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

Lepus timidus - Mountain hare (Click photographs/illustrations for full picture & further details)

Lepus timidus in winter coat. Click here for full page view with caption Lepus timidus in winter coat. Click here for full page view with caption Head of Lepus timidus in winter coat. Click here for full page view with caption Lepus timidus in summer coat. Click here for full page view with caption Lepus timidus in winter coat. Click here for full page view with caption Lepus timidus in winter coat. Click here for full page view with caption Irish hare. Click here for full page view with caption Irish hare. Click here for full page view with caption Irish hare. Click here for full page view with caption Irish hare. 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)

  • Arctic hare (B51)
  • Blue hare. (B147, B285.w5c)
  • Giorria (Irish Gaelic)
  • Lièvre changeant (French)
  • Maigheach-gheal (Scottish Gaelic)
  • Polarhaus (German)
  • Schneehase (German)
  • Snow hare
  • Varying hare
  • Lepus abei. (B607.w20)
  • Lepus alpinus. (B607.w20)
  • Lepus algidus. (B607.w20, J469.495.w1)
  • Lepus borealis. (B607.w20, J469.495.w1)
  • Lepus canescens. (B607.w20, J469.495.w1)
  • Lepus collinus. (B607.w20)
  • Lepus gichiganus. (J469.495.w1)
  • Lepus hibernicus. (J469.495.w1)
  • Lepus lugubris. (J469.495.w1)
  • Lepus sclavonicus (J469.495.w1)
  • Lepus septentrionalis. (B607.w20)
  • Lepus sylvaticus. (B607.w20)
  • Lepus typicus. (B607.w20)
  • Lepus variabilis. (B607.w20, J469.495.w1)
  • Lepus varronis. (J469.495.w1)
  • Lepus timidus abei. (B605.4.w4, J469.495.w1)
  • Lepus timidus ainu. (B607.w20, J469.495.w1)
  • Lepus timidus albus [nomen nudum]. (B607.w20)
  • Lepus timidus altaicus. (B607.w20)
  • Lepus timidus begitschevi. (B607.w20, J469.495.w1)
  • Lepus timidus breviauritus. (B607.w20)
  • Lepus timidus canescens. (B605.4.w4)
  • Lepus timidus gichiganus. (B607.w20, J469.495.w1)
  • Lepus timidus hibernicus (Irish). (B607.w20, J469.495.w1)
  • Lepus timidus kamtschaticus. (B607.w20)
  • Lepus timidus kolymensis. (B607.w20, J469.495.w1)
  • Lepus timidus kozhevnikovi. (B607.w20, J469.495.w1)
  • Lepus timidus lugubris. (B607.w20, J469.495.w1)
  • Lepus timidus lutescens. (B607.w20)
  • Lepus timidus mordeni. (B607.w20, J469.495.w1)
  • Lepus timidus orii. (B607.w20, J469.495.w1)
  • Lepus timidus rubustus [nomen nudum]. (B607.w20)
  • Lepus timidus saghaliensis. (B607.w20)
  • Lepus timidus scoticus (Scottish form). (B607.w20, J469.495.w1)
  • Lepus timidus sibiricorum. (B607.w20, J469.495.w1)
  • Lepus timidus sylvaticus. (J469.495.w1)
  • Lepus timidus timidus. (B605.4.w4, J469.495.w1)
  • Lepus timidus transbaicalicus. (B607.w20)
  • Lepus timidus transbaikalicus (J469.495.w1)
  • Lepus timidus varronis. (B607.w20, J469.495.w1)

 

Names for new-borns / juveniles

Names for males

Names for females

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General Appearance

Adult: 

Specific Lepus timidus information

  • A typical lagomorph (B142). Grey-brown in summer, usually white in winter. (J469.495.w1)

Newborn: 

Specific Lepus timidus information

  • Fully furred, eyes open. (B147).

Similar Species

  • Smaller, slighter and narrower than Lepus europaeus - Brown hare, with shorter rounder head, thicker nose, domed skull, shorter ears, shorter forelimbs, longer hind legs, wider hind foot, greyer coat (except Irish subspecies), lack of black on dorsal tail. (B142, B148, D30, J469.495.w1)

Sexual Dimorphism

--

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References

Species Authors & Referees

Editor: Debra Bourne MA VetMB PhD MRCVS (V.w5); Kathryn Pintus BSc MSc MSc (V.w115)

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

Specific Lepus timidus information
Adult: Head-body length:
19-28 in./480-690 mm (B144); 457-545 mm mean 502 mm (Scottish), 521-559 mm mean 545 mm (Irish) (B142); 46-54.5 cm (D30).

