Rabbits and Hares. No more confusion!

compiled by S. Elena


| Birth | Outlook | Diets | Social Behavior | Habitat | References |

On the threshold of the Easter one can ask: the Easter bunnies, are they a rabbits or hares? Sadly many people do not know the difference between these two animals. Even though those creatures look the same, in fact they belong to absolutely different species. It may sound improbable but those kinds of mammals have more differences than similarities: they are born differently, they behavior and style of life are totally different, they even prefer different food!

The difference between rabbits and hares appears at the moment they are born. First of all baby-rabbits are called kittens, while baby-hares are called leverets. Rabbits are born completely helpless, naked and blind (photos a, b ). Hares are born fully furred, able to see and capable of independent movement(photos c, d). In fact hares can live on their own after one hour from they birth! Therefore their mothers feel free to leave them on the bare ground and hop away soon after the baby is born. Rabbit's mothers are much more careful and protective to their children: their line a nest with grass, bark and soft stems. Over this, they place a layer of hair plucked from their own bodies. When rabbit-mother leaves the nest, she covers the bunnies with more hair and dead plants to keep them warm and hidden from enemies.

Kittens -- new born rabbits
New born rabbit(eeew!) New born spotted rabbit
(a) (b)
Leverets -- new born hares
Leverets family Leveret head
(c) (d)

Hares are generally larger, and have longer hind legs then rabbits and longer ears with characteristic black markings. The skulls of rabbits and hares are also different. Rabbit's fur coat remains its color year-round, while hares change color from grayish brown in summer to white in winter.

Rabbits and hares have different diets. If rabbits prefer soft stems, grass or vegetables, hares eat more hard food: bark and rind, buds, small twigs and shoot.

Rabbits usually live in burrows or tunnels in the ground, where they prefer to stay during daylight hours. They try to keep hidden. Hares on the other hand, always stay on the surface among plants and usually try to escape enemies by running.

Rabbits are very social animals; they live in colonies. Male rabbits even fight within a group to become the dominant male. The dominant male rabbit then mates with most of the females in the area. In opposite, hares live most of the time by themselves. They come together in pairs for mating only. There is almost no fighting among hares - they just pair off.

It is amazing that the nature has created such different animals to look the same. But now we know the difference between them and will not be deceived anymore by those tricky long-eared creatures.

References

  1. Dave G. Ducker, John P. Morris, Craig G. Stuve. Mammals of Ontario.
  2. John Bourne. Control of Rabbits and Hares in Agriculture, Food and Rural Development.
  3. Samantha Hunter. Hop to it: a guide to training your pet rabbit. Barron's Educational Series, 1991.
  4. Annette Lamb and Larry Johnson, Specific Types of Rabbits & Hares.
  5. Canadian Museum of Nature, Ukaliq. Naming and Classifying
  6. June Wingert. What is the difference between a rabbit and a hare?.
More images of rabbits and hares can be found at