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Living OrganismsAnimalia / Craniata / Mammalia / Lagomorpha / Leporidae / Lepus / Species

Lepus europaeus - Brown hare (Click photographs/illustrations for full picture & further details)

Brown hare in an open field. Click here for full page view with caption Brown hare. Click here for full page view with caption Brown hare. Click here for full page view with caption Brown hare. Click here for full page view with caption  Brown hares. Click here for full page view with caption Brown hare leveret. Click here for full page view with caption Brown hare leveret. Click here for full page view with caption Brown hare suckling large leverets. Click here for full page view with caption

INDEX - INFORMATION AVAILABLE

GENERAL & REFERENCES

APPEARANCE / MORPHOLOGY

LIFE STAGES / NATURAL DIET / PHYSIOLOGY

BEHAVIOUR

HABITAT & RANGE

CONSERVATION

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General and References

Alternative Names (Synonyms)

  • European hare. (B285.w5c, B605.4.w4, B607.w20)
  • Europäischer Feldhase (German).
  • Feldhase (German).
  • Gearr (Scottish Gaelic).
  • Lièvre d'Europe (French).
  • Sgwarnog (Welsh).
  • Ysgyfarnog (Welsh).
  • Lepus alba. (B607.w20)
  • Lepus argenteogrisea. (B607.w20)
  • Lepus capensis. (B51, B147)
    • [There has been considerable discussion regarding whether Lepus europaeus and Lepus capensis - Cape hare are or are not separate species]
  • Lepus cyanotus. (B607.w20)
  • Lepus flavus. (B607.w20)
  • Lepus niger. (B607.w20)
  • Lepus pyrenaicus. (B607.w20)
  • Lepus syriacus. (B141, J109.34.w1)
  • Lepus europaeus alba.(B605.4.w4)

  • Lepus europaeus aquilonius. (B607.w20)

  • Lepus europaeus argenteogrisea.(B605.4.w4)

  • Lepus europaeus astaricus. (B607.w20)

  • Lepus europaeus biarmicus. (B607.w20)

  • Lepus europaeus borealis. (B607.w20)

  • Lepus europaeus campestris. (B607.w20)

  • Lepus europaeus campicola [nomen nudum]. (B607.w20)

  • Lepus europaeus caspicus. (B607.w20)

  • Lepus europaeus caucasicus. (B607.w20)

  • Lepus europaeus cinereus [nomen nudum]. (B607.w20)

  • Lepus europaeus connori. (B607.w20)

  • Lepus europaeus coronatus [nomen nudum]. (B607.w20)

  • Lepus europaeus creticus. (B607.w20)

  • Lepus europaeus cyprius. (B607.w20)

  • Lepus europaeus cyrensis. (B607.w20)

  • Lepus europaeus europaeus. (B605.4.w4)

  • Lepus europaeus flavus.(B605.4.w4)

  • Lepus europaeus gallaecius. (B605.4.w4)

  • Lepus europaeus ghigi. (B607.w20)

  • Lepus europaeus granatensis.(B605.4.w4)

  • Lepus europaeus hispanicus.(B605.4.w4)

  • Lepus europaeus hybridus. (B607.w20)

  • Lepus europaeus hyemalis. (B607.w20)

  • Lepus europaeus iranensis. (B607.w20)

  • Lepus europaeus iturissius. (B605.4.w4)

  • Lepus europaeus judeae. (B607.w20)

  • Lepus europaeus kalmykorum. (B607.w20)

  • Lepus europaeus karpathorum. (B607.w20)

  • Lepus europaeus laskerewi. (B607.w20)

  • Lepus europaeus maculatus [nomen nudum]. (B607.w20)

  • Lepus europaeus medius. (B607.w20)

  • Lepus europaeus meridiei [nomen nudum]. (B607.w20)

  • Lepus europaeus meridionalis [nomen nudum]. (B607.w20)

  • Lepus europaeus niethammeri. (B607.w20)

  • Lepus europaeus niger. (B605.4.w4)

  • Lepus europaeus nigricans [nomen nudum]. (B607.w20)

  • Lepus europaeus occidentalis. (B607.w20)

  • Lepus europaeus parnassius. (B607.w20)

  • Lepus europaeus ponticus. (B607.w20)

  • Lepus europaeus pyrenaicus.(B605.4.w4)

  • Lepus europaeus rhodius. (B607.w20)

  • Lepus europaeus rufus [nomen nudum]. (B607.w20)

  • Lepus europaeus syriacus. (B607.w20)

  • Lepus europaeus tesquorum. (B607.w20)

  • Lepus europaeus transsylvanicus. (B605.4.w4, B607.w20)

  • Lepus europaeus transsylvaticus. (B607.w20)

  • Lepus europaeus tumac. (B607.w20)

  • Lepus europaeus tumak. (B605.4.w4)

Names for new-borns / juveniles

Names for males

  • Buck. (B285.w5d)
  • Jack.

Names for females

  • Doe. (B605.1.w1)
  • Jill.