  • This species is very variable in size. (B605.4.w4, J469.495.w1)

Newborns: --

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

WEIGHT

Specific Lepus timidus information
Adult: 
About 5.56.6 lbs./2.5-3.0 kg (B144).

  • Male: (Scottish) autumn/winter mean 2.7 kg with first-winter individuals about 0.3 kg less, spring/summer mean 2.6 kg (B142).
  • Female: Autumn/winter mean 2.9 kg with first-winter individuals about 0.3 kg less, spring/summer mean 3.1 kg (B142).
  • Averages vary between populations, from 2-4 kg. (B605.4.w4)
  • Females tend to be larger than males. (J469.495.w1) For example:
    • Lepus timidus scoticus males average 2,510 g, females 2,890g. (J469.495.w1)

Newborns: 

Specific Lepus timidus information

  • Average 2.5-5.2 oz./70-130 g (B144).
  • Neonates weigh between 70 and 140 g. (B287)
  • 100 g (Range: 61-182 g). (B605.4.w4, J469.495.w1)

GROWTH RATE

Specific Lepus timidus information

  • Grow at a rate of 14-30 g per day. (B605.4.w4, J469.495.w1)
  • Reach adult size by about four months old. (J469.495.w1)
  • Growth rate is higher in young from later litters, but they still do nor reach as large a size (mass or hind foot length) as individuals from earlier litters. (J469.495.w1)

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Head and Neck

Notes

Head of Lepus timidus in winter coat. Click here for full page view with caption Lepus timidus in winter coat. Click here for full page view with caption Irish hare. Click here for full page view with caption

GENERAL HEAD STRUCTURE:
Adult:

General Information

  • All lagomorphs have large ears relative to their body size. (B285.w5a)
  • Almost all Lepus species have long ears. (B147)

Specific Lepus timidus information

  • Ears long (about 1.5 times head length), with black tips (B142, B144, B147, D30); 2.8-4.3 in./70-106 mm (B144); 63-80 mm mean 70 mm (Scottish), 69-81 mm mean 75 mm (Irish) (B142).

Newborn:

Specific Lepus timidus information

  • Ears shorter than the head. (B605.4.w4)

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: 

  • Three pairs upper incisors at birth, with outer pair soon lost and second pair, 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.
  • Upper tooth rows further apart than lower
  • I2/1, C0/0, P3/2, M3/3 x2=28.

(B147)

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)

Newborn:

General Information 

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

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Legs, Spine and Tracks

Notes

General Information
  • All hares have well-furred feet. (B147)
  • Almost all Lepus species have large hind feet. (B147)
Specific Lepus timidus Information
  • Feet broad.
  • Heavy hairy cushions on soles of feet.
  • Hind limbs longer than forelimbs, well adapted for running.
  • Forefeet five toes, hindfeet four toes.
  • Strong claws.

(B52, B142, B144, B147)

Hindfoot length: 5.3-7.6 in./132-189 mm (B144) 13.8-14.8 cm (B148); including claws 127-155 mm mean 142 mm (Scottish), 69-81 mm mean 75 mm (Irish) (B142) .

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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 timidus Information
  • Short, white (B147, B605.4.w4, D30).
  • Length: 1.4-4.2 in./34-104 mm (B144); 5.3-6.5 cm (B148) excluding hair 43-80 mm mean 60 mm (Scottish), 65-83 mm mean 74 mm (Irish) (B142).

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Skin / Coat / Pelage

Notes

 Lepus timidus in summer coat. Click here for full page view with caption Lepus timidus in winter coat. Click here for full page view with caption Lepus timidus in winter coat. Click here for full page view with caption  Lepus timidus in winter coat. Click here for full page view with caption

Adult:

Summer: Red brown to grey-brown.
  • Dorsal dusky brown with flanks paler having grey-blue underfur more visible, indistinctly separated from ventral grey or grey-white.
  • Head and dorsal surfaces of feet brown; white hairs may persist on hind feet to June or later. Ear tips black.

Winter: White, grey-white or mottled; ear tips black.

