Rabbits & Hares – Chickens of the Predator World

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.

Eyes and ears made for being ever watchful.

Both consume about a pound of grass per day and most of their water intake comes from dew.

Rabbits and hairs get most of their water from morning 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.

Incisors grow throughout life.

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.

Defense Behavior

Thumping – warning

Ear flapping during the chase to distract predators.

Running, zig zagging and hiding.

Differences between Rabbits & Hares

Size
Rabbits – 1.5 – 2.5 lb. (full grown)
Hares – 4.5 – 14 lbs (full grown)

Physical Differences
Rabbits – short legs and ears
Hares – long legs and ears

Lifespan
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.

Social
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.

Eating Times
Rabbits – early morning & evening
Hares – nocturnal

Cottontail Rabbit

Mountain Cottontail, left. Desert Cottontail, right.

Range – California, and Oregon

 

Jackrabbits [Hares]

Pioneers coming out west called them ‘jackass-rabbits’ which was shortened to jackrabbit.  Though the name has ‘rabbit’ in it, these animals are hares.

Black-tailed Jackrabbit, left. Snowshoe Hare, center. White-tailed Jackrabbit, right.

When courting, Jackrabbits chase each other, playing hard to get. Boxing matches (teasing) are a sign of affection.

 

click image to see more Life on the Creek, Jackrabbit, and Cottontail art

 

If you liked this post, you may also like North American Beaver – Water Banker.

Resources:

Taxonomy of Rabbits and Hares 0:28 – 2:15

 

Bioone.org – Ear Flashing Behavior in Black-tailed Jackrabbits

Canadian Journal of Zoology

California Department of Fish and Wildlife – Rabbits and Hares

Hoppingtonpost.com

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

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