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General Appearance

Adult:

Specific Lepus europaeus Information

  • Typical lagomorph, with long body, long hind legs (hind limbs longer than forelimbs) and long ears. Largest lagomorph in Britain. (B142, B148)
  • Large lagomorph, relatively uniform appearance. (B605.4.w4)

Newborn:

Specific Lepus europaeus Information

  • Fully furred, eyes open, able to run soon after birth. (B52, B147, B148)

Similar Species

Specific Lepus europaeus Information

In the UK

(B142, B148)

Sexual Dimorphism

--

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References

Species Authors & Referees

Editor: Debra Bourne MA VetMB PhD MRCVS (V.w5)
Referee: Rodney Hale (V.w146)

ORGANISATIONS

ELECTRONIC LIBRARY
(Further Reading)
Click image for full contents list of ELECTRONIC LIBRARY

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Husbandry Information

Notes

  • --

Management Techniques

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Appearance / Morphology

Measurement & Weight

Notes

LENGTH
Adult:

Specific Lepus europaeus Information

  • Head-body length: 20-30 in./500-760 mm (B144); 520-595 mm mean 544 mm (B142); 67 cm (B148).

Newborns: --

HEIGHT
Adults and sub-adults: --
Juveniles: --

WEIGHT
Adult:

Specific Lepus europaeus Information

  • General: 5.5-14 lbs./2.5-6.5 kg. (B144).
  • Male: Mean 3.23 kg (SD +/-0.05 kg) (February). (B142).
  • Female: Mean 3.43 kg (SD +/- 0.1 kg) (February). (B142).
  • Average weight of 3.8 kg (Range: 3-5 kg). (B605.4.w4)

Newborns: 

Specific Lepus europaeus Information

  • 3-5 oz./90-150 g (B144); about 100 g. (B142)
  • Average of 123 g (Range: 100-165 g). (B605.4.w4)

GROWTH RATE

Specific Lepus europaeus Information

  • 300 g by 30 days, 700 g by 60 days, adult weight by six months; faster growth rates in captivity. (B142).
  • Leverets grow at a rate of about 19 g per day (range: 16-27 g per day) until they are three months old. (B605.4.w4)

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Head and Neck

Notes

Brown hare. Click here for full page view with caption Brown hare. Click here for full page view with caption Brown hare leveret. Click here for full page view with caption

 

GENERAL HEAD STRUCTURE:
Adult:

  • Nose: Lagomorph general: retractable flaps of skin cover naked rhinarium around nostrils (B142). Upper lip very mobile and with deep cleft, strong whiskers. (B148).

Specific Lepus europaeus Information

  • Ears Long, light in colour with tips black. (B144, B147); black-tipped, extend beyond nose if laid forward along face (B148). Length:  4.4-6 in./110-150 mm (B144). 95-105 mm mean 99 mm. (B142)

Newborn:

DENTITION:
Adult:

General Information

  • Rabbits and hares have a total of 28 teeth. (B285.w5a)
  • The lower tooth rows are closer together than the upper tooth rows. (B147)
  • Lagomorphs differ from rodents by having two pairs of upper incisors rather than just the one pair. The additional set of incisors are called peg teeth and are found directly behind the long pair in the upper jaw. (B147, B285.w5a, B605.1.w1)
  • At birth, lagomorphs actually have three pairs of upper incisors, but they quickly lose the outer incisor on each side. (B147)
  • The incisors are covered completely by enamel. (B147)
  • The upper incisors' roots are found in the skull's premaxillary bones. However, the length of the lower incisors' roots varies. (B147)
    • [Note: lagomorphs have teeth which grow throughout their lives. For this reason the portion of the teeth which is not exposed (not above the gum line) is strictly speaking not a "root"; however, it is sometimes convenient to describe it as a root.]
  • The first upper incisors have a straight cutting edge. (B147)
  • The peg teeth lack a cutting edge. (B147)

Adult:

  • I2/1, C0/0, P3/2, M 3/3 x2=28.
  • Second upper pair of incisors, which lack cutting edge, located directly behind first pair.
  • Incisors grow throughout life, completely covered with enamel, roots of upper incisors in premaxillary bones of the skull.
  • Cheek teeth high crowned, lack roots, grow continuously. Upper tooth rows further apart than lower.
  • Long diastema between incisors and cheek teeth.

(B142, B147, B148, D30)

EYES:
Adult:

General Information

  • Lagomorph eyes are positioned such that they allow for good broad-field vision. (B285.w5a)
  • Hares and rabbits have large eyes which are adapted to both their crepuscular and nocturnal activity patterns. (B285.w5b)
  • Leporids have "large eyes to increase visual acuity in dim light." (B430.w2)
  • Specific Lepus europaeus Information: Eyes large, protuberant, yellow-brown. (B148)

Newborn:

General Lepus Information

  • Leverets are born with their eyes open. (B147, B285.w5b, B287)

Specific Lepus europaeus Information: 

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Legs, Spine and Tracks

Notes

General Lepus Information
  • All hares have well-furred feet. (B147)
  • Almost all Lepus species have large hind feet. (B147)
Specific Lepus europaeus Information
  • Hind limbs very long, much longer than forelimbs, well adapted for running.
  • Forefeet five toes, hindfeet four toes.
  • Somewhat hairy soles.
  • Strong claws.

(B52, B147, B148).

Hindfoot length:

Specific Lepus europaeus Information

  • 5.4-6.3 in./135-138 mm. (B144)

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Tail

Notes

General Lepus Information:

  • Leporids have a short tail. (B147)
  • 35-100 mm. (B147)
  • Average: 58 mm. (B430.w2)
  • Range: 48-76 mm. (B430.w2)
  • 3.5-12 cm. (B285.w5c)
Specific Lepus europaeus Information
  • Short dorsal black, ventral white. (B147, B148, B605.4.w4)
  • Tail length: 2.8-4.8 in./70-120 mm (B144); 85-120 mm mean 106 mm including hair (B142); 8cm. (B148)
  • Large, conspicuous. (B605.4.w4)

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Skin / Coat / Pelage

Notes

Adult:

Specific Lepus europaeus Information

  • Dorsal surface and flanks brown (variously described as reddish-brown (B148), warm brown (B142), brown with grey, black or red admixtures (B144)). Flanks more buff.
  • Abdomen and underside of tail white. insides of limbs pale yellow.
  • Dorsal tail black.
  • Ears light brown with tips black.