(B142, B144, B148, D30)

  • This species is very variable in colour. (B605.4.w4)
  • "...the summer coat can be pale grey or dusky brown in the mountains to rich rust-brown on the plains." (B605.4.w4)
  • The head is usually browner than the rest of the body. (B605.4.w4)
  • The ears have black tips. (B605.4.w4)
  • Underparts are usually totally white, both in summer and winter. (B605.4.w4)

Moult:

Three annual moults:

  • Early June to mid September, brown to brown.
  • Mid-October to January (mainly complete by December) brown to white/grey-white.
  • Mid-February to late May white to brown (B142).
  • Shorter day length initiates winter moult, with progress strongly related to air temperature in first 10-12 weeks and snow-lie from December to mid-February.
  • Faster moult in warm spring, longer time white and more completely white at higher altitudes.

(B142)

  • The winter moult starts on the dorsal surface and is quite fast; tha spring moult starts ventrally ans is slower, particularly in cold springs. (J469.495.w1)
  • Moult is dependent on photoperiod but also correlated with temperature therefore hares at higher latitudes and altitudes stay white for longer. (J469.495.w1)
    • The start of the spring moult is triggered by daylength, but its speed depends on temperature. For the winter moult, the extent of whitening is affected by snow cover. (J469.495.w1)
  • "There is a seasonal change to white winter pelage in autumn in all areas except Ireland, where only a few individual hares turn white or patchy. In spring they molt from white to a brown or grey summer coat and there is a third molt from brown to brown in late summer." (B605.4.w4)

Adult Colour variations:

  • Irish individuals more reddish-brown overall than Scottish individuals.
  • Irish individuals generally stay brown or may become piebald, although do occasionally become almost totally white.
  • Arctic populations may retain some white hair in summer, or remain white.
  • Southern populations may remain brown all year.

(B142, B148)

Newborn / Juvenile:

General Information

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

Specific Lepus timidus Information

  • Furred at birth. (J469.495.w1)
  • Leverets greyer overall (B142).

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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)

Specific Lepus timidus Information

  • Total eight mammae (i.e. four pairs). (J469.495.w1)
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)
Adipose tissue

Specific Lepus timidus Information

  • Low fat deposits June to October, peak in January to March then decline at the start of the breeding season. (J469.495.w1)

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Life Stages / Natural Diet / Physiology

Life Stages

Notes

BREEDING SEASON:

Specific Lepus timidus Information

Mating season:

  • February to August. (J469.495.w1)
  • February onwards in south, later start (April) in north (B148); found pregnant February to August (Scotland) (B147); litters April to August - first litter late April/early May, second litter July/August (B148)
  • Mating season varies depending on the region:
    • Scotland, UK: January to June.
    • USSR: early- to mid-February.
    • Germany: March to June.
    (B287)
  • Conception:

    • Eastern Scotland, UK: February to August.
    • Sweden: March to unknown.
    • Western Alaska, USA: April.
    • Southwestern Newfoundland, Canada: peak in April.
    (B287)
OESTRUS / OVULATION:

General Information

Specific Lepus timidus Information

  • Cycle length: Oestrus 10-24 hours. (B287)
  • In Europe, oestrus occurs between mid-February and July; in the Alps it occurs from March to August. (B287)
  • There is usually a post-partum oestrus, with copulation just a few hours after parturition. Superfetation also occur. (J469.495.w1)
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 timidus Information

  • About 50 days (B144) up to 50 days (B52).
  • Gestation period is between 44 and 60 days, though generally around 50 days. (B287)
  • Average 50.3 days. (J469.495.w1)
  • Pregnant females have been reported in northeastern Scotland (UK) between January and September, with a peak between March and June. (B287)
  • Gestation period is between 47 and 55 days. (B605.4.w4)
  • Superfetation has not been recorded. (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)

Specific Lepus timidus Information

  • Females give birth at different times of the year, depending upon the region:
    • Europe: March to September.
    • The Alps, Europe: April to August.
    • North America: June and July.
    • Northeastern Scotland, UK: March to August.
    • Norway: May to the end of August or September.
    • Western Alaska, USA: End of May to early June.
    • Southwestern Newfoundland, Canada: Peak occurs between the end of May and mid-June.
    • Northwest Territories, Canada: June.
    • Captive populations have been reported to give birth between May and early July.

