Lagomorphs include hares, rabbits, and pikas. For this post, we’re concentrating on the first two, commonly seen in Nevada County. Hares and rabbits are fast-food for predators; coyote, fox, badgers, bobcat, hawks, owls, snakes, mountain lion, and squirrels. Dogs, cats, and humans hunt them too.
If you’re a top item on the predator menu, you develop and learn survival skills.
Similarities between Rabbits & Hares
Lagomorphs generally remain hidden for most daylight hours. Large ears with acute hearing and big eyes with 360° peripheral vision reduce being caught off guard.
Both consume about a pound of grass per day and most of their water intake comes from dew.
Hares and rabbits are thermoregulators. They conserve moisture by staying in the shade, stretching out, panting, and slowing metabolism. Large ear surfaces help cool the blood so it can lower body temperature. When it’s windy, they stay in hiding because the wind interferes with hearing.
Rabbits and Hares have four incisors, unlike rodents who have only two. Incisors grow continuously throughout life and must be kept in check by constant chewing.
Cellulose (in grass) is difficult to digest, so they do it twice by eating their own poop. A certain amount of ground food is diverted to a blind-ended pouch, the caecum. Once in the caecum, it’s mixed with micro-organisms, yeast, and bacteria that break the cellulose down into sugar. This is known as hindgut fermentation. About four to eight hours after a meal (after dry pellets are excreted) a second set of soft, moist droppings are produced, cecotropes. These are eaten immediately to absorb the nutrients.
Thumping – warning
Ear flapping during the chase to distract predators.
Running, zig zagging and hiding.
Differences between Rabbits & Hares
Rabbits – 1.5 – 2.5 lb. (full grown)
Hares – 4.5 – 14 lbs (full grown)
Rabbits – short legs and ears
Hares – long legs and ears
Rabbits – about 3 years
Hares – 6-7 years
Nests, Gestation & Young
Rabbits – uses burrows dug by other animals for nesting, lines it with grass and fur
22-28 day gestation |5 litters per year | 1 – 7 kittens
Hares – creates a nest from shallow depressions under bushes
41 -47 day gestation |3 -4 litters per year | 3 – 4 young (leverets)
Birth & Nursing
Rabbits are born hairless & closed eyes (altricial). Young are nursed for about a month.
Hares are born with full hair & open eyes (precocial). Young are nursed for only 2-3 days.
Rabbits are social. They huddle for security, perform group grooming to build relationships and prefer to remain in brambles and bushes.
Hares are solitary (except when mating) and prefers open spaces.
Rabbits – early morning & evening
Hares – nocturnal
Range – California, and Oregon
Pioneers coming out west called them ‘jackass-rabbits’ which was shortened to jackrabbit. Though the name has ‘rabbit’ in it, these animals are hares.
When courting, Jackrabbits chase each other, playing hard to get. Boxing matches (teasing) are a sign of affection.
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Taxonomy of Rabbits and Hares 0:28 – 2:15
Bioone.org – Ear Flashing Behavior in Black-tailed Jackrabbits
California Department of Fish and Wildlife – Rabbits and Hares
Kahn Academy – Predatory-prey cycles
McGill Office for Science and Society – Rabbits Eat Their Own Poop
Wikipedia – Desert cottontail
Wikipedia – Lagomorpha – Hares & rabbits
Wikipedia – Mountain Cottontail