(B142, B144, B148).

  • "The fur is long and curled on the back, with a tawny or rusty color over the chest and sides, darker above, white below." (B605.4.w4)
  • Tail: Black on top surface, white underneath; large, conspicuous tail. (B605.4.w4)
  • Ears: Grey, except for tips which have a large triangular black patch on the back. (B605.4.w4)

Adult Colour variations:

Specific Lepus europaeus Information

  • Winter fur longer, more reddish..
    • rump area grey.
    • face and ears whiter.
  • Coat lightens prior to moults.
  • Both individual and regional variation in coat colour: melanistic, albino, sandy and winter-coat grey (lacking yellow and brown pigments) variations all reported.

(B142, B144).

  • "In winter there is some white on the sides of the head and base of the ears, and grey on the haunches." (B605.4.w4)

Moult:

Specific Lepus europaeus Information

  • Twice yearly.
  • Spring moult starts end March, complete by end June.
  • Autumn moult may start July, probably complete by late October/early November.
  • Moves from nape, mid-back and head spreading ventrally and caudally.
  • Leveret moult at about 900 g body weight, starting along dorsal midline and moving ventrally (B142), then autumn moult to first winter coat.

(B142, B147)

  • This species moults twice yearly, changing from its brown summer pelage to grey in the winter. (B147)

Newborn / Juvenile:

General Information

  • Lepus spp. leverets are furred at birth. (B147, B285.w5b, B287)

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Detailed Anatomy Notes
(Summary information provided for pertinent species-specific data cross-referenced in Wildpro)

Notes

Skull

General Information

  • Leporids have an arched skull with a slight constriction between the orbits. (B147)
  • Lepus species have a skull that is lighter than the skull of rabbit species. (B605.4.w4)
Female reproductive tract

General Information

  • Female Lepus spp. have three to five pairs of mammary glands, with an extensive mass of mammary tissue. (B147, B287)
Male reproductive tract

General Information

  • Males lack a baculum (B147)
  • Testes are in the scrotum located in front of the penis (B147)
Digestive system

General Information

  • The largest part of the digestive tract is the caecum; this has a capacity up to ten times that of the stomach. (B147)
Adrenals

Specific Lepus europaeus Information

  • Mean combined weight 200 mg (adult female). (J1.10.w5)

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Life Stages / Natural Diet / Physiology

Life Stages

Notes

Brown hare leveret. Click here for full page view with caption Brown hare suckling large leverets. Click here for full page view with caption

BREEDING SEASON:

General Information

  • The majority of Lepus species have a long breeding season. (B147)
  • Southern Lepus species breed throughout the year. (B285.w5c)

Specific Lepus europaeus Information

  • Spring. (B148)
  • Scotland: Usually February to October with peak April-May, but may be found pregnant all months. (B147)
  • Produce young February to October, although occasionally also in winter. (B142)
  • March-August. (B148)
  • Reaches a peak in spring, hence the term 'Mad March Hares'. (B605.4.w4)
  • "European hares start breeding about the winter solstice in all nine countries where they have been studied except Argentina." (B605.4.w4)
OESTRUS / OVULATION:

General Information

Specific Lepus europaeus Information

  • Mating every 7 days in non-pregnant females, every 13-14 days if pseudo-pregnancy, also up to 10 days pre-partum - can lead to superfetation - or immediately post-partum. (B142)
  • Ovulation induced by mating. (B142)
  • Induced ovulation occurs in lagomorph species. (B285.w5a)
GESTATION / PREGNANCY:

General Information

  • Under adverse conditions (such as during climatic or social stress), female lagomorphs are able to resorb embryos. (B285.w5a)
  • It is thought that some lagomorph species are able to conceive a second litter even before the last young is born; this is known as superfetation. (B285.w5a)
  • Gestation for Lepus species varies, but can be up to 50 days. (B147,B285.w5c)

Specific Lepus europaeus Information

  • Gestation 42-43 days (B144); about 42 days (B147, B605.4.w4); 41-42 days (B142).
  • 39 - 43 days following artificial insemination. (J372.X2008.w1)
  • Superfetation is common in captivity. (B605.4.w4)
  • A study of 24 wild females with full-term embryos found that only three of these showed superfetation. (B605.4.w4)
PARTURITION / BIRTH:

General Information

  • Leverets are precocial and are born into surface-depression forms. (B285.w5b)
  • Females give birth to their young in open areas, or in a shallow depression in the ground. (B147)
  • Leverets remain hidden within dense vegetation, and the female visits them in order to nurse them. (B147)
Neonatal / Development:

General Information

  • Leverets are precocial; they are born fully furred, with open eyes, and are able to move about soon after birth. (B147, B285.w5b, B287)
  • Young are only suckled briefly once every 24 hours. (B285.w5b)
  • Approximately three days after birth, leverets disperse to separate hiding locations. Leveret litter-mates will regroup for a brief suckling bout at a particular location at precisely defined intervals. Such regrouping often takes place around sunset. (B285.w5b)