    (B287)

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 timidus Information

  • Fully furred with open eyes at birth; start suckling immediately. (J469.495.w1)
  • Young emerge from the den between two and four days of age. (B287)
  • Young begin to eat solid food between seven and nine days of age. (B287)
  • Weaned between 14 and 21 days of age. (B287)
  • In captivity, suckle for 10 - 20 days; the last litter of the season in the wild may suckle up to six weeks. (J469.495.w1)
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 timidus Information

1-5, average 3 (B144); mean 2.6 (B147); 2-5 (B148).

  • Litter sizes vary between one and eight young, with two, three or four appearing to be the most common. (B287)
  • Up to eleven corpora lutea have been reported. (B287)
  • Sweden: First litters average 2.15 young, with second litters being slightly bigger at an average of 3.24 young. (B605.4.w4, J469.495.w1)
  • Northern Russia: 6.4-6.9 young per litter (one litter per year). (B605.4.w4, J469.495.w1)
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 timidus Information

  • 2-3 litters annually (B144); average 2 litters/year (B147).
  • Average 2.6 litters per year. (J469.495.w1)
  • The interlitter interval is between 46 and 54 days, with an average of 50.1 days (Sample size = 8). (B287)
  • Between one and three litters per female per year. (B287)
  • Southern Norway and Scotland: up to three litters per year, with an annual production of five or six young. (B605.4.w4)
  • Northern Russia: one litter per year. (B605.4.w4)
  • Southern Russia: three or four litters per year. (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 timidus Information

  • Females suckle their young for about one month (B144).
  • Weaned between 14 and 21 days of age. (B287)
  • "In captivity the young depend on milk for 10-20 days but those of the final litter may continue to suckle for six weeks." (B605.4.w4)
  • Milk composition: Energy 2.92 Kcal/mL. Solids 40.0%, of which fat 48%, protein 49%, carbohydrates 2%.(P19.51w5)
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 timidus Information

  • About 1 year (B144). Do not breed in year of birth (B142).
  • Females reach sexual maturity between seven and nine months of age, whilst males reach sexual maturity between five and nine months. (B287)
MALE SEASONAL VARIATION:

Specific Lepus timidus Information

  • Testes are intra-abdominal outside the breeding season, descending into the scrotum during the breeding season. (B147)
  • Regress and are found intra-abdominally outside the breeding season, descending to the scrotum for breeding: in Lepus timidus scoticus, well-developed, weighing 7 - 9 g and in the scrotum February to May, but intra-abdominal, regerssed and weighing only 1- 2 g in July to December. (J469.495.w1)
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 timidus Information

  • Up to 8-9 years (B144); 8-10 years (B148).
  • Average age in one Japanese population 0.83 years. (J469.495.w1)
  • Sweden, average winter survival of adults varied from 0.42 at low predation pressure to 0.19 with high predation pressure. (J469.495.w1)
  • Juvenile survivorship (birth to spring the following year) average 0.20. (J469.495.w1)
  • A few Lepus timidus scotticus have reached nine years old in the wild. (J469.495.w1)
  • One marked individual was shot 18 years later. (J469.495.w1)

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Natural Diet

Notes

NATURAL DIET: 

General Lepus Information

  • Hares mainly eat grasses and herbaceous plants, but do also feed on twigs, buds and bark. (B147)

  • Isolated cases have been reported of hares capturing and eating voles and young lagomorphs. (B147)

Specific Lepus timidus Information

Vegetation:

  • Grass and herbs preferred
  • Also bark of young trees and shrubs, small stems of shrubs, twigs, buds.
  • Heather in winter, grasses in summer in Scotland (B142).

Isolated reports of catching and eating voles and young lagomorphs (B147).

(B142, B144, B147)

  • This species eats different food depending upon the habitat and season. (B605.4.w4, J469.495.w1)
  • Scotland and Ireland: Heather Calluna is frequently eaten. (B605.4.w4)
    • Calluna in Scotland and on Swedish islands. (J469.495.w1)
  • Europe: birch, juniper, poplar, willow and Vaccinium are favoured food items. (B605.4.w4)
    • Salix, Sorbus, Betula, Juniperus and Populus leaves and twigs in forest habitats. (J469.495.w1)
    • Alpine plants, particularly dwarf Salix, in tundra. (J469.495.w1)
  • When available, palatable grasses and clovers are eaten. (B605.4.w4, J469.495.w1)
  • With snow cover, only twigs, bark, lichens and mosses may be available. (J469.495.w1)
  • In Scotland, heather is the main food (up to 90%) in winter, but grasses and some dicotyledons are eaten more in summer. (J469.495.w1)
  • Foods eaten at different times of year may vary depending on preference and availability. (J469.495.w1)
  • They drink only rarely, but may ear snow. (J469.495.w1)

