Hares and Rabbits are two very similar-looking animals. Both are awesomely cute and fluffy. Hares vs Rabbits are not easy to distinguish and being small and quick you do not get much of a look either to make out the difference by looking at the subtle characteristics. Read on to find out more about the difference between hares and rabbits as well as some cool facts about both of them.
Hares vs Rabbits
1. Physical Characteristics
Hares that we are talking about are in the Lepus genus in scientific naming. We all know that both hares and rabbits are swift-hopping animals. They can go up to speeds of 80 km/h in short bursts. No one guesses that this little guy can achieve speeds comparable to cheetahs. Almost all hares have a sandy fur coat that blends well with the earth and long ears. The long ears are said to act as thermal radiators and keep them cool.
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The rabbit or bunny is generally smaller than the hare and has a more curved back. They resemble small mice but have larger ears, although not as big as hares. One common belief that rabbits are rodents is not scientifically unfounded. Though both rodents and the rabbit had a common ancestor, the rabbit family had diverged much earlier and formed its own group before the rodents.
Image Source: Wikimedia
Another significant difference between the rabbit and hare is that hares are precocial, meaning that the young ones are born relatively developed. The young hare, called a leveret, is born with grown fur and eyes and thus is able to protect itself soon after birth. This is in contrast to rabbits where the young ones require their parents to take care of them.
Hares are herbivores, generally. They feed on grass, weeds and shrubs, and twigs. They also eat fruits and vegetables and bark. Of course, in areas that have agricultural fields nearby, hares like to treat themselves to high-energy food. They like carrots, as is often portrayed in movies and culture but also feeds on cereals and sugary crops. However, it has been observed that some snowshoe hares when faced with long winters also eat meat if it is available. It is thought to supplement their diet in the harsh climate when no vegetation is available. Even more, they are also known to engage in cannibalistic behavior. Well! Who thought the cute bunny’s cousin would do such things?
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Rabbits are herbivores, always and no they are not known to engage in cannibalism so do not fear that your may one day come to see one of your pet bunnies eating the other. Rabbits mainly feed on grass and leaves. Even pet rabbits are fed a diet rich in cellulose fiber. One surprising fact is about how they digest cellulose. In hindgut fermentation, they pass two types of feces and re-ingest the one containing undigested cellulose to again absorb nutrients.
Image Source: Wikimedia
Rabbits have a normal lifespan of 8 to 12 years when in human care. In wild, they often fall prey to predators and their lifespan is significantly shorter, anywhere from 3 to 5 years. The lifespan of hares is also similar but some species like the arctic hare have a lifespan of only 18 months! The scrub hare that is found in Africa also has a lifespan of a maximum of 5 years.
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4. Distribution and Habitat
Hares are an extant species found in large parts of Africa, Europe, Asia, and North America. In these places, this animal has even found places in the local folklore and culture. One theory also says that the hare was a symbol of love in ancient Europe and was associated with goddesses. It was later appropriated into Christianity and that is why the easter bunny is a thing today.
Hares generally live in grasslands and woodlands. It does not dig itself into a burrow, unlike rabbits but shelters only in holes or depressions on the earth or on flat grass. Even surprisingly, since hares give birth to young ones, that are largely developed, they do not need to build any sort of nest or burrow to take care of the baby.
Rabbits also live in grasslands and woodlands but can also be found in deserts and wetlands. While they are found in most of the continents except Antarctica, Europe has little rabbit population thought to be because of competition with hares. South America also has only a single rabbit species that inhabit mostly the northern parts. Rabbits are burrowing animals, sometimes they build a colony called a warren.
4. As food and clothing
Both hares and rabbits are used as food and clothing in places they are found. Rabbits are also farmed for meat, but hares are not. The blood is also drunk in some places or used in cooking. There are many famous dishes that are made with rabbit or hare meat and blood. These meats also form a staple in many places like Malta. The hide is also used for making pelts and wool.
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5. Population status
Rabbits are not uncommon in any part of the world and thanks to human activities, can be found on any continent of the world except Antarctica. Rabbits are fast breeders and as such has established many feral populations in parts of the world that earlier had no rabbits. Obviously, this has led to environmental problems and competition with the native animals in such places.
They are also categorized as pests in areas where they damage crop production and many control methods are adopted. Shooting and hunting with hounds and the use of gases and chemicals have also proven ineffective until now. Rabbits are also a common cuisine eaten all over the world. The consumption of rabbit meat is a millennia-old practice and continues to this day. Rabbits are farmed on huge commercial scales for this reason.
Hares are not domesticated animals. However, some sparse records have been found in history where some hares lived in close proximity to humans and ate millet given by humans. This may be a domesticated population but in recorded history and today, no hares are domesticated. However, some pet rabbit breeds do exist that look very similar to hares but actually are rabbits only. It is one of the important differences between hares vs rabbits.
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Image Source: NPS Climate Change Response
These are the facts you need to about Hares vs Rabbits. Kindly share and do post your comments.