Specific Lepus europaeus Information

  • Leverets separate from one another (moving from the place where they are born) soon after birth - possibly even in the first 24 hours and certainly in the first few days. One litter were together in the first evening after being nursed (having been found with the fur still wet earlier), but had dispersed 0.5 - 1.0 m by the following afternoon and 3 - 8 m by the third evening (J46.191.w1)
  • Leverets gather together at the nursing area (usually at or near the birth place) each evening for suckling. (J46.191.w1)
  • As they get older, leverets may start to move towards the doe as she approaches, and suckling then takes place at some distance from the original gathering place. (J46.191.w1)
  • Grazing at 12 - 17 days (B142).
  • At five months of age, adult size is attained. (B605.4.w4)
LITTER SIZE:

General Information

  • The size of litters produced by leporids at northern latitudes tends to be greater than those produced by leporids at southern latitudes. (B430.w2)
  • Litter sizes in Lepus species range from one to nine offspring. (B285.w5c)

Specific Lepus europaeus Information

  • 1-5, average 2.3 (B144); embryo average 2 in January, maximum average 3.2 in May (B147); 1-4, largest in middle of season (B142), 1st brood 1-2, 2nd brood 34, 3rd brood 3, 4th brood 1-2. (B148)
  • "The mean litter size increases seasonally to a peak and then declines." (B605.4.w4)
TIME BETWEEN LITTERS / LITTERS PER YEAR:

General Information

  • The inter-birth interval in lagomorphs is reduced by the phenomenon of induced ovulation, and post-partum oestrus, which allows females to conceive immediately after she has given birth. (B285.w5a)
  • A female can produce up to three or four litters per year. (B430.w2)

Specific Lepus europaeus Information

  • About three litters per year, range 1 - 4 (B142); 3 - 4 litters per year. (B148); usually three to five litters per year. (B605.4.w4)
  • Due to the common occurrence of superfetation in captivity, the interlitter interval is 38 days. (B605.4.w4)
  • Females from most populations usually produce an average of ten young per year, but this may vary in some countries, with females in Argentina producing an average of just 4.6 young per year, and those in Czechoslovakia producing up to 13. (B605.4.w4)
LACTATION / MILK PRODUCTION:

General Information

  • Leporids only release milk once in every 24 hour period. (B285.w5b)
  • Leporid milk has a very high fat and protein content, and as such is highly nutritious. Although the lactation period is brief, the milk is pumped into the young at a high speed.(B285.w5b)
  • The lactation period has a duration of between 17 and 23 days. (B285.w5b)

Specific Lepus europaeus Information

  • Weaning about 30 days (B144); 2-3 weeks (B148); 20-30 days usually more than 23 days, may be extended for last litter of the season (B142); usually only for about four weeks, but continuing into a sixth week or longer with the last litter, but with short nursing bouts (30 seconds). (J46.191.w1)
  • Nursing bouts only last a few minutes, and occur once or twice a day in the late evening. (B605.4.w4)
  • Milk composition: Energy 2.01 Kcal/mL. Solids 32.2%, of which fat 46%, protein 31%, carbohydrates 5%.(P19.1.w5)
SEXUAL MATURITY:

General Information

  • Most species of lagomorph reach sexual maturity relatively early. (B285.w5a)
  • Lepus young do not usually breed in their first year of life. (B147)

Specific Lepus europaeus Information

  • Females: from 6 months old.
  • Males: older than females. (B144).
  • Rarely breed in birth year in Britain; may do so more frequently elsewhere in range. (B142)
  • Some leverets born early on in the year may first breed in the year of their birth. (B605.4.w4)
MALE SEASONAL VARIATION:

General Information

  • Testes are intra-abdominal outside the breeding season, descending into the scrotum during the breeding season. (B147)

Specific Lepus europaeus Information

  • Spermatogenesis:
    • Netherlands: reactivated at the end of November. (B287)
  • Testes:
    • Germany: Large between February and August, small September-October. (B287)
    • Norfolk, UK: Small between September and December. (B287)
  • Testosterone:
    • Norfolk, UK: low between July and February. (B287)
LONGEVITY / MORTALITY:

General Information

  • Rabbits and hares in the wild live for less than a year on average; a maximum age of 12 years has been recorded in a couple of species. (B285.w5b)
  • "Only a minority of hares survive their first year in the wild, though survivors can reach 5 years; in captivity, hares can live to 6 or 7 years." (B285.w5c)

Specific Lepus europaeus Information

  • One year, maximum 12 years (B144); life expectancy adult hare in Netherlands 1.04 years; up to 7 years seen from tagging and oldest of 12.5 years in Poland (B142); 8-12 years (B148).
  • One captive individual was recorded to live to 7 years and 5 months of age. (B147)

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Natural Diet

Notes

NATURAL DIET: 

General Lepus Information

  • Lagomorphs only eat vegetation, mainly grasses and other herbaceous plants. Bark from young trees and small shrub stems may be eaten when food supplies are scarce. (B147, B285.w5c, B430.w2)

  • "In isolated cases hares are reported to have captured and eaten voles and young lagomorphs." (B147)

Specific Lepus europaeus Information

  • Grasses and herbs preferred, with mainly grasses in summer, herbs in winter.
  • Also buds, bark, twigs, particularly of fruit trees.
  • Arable crops such as early stages of cereals.
  • Isolated reports of catching and eating voles and young lagomorphs. (B147)

(B142, B144, B147, B148)

  • The type of food eaten varies depending upon the habitat in question. (B605.4.w4)
  • On agricultural land in Europe, the diet of this species consists of:
    • 90% soft greens.
    • 5.5% woody plants.
    • 2.2% root crops.
    • 1.7% grain crops.
    • 0.5% forest plants.

