Hare vs rabbit – What is the difference?

Despite sharing several similarities, Hares and Rabbits are in fact different species. In this article we’ll discuss the differences between the two animals.

What is the difference between rabbits and hares?

Firstly – let’s get scientific.

Hares and Rabbits are from the same family of mammals, known as the Leporidae family, but are from different genuses. A comparison that is often used to compare this scientific difference is that of Goats and Sheep. Both are from the same animal family, but are very different genuses. The Hare and the Rabbit also fit into this category.

Hares are generally larger than rabbits, have longer ears and larger more powerful hind legs. Another difference is that the hare has black markings on the tips of its ears.

Rabbits and hares are different from the very moment they are born. Baby hares are born fully aware, which is known as precocial. Baby hares, which are called leveret, are born with their open eyes, a full fur coat and are able to move on their own within hours of being new born.

In comparison, the baby rabbit is born altricial, which means it is totally helpless and dependant on its mother, for around 8 weeks. Baby rabbits, called kittens, are born hairless and with their eyes closed shut.

5 differences between Bunnies vs Hares

  • The Hares are much less sociable than the Rabbit, and will live on their own and only pair up to mate. Rabbits on the other hand are real family animals and much prefer to live in larger groups.
  • Hares live above ground and form nests from long grass. Rabbits, with the exception of the cottontail rabbit of America, live in underground burrows. This is also where the young bunny will spend its first 8 weeks in the world, away from predators.
  • Rabbits prefer to eat soft grass and vegetables, where as the hares like tougher tree bark or sticks as food.
  • Both the rabbit and the hare sheds its coat in the changing seasons, but whilst the rabbit will remain the same color, hares are known the change color. One drastic change is that of the snowshoe hare, that is brown in the summer months but white in the winter, which is great for camouflage in the snow.
  • Female Hares are called Jill’s, and the males Jack. Female Rabbit are called Doe’s, and the males bucks

How much bigger are hares than rabbits?

Being different species, rabbits and hares do differ in size.

Let’s take the European animals for example. The adult Euoprean Hare is on average 50cm in length and grows to a weight of 4kg.

In comparison, the European Rabbit averages 40cm and a weight of 2.5kg. The Arctic Hare is even larger, growing to up to 70cms in length and to a weight of 7kg.

Whilst hares a usually larger, there are exceptions, like the Giant Flemish Rabbit, which can grow up to 70cms and a whopping 9kg.

European Hare standing proud in a field

Hare vs Rabbit – Which is Fastest

When it comes to who would win a Hare vs Rabbit race, the hare would be a clear winner.

Being stronger and larger than rabbits, the hare is very quick and that comes in handy given their natural habitat is large open prairies and meadows.

The European Hare can run as fast at 35mph, and the arctic hare capable of up to 37mph.

The American Jackrabbit, which is actually a hare, is one of the fastest animals on the planet, being able to reach speeds of up to 45mph. The rabbit is no slowcoach.

The average rabbit can run up to 25mph, with the fastest being the Eastern Cottontail who can reach speeds of up to 35mph

Are hares aggressive?

As Mad as a March Hare is a very well known saying, and normally accompanied by a picture of two hares, up on their hind legs, fighting with their front paws are if they were prize boxers.

However, hares are not known to be overly aggressive.

The scenes of bickering hares in spring is normally a courtship ritual, where the female, tired of being chased by the male, will turn a fight in order to test the strength of the potential mate.

Rather than being aggressive, hares are built for speed and would always prefer to run than fight.

Can hares mate with rabbits?

As we have now shown, hare and rabbits may look similar, but are very different animals, and as such they do not mate in the wild.

Conclusion

Hopefully now you have a better understanding of the differences between rabbits and hares. History tells us that rabbits have been domesticated for many years and for a nation of animal lovers like us, their friendly playful nature has turned them into a favorite amongst pet parents.

The hare on the other hand does not make a great pet. The physical size, sheer speed, and unsocial skittish nature means they are best left in the wild.

References: National Geographic

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