QUANTITY EATEN: --

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):

  • In winter, maintenance energy requirement is about 105 kcal/kg/day. (J469.495.w1)

RESPIRATORY SYSTEM (RESPIRATION): --

CIRCULATORY SYSTEM (PULSE/HEART RATE): --

GASTROINTESTINAL SYSTEM (FAECES AND GUT MOTILITY):

General Information

  • Lagomorphs have digestive systems which are adapted for processing large quantities of vegetation. (B285.w5a)
  • Lagomorphs are well adapted for obtaining the greatest possible value from their food. They produce two types of fecal 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 faecal pellets are not eaten. (B147)

Specific Lepus timidus Information

  • Produce special moist pellets which are re-swallowed for second passage through digestive tract (B147). Coprophagy takes place 0900-1600 hrs, while hard pellets are produced 1600-0600 hrs. (B142, J469.495.w1).
  • Coprophagy increases digestibility of food up to 25%. (J469.495.w1)
  • As many as 200 - 450 pellets are produced daily. (J469.495.w1)

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 chins 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 timidus Information

  • Males track females by scent. During the breeding season the inguinal glands show increased activity. (J469.495.w1)

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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 fecal 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 timidus Information

  • Will dig through snow to reach vegetation. (B605.4.w4)
  • Feed with their back to the wind. (J469.495.w1)
  • Clear snow from vegetation using their forepaws if it is not too hard; if it is hard they move to lower ground (as far as 5 - 10 km). (J469.495.w1)
  • As many as 50 - 300 hares may gather to feed in good feeding areas in open countryside. (J469.495.w1)

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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)

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Social Behaviour / Territoriality / Predation / Learning

Notes

Specific Lepus timidus Information

SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR:

General Information

  • Most North American leporid species are solitary, but congregations of these animals often occur in favoured feeding grounds. (B430.w2)
  • Hares are generally solitary animals. (B430.w2)
  • With the exception of the mating season (B147), most Lepus species are solitary. (B147, B285.w5c)
  • Hares communicate with each other by drumming their feet. (B147)
Specific Lepus timidus Information
  • Very sociable. Live in groups of several hundred individuals in Arctic areas (B144).
  • Feeding groups often form, consisting of between 20 and 100 individuals. (B605.4.w4)
  • As many as 50 - 300 hares may gather to feed in good feeding areas in open countryside. (J469.495.w1)
  • Frequently graze in groups with decreased vigilance per individual.
  • Groups up to 70 individuals at perimeter of snowfields and sheltered slopes when strong winds and drifting snow.
  • Dominance order of males related to weight.

    (B52, B142, B144, B147)

PREDATION:

Specific Lepus timidus Information

PREDATOR AVOIDANCE:

General Information

  • Hares will run out into open areas and use their speed in order to avoid predators. (B285.w5b, B605.4.w4)
  • Speeds of up to 72 km/h (45 mph) have been reported for hares. (B285.w5b)
  • "Instead of seeking cover, hares rely on their well-developed running ability to escape from danger: also on camouflage, by flattening on vegetation." (B285.w5c)
  • Jackrabbits can avoid predators by crouching against the ground in any available cover. (B147)
  • Jackrabbits are capable of running for greater distances than true rabbits (Sylvilagus sp.) (B147)

Specific Lepus timidus Information

  • "In Europe mountain hares are reported to confuse their tracks before resting up for the day...but this has not been seen in Scotland." (B605.4.w4)

POPULATION DENSITIES:

General 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 regeneration, hare population numbers are able to start increasing once more. (B147)

Specific Lepus timidus Information

  • Population densities are variable. (B605.4.w4, J469.495.w1)
  • Population density about 1 per 2 hectares (B147).
  • Sweden and Russia: approximately 1-2 hares per square km. (B605.4.w4)
  • West Scotland: 0.14 per square km. (B605.4.w4, J469.495.w1)
  • Northeast Scotland (most suitable habitat): 245 individuals per square km. (B605.4.w4, J469.495.w1)
  • Population densities may reach levels of up to 400 individuals per square km on small islands including Vedholmen (Sweden). (B605.4.w4, J469.495.w1)
  • "There is evidence of a three to four year cycle in abundance in Fenno-Scandia and a longer-term cycle of eight to twelve years in Scotland and Russia." (B605.4.w4)
  • Population peaks generally occur 8 - 12 years apart (3- 4 year interval in Fennoscandia). (J469.495.w1)