    (B605.4.w4)

  • In Alpine areas of New Zealand, this species tends to eat short grass during the summer, and changes to shrubs and tussock in the winter. (B605.4.w4)
  • "In hunting regions of Germany and Scandinavia they are fed hay in winter." (B605.4.w4)

QUANTITY EATEN:

Specific Lepus europaeus Information

  • 500 g (756 kcal/3164 kJ) food consumed daily (experimental). (B142)

STUDY METHODS: --

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Hibernation / Aestivation

Notes

--

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Haematology / Biochemistry

Notes

HAEMATOLOGY:

BIOCHEMISTRY:

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Detailed Physiology Notes
(Summary information provided for pertinent species-specific data cross-referenced in WILDPro)

Notes

METABOLISM (TEMPERATURE): --

RESPIRATORY SYSTEM (RESPIRATION): --

CIRCULATORY SYSTEM (PULSE/HEART RATE): --

GASTROINTESTINAL SYSTEM (FAECES AND GUT MOTILITY): 

General Information

  • Lagomorphs are well adapted for obtaining the greatest possible value from their food. They produce two types of faecal material: moist pellets and dry pellets. The moist pellets are expelled and then eaten (a behaviour known as coprophagy (B285.w5a)); this is done with little or no chewing, and as a result the majority of the food passes through the digestive tract twice (this is thought to have the same function as 'chewing the cud' in ruminants). The dry pellets are not eaten. (B147)
  • Lagomorphs have digestive systems which are adapted for processing large quantities of vegetation. (B285.w5a)

Specific Lepus europaeus Information

  • Refection: Produce special soft moist pellets during day, which are re-swallowed for second passage through digestive tract.
  • Hard fibrous faecal pellets, about 1 cm diameter.
  • The faeces are usually, but not always, larger than those of rabbits, and flattened.

(B142, B147).

URINARY SYSTEM (URINE): --

CHROMOSOMES: 

  • All the Lepus species have 48 chromosomes. (B605.4.w4)

MUSCULO-SKELETAL SYSTEM: --

SPECIAL SENSES AND VOCALISATIONS:

General Information

  • All lagomorphs use scent products secreted from special glands. (B285.w5a) These glands are located under the chin and in the groin, and are believed to play a key role in sexual communication, as well as in signalling social status in some gregarious species. (B285.w5b)
  • Whereas pikas tend to be more vocal, rabbits and hares rely strongly on scent rather than sound as a means of communication. (B285.w5b)
  • High-pitched distress squeals are emitted by leporids when captured by a predator. (B285.w5b, B430.w2)
  • Hares communicate with each other by drumming their feet. (B147)
  • Deep grumbling has been reported in Lepus species, and shrill calls are emitted when the animal is in pain. (B285.w5c)
  • "When seeking the young for nursing, females call the young and are answered." (B147)

Specific Lepus europaeus Information

  • This species has been reported to grate its teeth together, producing a warning sound similar to that produced by annoyed rodents. (B147)
  • Once a warning noise is started by an individual, other animals in the vicinity may join in. (B147)
  • Females call the young to her for nursing, and the young will answer. (B147)
  • Hares drum their feet on the ground as a means of communication. (B147)

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Behaviour

Feeding Behaviour

Notes

General Information
  • Lagomorphs are well adapted for obtaining the greatest possible value from their food. They produce two types of faecal material: moist pellets and dry pellets. The moist pellets are expelled and then eaten; this is done with little or no chewing, and as a result the majority of the food passes through the digestive tract twice (this is thought to have the same function as 'chewing the cud' in ruminants). The dry faecal pellets are not eaten. (B147)

Specific Lepus europaeus Information

  • Prefer grazing short open areas. (B142)
  • May travel up to 15 km in one night whilst feeding. (B605.4.w4)
  • "A dominance hierarchy between individuals has been demonstrated at food." (B605.4.w4)

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Parental Behaviour

Notes

General Information
  • Male leporids are not generally involved in care of the young. However, if adult females attack young leporids, males will intervene, a behaviour known as 'policing'. (B285.w5b)
  • Even maternal care of the young is not particularly prominent in leporids, hence this reproductive strategy is known as 'absentee parentism'. (B285.w5a)
  • Leporids demonstrate an unusual system of nursing; the young are suckled only briefly (often less than five minutes) just once every 24 hours. (B285.w5b)
  • It is thought that the lack of social contact between the mother and her young is a strategy which diminishes the chances of attracting the attention of predators. (B285.w5b)
  • The entrances to breeding tunnels are carefully re-sealed following each bout of suckling. (B285.w5b)
Specific Lepus europaeus Information
  • Leverets placed in separate forms by about three days old; gather once daily at birthplace one hour after sunset (place and time may vary), where suckled for short period (a few minutes). The female also cleans the leverets, removed urine and faeces. (B52, B142)
    • The doe returns to the nursing point (at or near the place of parturition) about one hour after sunset and will suckle the leverets that are gathered there. (J46.191.w1)
      • If leverets which are not her own gather at the correct place (observed to occur with leverets from litters born less than 40 m apart) the doe will suckle all the gathered leverets, not distinguishing between her own and others. It was suggested that "nursing occurs because a lactating doe meets some eager baby-hares at a predetemined place in the field." (J46.191.w1)
      • Nursing more than 90 minutes after sunset were apparently associated with interference by humans or predators. (J46.191.w1)
      • Usually there is only this single period of nursing per 24 hours. (J46.191.w1)
      • On very rare occasions, nursing of a litter has been observed in daylight. (J46.191.w1)
    • The female remains sitting in an upright position, front legs spread wide, while the young suckle. (J46.191.w1)
    • Undisturbed nursing bouts usually last under six minutes, reducing to only two to three minutes in the third and fourth week of lactation, and even shorter (about 30 s) in the sixth week (when nursing continued this long with the last litter of the season). (J46.191.w1)
    • While the leverets suckle, she licks thier genita area and almost certainly consume their urine. (J46.191.w1)
      • Leverets were noted to turn onto their backs towards the end of suckling and the female licked the genital area of each leveret. This occured for about four weeks of the nursing period; it was not seen when leverets contiued suckling for longer. (J46.191.w1)
    • At the end of the nursing bout, the doe leaps away from the leverets. (J46.191.w1)
    • Usually she nurses her young for four weeks; this may be longer for the last litter of the season. (J46.191.w1)

