Rabbits and hares, both members of the Leporidae family, share many physical qualities that make them difficult to tell apart. However, the larger and longer-eared hares are non-burrowing and more inclined to spend their time out in the open. Hare kittens are also ready to hop around independently soon after birth, while rabbit kittens are born blind and need a few weeks to mature prior to leaving the nest.
It’s probably been 30 years since I first read RM Lockley’s The Private Life of the Rabbit, the book that inspired Richard Adams to write Watership Down. It left me with a sense of wonder towards Lapine life that’s remained to this day.
Rabbits and hares are eight times more sensitive to light than we are. The placement of their eyes also gives them a wider field of vision; good qualities to have when you’re a herbivore on the lower end of the food chain. If pursued, rabbits and hares are able to run in a zig zag fashion that allows them to change direction on a dime.
Female hares (jills) and female rabbits (does) have the remarkable ability to re-absorb fetuses already present in the womb if they feel stressed. Rabbit and hare populations are cyclical and affect their predators’ populations as well. If human female bodies had that ability, I wonder how it would impact world populations.
Both rabbits and hares possess chin glands that enable them to leave their scent on objects and other animals. Each and every one has its own unique scent. Australian researchers discovered that subordinate male European wild rabbits, whose social status is suddenly changed to become the dominant male in a group, will begin producing a new unique scent shortly thereafter. They’ll use this scent to mark their territory and other rabbits in their warren. Imagine an after-shave for use by alpha males only.
For several years Snowshoe Hares have made their home in my yard. They consume many of the dandelions and plantains in the lawn throughout the spring and summer months. Considering how energetically they run and hop around, maybe humans should take a cue from hares and eat these green ‘weeds’ for the good of our health too, instead of trying to eradicate them from our lawns.
For our April 6th posts, Anne Yarbrough and I schemed to both make use of the image of A Young Hare by Renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer. Anne’s post can be found at Nova Scotia Island Journal . She writes about life on McNutt’s Island, off Nova Scotia’s Southwest shore, with particular attention to the island’s setting, its wildlife and its history, and shares my reverence and awe for the natural world in our east coast environments.