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 timidus Information

  • In Scotland, the normal daily range for males is about 16.2 hectares, with female daily ranges being lower at about 10.1 hectares. However, these ranges become much smaller during the breeding season, with males covering about 13.7 hectares, and females only 3.7 hectares. (B147)
  • Home range 4-20 hectares (B52).
  • Scotland: home ranges vary from 10-30 hectares. (B605.4.w4)
  • Scotland: home ranges males 112.9 hectares, females 88.9 hectares. (J469.495.w1)
  • Finland: data from two tracked hares indicate home ranges of 72 and 305 hectares. (B605.4.w4)
  • Finland: variable home range size depending on food supply; as high as 71 and 305 hectares, but on a 92 hectare island only 6.6 hectares 
  • Individuals tracked in Japan moved 610 - 1,857 m (average 1,373 m) in a night. (J469.495.w1)
  • Hares may travel as far as 2.4 km to feed. (J469.495.w1)

TERRITORIALITY:

General Information

  • 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)

Specific Lepus timidus Information

  • Ranges overlap; no territoriality has been observed and juveniles do not disperse. (J469.495.w1)

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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 chins 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 timidus Information

  • Dominant males approach more females than do subordinate males (B142).
  • "Reproductive behavior consists of a male (or small group of males) following 2-20m behind a female for hours, but the males seldom fight each other." (B605.4.w4)
  • Males use scent to track females and follow 2 - 20 m behind them for hours in January to July; if they approach too close the female may put her ears back and strike with her forepaws. (J469.495.w1)

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Activity Patterns, Self-grooming and Navigation

Notes

ACTIVITY PATTERNS:

General Information 

  • All the lagomorphs are terrestrial. (B147)
  • Active throughout year (B147).

Specific Lepus timidus Information

  • In summer they rest in deep concealment in vegetation; in winter they use exposed positions or rocks. (J469.495.w1)

SELF-GROOMING:

Specific Lepus timidus Information

  • Groom carefully, particularly evening and early morning. (J469.495.w1)
  • In dry weather they take dust baths. (J469.495.w1)

CIRCADIAN RHYTHM:

Specific Lepus timidus Information 

  • Mainly nocturnal, but also active dawn and dusk, sometimes in daylight particularly lactating females (B142); crepuscular feeding (B148).
  • "Mountain hares are nocturnal but there is increased daylight activity in summer when nights are short, or in winter when food is scarce." (B605.4.w4)
  • Rests in "form" under bushes during day (B148).
  • Mainly nocturnal; in summer (short nights) more activity is seen during daylight. (J469.495.w1)
  • In the daytime, they rest in a "form", eyes half closed and ears back, but sleeping for only a few minutes at a time. (J469.495.w1)

SPEED OF MOVEMENT:

General Information

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

NAVIGATION: --

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Habitat and Range

General Habitat Type

Notes

Specific Lepus timidus Information
  • Northern forest zone and tundra up to Asian steppes, in scrub area and higher in Alpine region. (B144)
  • Mainly mixed forest areas in Europe. In Russia, forests with aspen and shrub thickets; in Ireland, moorland and agricultural lands; in Scotland, Calluna moorlands and arctic-alpine areas, in Hokkaido, (Lepus timidus varronis), grass fields, scrubland and open forest are used. (J469.495.w1)

Britain:

  • Scotland: heather moorland preferred, old growth used for resting, new for feeding, utilising wind-cleared areas on hilltops when snow covers heather in valleys. Also montane grassland and open forest above 250-300 m.
  • Peak District: use Calluna - Eriophorum vegetation above 130 m.
  • Isle of Man: use higher ground heather (versus Lepus europaeus - Brown hare on lower ground grasslands).
  • Ireland: found sea level to mountaintops, wide range habitats, including abundant on short-grass farmland.

Northern Europe in young forests, bushes at edges of fields, bogs, clearings, along watercourses. Also found on coasts, island, and treeless fells in Lapland.