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Social Behaviour / Territoriality / Predation / Learning

Notes

SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR:
  • Commonly considered solitary, but distribution is significantly aggregated.
  • Aggression may occur if small preferred food patch.
  • Hierarchies (animals in rank orders) may form containing males and females.
  • Less time per animal spent vigilant when feeding in groups.
  • Group areas, with territory usually up to 125 acres/50 hectares (B144).
  • Home ranges may be large - more than 300 hectares.
  • Population density suggested about one individual per two hectares (B147); 0.2-0.7 individuals per hectare (B143).

(B52, B142, B143, B144, B147)

  • Males have been reported to form a rigid dominance hierarchy. (B147)
  • "Over much of their range European hares occur in the same habitat as rabbits Oryctolagus cuniculus [Oryctolagus cuniculus - European rabbit] and it is rather surprising that the far smaller rabbit dominates the hare." (B605.4.w4)

PREDATION:

  • Stoat, red fox, birds of prey.
  • Fox probably most important.

(B142, B144)

PREDATOR AVOIDANCE:

  • This species backtracks before it returns to its form to rest, as a means of confusing predators. (B142, B605.4.w4)
  • They jink (alter direction) to avoid capture when being pursued by dogs. (B142)
  • They use sideways leaps to break the scent trail. (V.w146)

POPULATION DENSITIES:

General Lepus Information

  • Drastic, cyclic population density fluctuations occur in northern Lepus species. (B147)
  • Predator population cycles follow Lepus cycles; once predator populations have crashed, and vegetation has had the chance to regenerate, hare population numbers are able to start increasing once more. (B147)

Specific Lepus europaeus Information

  • In Scotland and Poland, "...both L.timidus [Lepus timidus - Mountain hare] and L.europaeus [Lepus europaeus - Brown hare] were found to have population densities of around 1/2 ha." (B147)
  • Netherlands: Average of 0.25/hectare, with peaks at 2.4/hectare on an airfield. (B605.4.w4)
  • "In Poland the best 20% of hunting areas had 0.5/ha, the rest 0.1-0.3/ha." (B605.4.w4)
  • The highest density was recorded on a 100 hectare island off Denmark, with population densities peaking at 3.4/hectare. (B605.4.w4)
HOME RANGES AND DISTANCES TRAVELLED:

General Lepus Information

  • "Habitat type has a marked effect on home-range size within each species, but differences also occur between species." (B285.w5c)
  • Lepus species vary greatly in their home range sizes, with some species having home ranges of only 4-20 hectares, and others exceeding 300 hectares. (B285.w5c)
  • Areas within a couple of metres of forms may be defended, but home ranges often overlap, often with common feeding grounds. (B285.w5c)

Specific Lepus europaeus Information

  • Poland: When undisturbed, this species tends to use an area of approximately 20 hectares. However, this area may extend to 330 hectares when taking into consideration the area covered when escaping from predators. (B147)
  • Home range estimates vary from country to country:
    • England: 38 hectares (Range: 16-78 hectares).
    • New Zealand: 53 hectares.
    • Poland: 330 hectares.

    (B605.4.w4)

  • Known to travel up to 1.8 km in search of suitable graze in Scotland. (B605.4.w4)
  • May travel up to 15 km in one night whilst feeding. (B605.4.w4)

TERRITORIALITY:

  • The majority of hares and rabbits are non-territorial; some hares occupy home ranges of up to 300 ha (740 acres). Ranges of individuals may overlap in favoured feeding grounds. (B285.w5b)

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Sexual Behaviour

Notes

General Information
  • All lagomorphs use scent products secreted from special glands. (B285.w5a) These glands are located under the chin and in the groin, and are believed to play a key role in sexual communication, as well as in signalling social status in some gregarious species. (B285.w5b)
  • Male Lepus become bolder during the mating season, and engage in fights with other males, and pursue females. (B147)
  • Male Lepus fight by using boxing motions with their forefeet and kicking with their hind feet. (B147)
  • Males often bite and kick the females, often leading to serious injury. (B147)
Specific Lepus europaeus Information
  • Males compete for oestrus females, with dominant males guarding pre-oestrus females and chasing off subordinate males, as well as supplanting other males which may be guarding pre-oestrus females.
  • Aggression seen as chases and biting.
  • "Boxing" occurs between males and females, typically near-oestrus unreceptive female boxing off closely-attendant male.
  • May also be chases with several males pursuing one female.

(B142)

  • Sexual behaviour is usually at a peak during the spring. (B605.4.w4)
  • When a female is in oestrus, up to a dozen males may gather around her, and chase off rivals or box each other. (B605.4.w4)

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Activity Patterns, Self-grooming and Navigation

Notes

ACTIVITY PATTERNS:

  • All the lagomorphs are terrestrial. (B147)
  • Inactive time hidden in vegetation, in characteristic "forms".
  • Active throughout year.

