number of offspring each year. Hares can breed at a young age, and many have several litters of young on a regular basis, often four or five times a year. However, in the far north, native hares may only have one large litter per year, and in the desert, due to a lack of resources, some hares may have limited litter sizes (one to three young), while desert hares may have four to seven litters per year. Hares have a relatively long gestation period, lasting about 40 days, compared to rabbits.


Superfetation is a reproductive phenomenon in European hares, Lepus europaeus, in which a late-pregnancy female will mate, ovulate, and be impregnated at the same time, resulting in two litters of different ages in her uterus. The European hare also has a complex courtship pattern that involves large mating groups aggregating, from which animals pair off and remain faithful for about a month. A lengthy courtship ritual is accompanied by brief copulation (less than ten seconds).


Hares do not give their young much parental care. Although the milk is highly nutritious, mothers may only nurse their children once a day for a few minutes. This unusual focus on the young may be an adaptation to reduce the chances of predators spotting the juveniles.


What Is a Hare’s Ecological and Economic Importance?

Hares, like rabbits, are ecologically important, particularly as a food source, while humans profit from them in terms of economics, culinary, recreational, and aesthetics. Hares play an important role in food chains, eating large amounts of plant matter and supplying food to foxes, raptors, lynxes, ferrets, and raccoons. Snowshoe hares were particularly important in the fur trade, especially in Canada, with records of their pelts dating back to the early 1800s in Hudson Bay Company logs.


Hare Animal in Mythology

The origin and migration of a symbolic picture of three hares, with conjoined ears, was studied in 2004. Three hares are seen chasing each other in a circle with their heads near the centre in this shot. Despite the fact that each animal tends to have two ears, only three are seen. Two hares share one of the paws, which form a triangle in the circle's middle. The picture was traced from Christian churches in Devon, England, all the way back to China through the Silk Road, via western and eastern Europe, and the Middle East. It is possible that it was first depicted in the Middle East before being reimported centuries later to China. Its application is related.

The hare is one of four mammals that are not considered Kosher in Jewish culture.

The hare has given rise to local place names, as they can often be seen in favourite locations for a long period of time. Murchland is a Scottish example, with "Murchen" being the Scots word for hare.


European Hare

The European hare (Lepus europaeus), also known as the brown hare, is a hare species found in Europe and Asia. It is one of the largest hare species and is suited to open country in temperate climates. Hares are herbivores that eat mostly grasses and herbs, but also twigs, buds, bark, and field crops, particularly in the winter. Large birds of prey, canids, and felids are among their natural predators. Because of their long, strong limbs and wide nostrils, they rely on high-speed endurance running to avoid predation.


Hares, which are normally nocturnal and shy, change their habits in the spring when they can be seen chasing each other around in fields in broad daylight. They often attack each other with their paws during this spring frenzy ("boxing"). This is normally not a male-on-male battle, but rather a female striking a male, either to prove she isn't ready to mate or to test his resolve. The female builds her nest in a depression on the ground rather than in a burrow, and the young are active almost immediately after birth. Hares can have three or four litters per year, and females can have three litters per year. Hares can live up to twelve years. The breeding season lasts from April to October.


Classification:

  • Kingdom: Animalia

  • Phylum: Chordata

  • Class: Mammalia

  • Order: Lagomorpha

  • Family: Leporidae

  • Genus: Lepus

  • Species: L. europaeus

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FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q1. Can Hares Mate with Rabbits?

Ans. Hares and rabbits are genetically incompatible, despite their identical looks. On an evolutionary scale, so much time has elapsed since they shared a "last common ancestor" from which both lineages diverged. They also have different numbers of chromosomes, making them genetically incompatible. Consider the following fact to see why this is the case. Typically, a species is characterised as a distinct breeding population capable of producing viable offspring with one another. Hares and rabbits, on the other hand, belong to various genera. It'd be the difference between a domesticated cat and a tiger, for example.

Q2. What Do the Three Hares Symbolize?

Ans. The three hares icon on a 13th-century bell in Germany's former Cistercian monastery of Kloster Haina was thought to ward off evil forces. It was used as a warning to avoid temptation and confess sins in other parts of mediaeval Germany, France, and Devon.

Q3. How Fast Can a Hare Run?

Ans. The arctic hare runs at a speed of 60Km/Hr whereas the Cape hares run at a speed of 72Km/Hr.

Q4. How Many Babies Can a Hare Bore at a Time?

Ans. Throughout the spring and summer, female hares dig shallow depressions in the ground and give birth to several litters of four to six infants. Leverets are born with their eyes open and their fur covering them.

Q5. What Do Baby Hares Eat?

Ans. Young rabbits begin to consume vegetation at two weeks of age, and by four to five weeks of age, they are feeding alongside their mother. Leveret is the name given to a young hare (up to one year of age). They are born with their eyes open and are left alone during the day to lie in positions that will not attract predators.