(B142, B143, D30)

  • Found in tundra and open forest. (B51, B605.4.w4)
  • Often found in pine, birch and juniper open forests. (B605.4.w4)
  • Tundra and coniferous forest zones. (B147)
  • "Heather moors and bogland are favoured by this species in Scotland and Ireland. (B605.4.w4)
  • Reed belts around lakes and copses in open steppe are favoured habitats in southern Russia. (B605.4.w4)
  • "On agricultural land this species tends to be replaced by the European hare L.europaeus [Lepus europaeus - Brown hare] in Europe and the Cape hare L.capensis [Lepus capensis - Cape hare] further east." (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 timidus Information

  • Inactive time hidden in vegetation, in characteristic "forms" - depressions in soil/snow/grass.
  • May make burrows or short tunnels, particularly in snow, but lie outside this, near opening.
  • Juveniles may use burrows up to 2 m long to escape predators.

(B143, B144, B147)

  • Known to dig through snow to create short tunnels in which to hide from predators or adverse weather. (B605.4.w4)
  • Make several forms as daytime resting places; vegetation is trimmed but no lining is added. (J469.495.w1)
    • The same form may be used for weeks, even for years. (J469.495.w1)
    • Forms may be in the open or in sheltering vegetation, in rocks etc. (J469.495.w1)
    • In winter, they burrow through snow to reach/make forms. (J469.495.w1)
  • They use marmot burrows and crevices for escape and shelter. (J469.495.w1)
  • Burrows 1 - 2 m long may be dug; these are used much more by juveniles than by adults. (J469.495.w1)
  • Digging of burrows varies: they do not dig burrow in Ireland or the Alps, but in Khatana, Russia, they have been reported to dig burrows which are up to 7 m long and complex. (J469.495.w1)

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Distribution and Movement (Migration etc.)

Notes

Specific Lepus timidus Information

Tundra and boreal forest zones throughout Palearctic from Ireland and Scandinavia to eastern Siberia, Sakhalin, Hokkaido) (B147). Isolated population in Alps (Lepus timidus varronis), and in tundra zone of North America (Lepus timidus arcticus and Lepus timidus othus).

In Alps: 1,300-3,600 m; in treeless areas up to snow line in summer, and in upper tree zone in winter (B148); mainly 150-3,000 m, to 3,700 m in summer and down to 600 m in winter (B143).

British Isles: Scottish Highlands, particularly grouse moors due to heather management by rotational burning, and Ireland, also by introductions to southern Scotland, Pennines, Derbyshire, possibly North Wales near Bangor, Scottish islands: Shetland, Orkney (Hoy), Outer Hebrides, Skye, Raasay, Scalpay, Mull, Jura, Isle of Man and Irish islands (B142).

(B142, B143, B147, B148)

  • Isolated populations of this species can be found in Wales, Scotland, Ireland and the Alps. (B285.w5c, B607.w20)
  • Northern Eurasia, arctic. (B51)
  • This species is found in the Palearctic from Scandinavia to eastern Siberia. However, it is not found in eastern Chukotsk (Russia). The range extends southwards to Sakhalin and Sikhote-Alin Mountains of Russia. This species is also found in the following areas:
    • Hokkaido, Japan.
    • Heilungjiang and northern Xinjiang, China.
    • Northern Mongolia.
    • Altai, northern Tien Shan Mountains.
    • Northern Ukraine, eastern Poland and the Baltics.

    (B607.w20)

  • Found from Scandinavia to eastern Siberia, and in the European Alps, Ireland, Scotland, Sakhalin and Hokkaido. (B147)

  • "Mountain hares range from east Poland to the Pacific Ocean, from 75oN in the far north of Russia and Scandinavia, south to 40-50oN." (B605.4.w4)

  • Isolated populations are found in the following areas:

    • Ireland.
    • Scotland.
    • Switzerland.
    • Italy.
    • The Kurile Islands.
    • Hokkaido, Japan.