(B142, B147)

  • Known to travel up to 1.8 km in search of suitable graze in Scotland. (B605.4.w4)
  • May travel up to 15 km in one night whilst feeding. (B605.4.w4)
  • "Feeding takes about a third of a hare's time, and before entering its "form" for the day it backtracks to confuse predators." (B605.4.w4)

SELF-GROOMING: --

CIRCADIAN RHYTHM:

  • Mainly nocturnal, but also mornings and evenings in summer. (B142)
  • Greater daytime activity where population densities are higher. (B144)
  • Generally nocturnal, but at higher latitudes and during the breeding season this species is known to begin feeding mid afternoon. (B605.4.w4)

SPEED OF MOVEMENT:

  • Leporids can run at speeds of up to 80 km/hr. (B147)

NAVIGATION: --

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Habitat and Range

General Habitat Type

Notes

  • Open country including farmland (pastures, grassland), and steppes.
  • Found in small woods/open woodland but less in larger woods.
  • Use woods, shelter belts, hedgerows, scrub for resting during day, especially in winter.
  • Flat country preferred, found at up to 1500 m (B143); to 9000 ft/2800 m in the mountains. (B144)

(B51, B52, B142, B143, B144, B147, B148)

  • Open woodland, steppe and sub-desert. (B607.w20)
  • Found in forest or open areas such as cultivated land. (B147)
  • This species tends to prefer open country scattered with hedges and shrubs used for cover. (B605.4.w4)
  • "They are very adaptable and reach high densities on mixed farmland under intensive agriculture in Denmark, Germany and Poland." (B605.4.w4)
  • The following habitats are also suitable for this species:
    • Alpine grassland.
    • Deciduous and evergreen open woodland.
    • Moorland.
    • Near desert.
    • Saltmarsh.
    • Steppe.

    (B605.4.w4)

  • "Where no other Lepus are present, as in Chile, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand, the habitats occupied can be especially variable, including pampas, sand dunes, marshes and alpine fell-field." (B605.4.w4)

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Nests / Burrows / Shelters

Notes

General Information
  • Hares tend to reside in caves or crevices in rocks. (B430.w2)
  • Lepus species do not usually dig burrows or live in them, favouring fleeing rather than hiding as a mode of escape. (B147)
  • The majority of hares rest underneath vegetation, generally lying within shallow dips in the ground (soil, snow or grass) known as 'forms'. (B147)
  • The majority of Lepus species live on the surface, but some do dig burrows or use tunnels and holes made by other animals. (B285.w5c)
  • Uses 'shelter forms' (small depressions within the ground or vegetation) to rest in during the day. Or may simply rest next to a plant. (B430.w2)
Specific Lepus europaeus Information
  • Characteristic "forms" - depressions in soil/snow/grass. (B147)
  • May dig into "form" in day, and re-use if not disturbed; often 'backtrack' along trails several times before returning to form - presumed predation-risk reduction behaviour. (B142)

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Distribution and Movement (Migration etc.)

Notes

  • Palearctic south of coniferous forest zone, except north-eastern China and Japan.
  • (Also all non-forested parts of Africa - including other species in Lepus capensis sensu lato. (B147))
  • Western Europe to western Siberian lowlands and south-west Asia (Iran).
  • In Europe, everywhere except: northern Scandinavia (found southern Sweden and southern Finland, northern Russia, Iberian Peninsula south of Cantabria and river Ebro, most Mediterranean islands.
  • In Britain replaced in uplands of Scotland, North Wales and Derbyshire where vegetation changes to Calluna moorland by Lepus timidus - Mountain hare.
  • On small Scottish Islands: Gigha, Davaar, Luing, Bute, Great Cumbrae, Rousay (B142).

(B51, B52, B142, B143)

  • This species is found from southern Sweden and Finland to Britain and throughout Europe. However, it is not found on the Iberian Peninsula south of Cantabria and the Ebro River, nor is it found in Italy south of Siena. Its range extends across to the western Siberian lowlands, then southwards to northern Israel, northern Syria, northern Iraq, the Tigris-Euphrates valley and western Iran. (B607.w20)
  • "SE border of range (Iran) from S Caspian Sea south to Persian Gulf (54oE)." (B607.w20)
  • Southern Scandinavia, southern Finland, Great Britain and Europe, then south to northern Iraq and Iran, as well as western Siberia. (B285.w5c)
  • This species is found in Britain and from southern Scandinavia and northern Spain to western Siberia and northwestern Iran. (B147)
  • Found across most of Europe to 60oN, though some of these populations have been introduced (see below). The eastern part of its range extends to Siberia and the south Pacific coast of Russia. (B605.4.w4)
  • "...in the south they are replaced by the tolai hare L.capensis tolai and to the north by the mountain hare L.timidus." (B605.4.w4)

Introduced

  • Ireland (Donegal, Fermanagh, Londonderry, Tyrone).
  • Southern Sweden.
  • South-central Canada, north-central USA, Argentina, Chile (B51).

(B142, B143)

  • Probably introduced to Britain by the Romans. (B221)
  • Introduced to Ireland, Scandinavia and the Mediterranean region, as well as several North Sea islands, Barbados, Réunion and the Falkland Islands. Also introduced as game animals in eastern Canada, northeastern USA, the majority of South America between 28o and 45oS, as well as Australia and New Zealand. (B605.4.w4)
  • Introduced to southeastern Canada down to northeastern USA, as well as southern South America, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland. Also introduced to several islands, including: Barbados, Réunion and the Falklands. (B607.w20)

  • Introduced into Ireland. (B285.w5c)
  • This species has been introduced to Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, northeastern USA, and southeastern Canada. (B147)
  • "East of the border of the range of europaeus in Iran, tolai [Lepus tolai - Tolai hare] occurs, apparently in allo- or parapatry with europaeus." (B607.w20)
  • "Over much of their range European hares occur in the same habitat as rabbits Oryctolagus cuniculus [Oryctolagus cuniculus - European rabbit] and it is rather surprising that the far smaller rabbit dominates the hare." (B605.4.w4)

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Conservation

Species variation

Notes

  • Lepus capensis - Cape hare now specifically separated from similar smaller species in Africa, Iberia, southern Italy, Sicily, central Asia; several subspecies recognised, based mainly on variations in size and coat pattern (B143).
  • Sometimes considered part of Lepus capensis. (B147)

Currently recognised subspecies include:

  • Lepus europaeus europaeus: Including Lepus europaeus alba, Lepus europaeus argenteogrisea, Lepus europaeus cyanotus, Lepus europaeus flavus, Lepus europaeus niger, Lepus europaeus pyrenaicus.

  • Lepus europaeus caspicus: Including Lepus europaeus kalmykorum.

  • Lepus europaeus connori: Including Lepus europaeus astaricus; Lepus europaeus iranensis.

  • Lepus europaeus creticus.

  • Lepus europaeus cyprius.

  • Lepus europaeus cyrensis: Including Lepus europaeus caucasicus; Lepus europaeus ghigi.

  • Lepus europaeus hybridus: Including Lepus europaeus aquilonius; Lepus europaeus biarmicus; Lepus europaeus borealis; Lepus europaeus campestris; Lepus europaeus hyemalis; Lepus europaeus tesquorum; Lepus europaeus tumac.

  • Lepus europaeus judeae.

  • Lepus europaeus karpathorum.

  • Lepus europaeus medius.

  • Lepus europaeus occidentalis.

  • Lepus europaeus parnassius: Including Lepus europaeus niethammeri.

  • Lepus europaeus ponticus.

  • Lepus europaeus rhodius.

  • Lepus europaeus syriacus.

  • Lepus europaeus transsylvanicus: Including Lepus europaeus campicola [nomen nudum]; Lepus europaeus cinereus [nomen nudum]; Lepus europaeus coronatus [nomen nudum]; laskerewi; Lepus europaeus maculatus [nomen nudum]; Lepus europaeus meridiei [nomen nudum]; Lepus europaeus meridionalis [nomen nudum]; Lepus europaeus nigricans [nomen nudum]; Lepus europaeus rufus [nomen nudum]; Lepus europaeus transsylvaticus.

(B607.w20)

NB: names in non-bold font are reported as synonyms for that particular subspecies from the reference B607.w20.

 Previously recognised subspecies include:

  • Lepus europaeus alba.

  • Lepus europaeus argenteogrisea.

  • Lepus europaeus europaeus.

  • Lepus europaeus flavus.

  • Lepus europaeus gallaecius.

  • Lepus europaeus hispanicus.

  • Lepus europaeus granatensis.

  • Lepus europaeus iturissius.

  • Lepus europaeus niger.

  • Lepus europaeus pyrenaicus.

  • Lepus europaeus transsylvanicus.

  • Lepus europaeus tumak.

(B605.4.w4)

Note:

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Conservation Status

Notes

WILD POPULATION - IMPORTANCE:

  • Broad range but recent rapid declines recently and now very rare in places. (B52, B144)
  • "Locally common but declining." (B285.w5c)
  • Declining across Europe. (B607.w20)
  • May occasionally hybridise with Lepus timidus - Mountain hare; hybrids sterile. (B143)
  • In the UK: common, but with a substantial decline in the 20th Century. Mid-winter population estimate (before main hare culling season starts) of 817,500, including 572,250 in England, 187,250 in Scotland, 58,000 in Wales; decline of as much as 40% may occur by the end of winter due to organised shoots. Population estimate was considered likely to be inaccurate by no more than 25% in either direction. (B221)
  • Total populatio of this species in Poland thought to be approximately 3.2 million individuals. (B147)
  • "More serious from a conservation view is the total loss of regional forms, like the French and Danish ones, by massive importations from Hungary and Eastern Europe." (B605.4.w4)

GENERAL LEGISLATION:

CITES LISTING: --

RED-DATA LIST STATUS:

  • IUCN - Lower Risk (least concern). (W2.Apr08.w15)

THREATS:

  • Declines in western and central Europe suggested linked to use of fertilisers, pesticides, heavy agricultural machinery.
  • Direct toxic effect of some agricultural sprays, with herbicides reducing food diversity.

(B142, B143).

  • Agricultural practice changes; exact effects on hares unclear. (B221)
  • Population declines in Britain and Europe due to excessive use of herbicides and pesticides, and due to mechanised agriculture, have been reported. (B605.4.w4)

PEST STATUS / PEST POPULATIONS:

  • Known to damage orchards and crops, as well as young trees in forests. (B147)

CAPTIVE POPULATIONS: --

TRADE AND USE:

  • This species has been described as "...the most important small game species in Poland". (B147)
  • Thought to be the most important game animal in Europe. (B605.4.w4)
  • More than five million individuals are shot each year in Europe. (B605.4.w4)

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