    (B605.4.w4)

  • Note: formerly considered (see below) to be found in North America, but the subspecies involved are now considered separate species. (B607.w20) See: Lepus arcticus - Arctic hare and Lepus othus - Alaskan hare
    • "Circumpolar in tundra and taiga habitats from Britain to Japan." (J469.495.w1)
    • "Alaska, Labrador, Greenland, Scandinavia, N Russia to Siberia and Sakhalin, Hokkaido (Japan), Sikhoto Alin Mts, Altai, N Tien Shan, N Ukraine, Baltic states." (B285.w5c)

Introduced:

  • Northern England, Hebrides, Shetland, Orkneys, Faroe Islands (B143, B605.4.w4, B607.w20)
  • Parts of Scotland and northern England. (B147)
  • Some individuals of this species were introduced on Spitzbergen but later died out. (B605.4.w4)

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Conservation

Species variation

Notes

Specific Lepus timidus Information

Recognised subspecies:

  • Lepus timidus scoticus (Scottish form), c. 2.6 kg, occipito-nasal skull length 83-89 mm, greyish-brown summer, white winter.
  • Lepus timidus hibernicus (Irish), c. 3.2 kg, occipito-nasal skull length 91-99 mm, reddish-brown summer, brown or partially white winter.
  • Lepus timidus timidus (Northern Eurasia), occipito-nasal skull length 89-103 m, greyish brown summer, white winter (B142).
Currently recognised subspecies include:
  • Lepus timidus timidus: including Lepus timidus abei, Lepus timidus alpinus ("Erxleben, 1777 [not Pallas, 1773]"), Lepus timidus algidus, Lepus timidus borealis, Lepus timidus canscens, Lepus timidus collinus, Lepus timidus septentrionalis, Lepus timidus sylvaticus, Lepus timidus typicus, Lepus timidus variabilis

  • Lepus timidus ainu: albus [nomen nudum].

  • Lepus timidus begitschevi. 

  • Lepus timidus gichiganus.

  • Lepus timidus hibernicus: including Lepus timidus lutescens.

  • Lepus timidus kamtschaticus.

  • Lepus timidus kolymensis.

  • Lepus timidus kozhevnikovi.

  • Lepus timidus lugubris: including Lepus timidus altaicus.

  • Lepus timidus mordeni.

  • Lepus timidus orii: including Lepus timidus saghaliensis; Lepus timidus rubustus [nomen nudum].

  • Lepus timidus scoticus.

  • Lepus timidus sibiricorum.

  • Lepus timidus transbaicalicus.

  • Lepus timidus varronis: including Lepus timidus breviauritus.

(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 timidus abei.
  • Lepus timidus canescens.
  • Lepus timidus timidus.

(B605.4.w4)

Note:

  • This species formerly included Lepus arcticus - Arctic hare and Lepus othus - Alaskan hare. (B607.w20)
  • The Scottish and Alpine populations were found to be both geographically isolated and morphologically distinct from other populations. (B607.w20)
  • Lepus timidus scoticus (from Scotland) and Lepus timidus hibernicus (from Ireland) were both introduced to the island of Mull. However, it was reported that even after 50 years on this island, the two subspecies did not interbreed. (B607.w20)

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Conservation Status

Notes

WILD POPULATION - IMPORTANCE:

Specific Lepus timidus Information

  • Common in general, wide range. Great decline in Alpine region, but partially protected in that region (B144).
  • Mainly stable population (B143).
  • In Britain: native although with wide introductions outside the native range, "locally common in some upland areas". Pre-breeding population estimate of about 350,000, with 500 in England, 350,000 in Scotland, 0 in Wales. Population estimate of this widely-distributed species was based on a limited amount of data and considered likely to be inaccurate by up to 50% in either direction (B221).
  • Locally common. (B285.w5c)
  • Very abundant and widespread. (B605.4.w4)
  • "Some subspecies may be threatened at present, e.g. those in the European Alps and central Italy." (B605.4.w4)

GENERAL LEGISLATION:

Specific Lepus timidus Information

  • Bern Convention Appendix III.
  • EU Habitats & Species Directive, Annex V.
(B143)

CITES LISTING: --

RED-DATA LIST STATUS:

Specific Lepus timidus Information

  • IUCN - Lower Risk (least concern). (W2.Apr08.w31)

THREATS:

Specific Lepus timidus Information

  • Population fragmentation
  • Chance events affecting small isolated populations
  • Reductions in areas and management of heather moorland in UK

(B221)

PEST STATUS / PEST POPULATIONS:

Specific Lepus timidus Information 

  • Scotland: considered to be vermin on grouse moors. As a result, many are shot during the winter and exported to Germany. (B605.4.w4)
  • Pests of forestry plantations in Ireland, Scotland and Japan. (B605.4.w4)

CAPTIVE POPULATIONS: --

TRADE AND USE:

Specific Lepus timidus Information

  • Harvested for skins in Russia, though this market has declined. (B605.4.w4)
  • Major game animal in Scandinavia. (B605.4.w4)

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