Brown Hare, European Hare, Cape Hare
Facts about this animal
There are differing views among taxonomists as to whether Lepus capensis and Lepus europaeus are two distinct species, or europaeus is just a subspecies of capensis. As they are very similar in appearance, body functions and behaviour, they are treated as one single species for the purposes of the Virtual Zoo.
An adult hare can reach a weight of 4 - 5 kg, with a head-body length of about 52 - 60 cm. It has a short, bushy, black and white tail, long, black-tipped ears (12 - 14 cm) and very long and powerful hind legs with four toes, strong claws and hairy soles. The fore limbs are much shorter and have five toes. The fur is brown with shades of black on the upper parts, underparts are white.
In the Northern Hemisphere, the reproductive season usually lasts from February to October with a peak in April-May. In non-pregnant females mating occurs at weekly intervals. Pregnancy lasts about 42 days. Up to 10 days before birth, the female may mate again, which can lead to superfetation, consequently to birth intervals shorter than 42 days. Females become sexually mature at about 6 months, they usually produce 3 to 4 litters per year with 1-5, mostly 2-3, leverets per litter.
Differently from rabbits, young brown hares, called leverets are born with fur and their eyes open, and are weaned after 2-5 weeks. They weigh 80-180 g at birth and live in a 'form' (a depression in the ground), under the cover of vegetation or rock outcrops.
The brown hare's diet consists mainly of grasses and herbs, with mainly grasses in summer, herbs in winter. Also buds, bark, twigs, particularly of fruit trees, and arable crops such as early stages of cereals are eaten, and there are isolated reports of hares catching and eating voles or other small mammals.
Did you know?
That it is only since 1944 that brown hares can be successfully kept and bred in human care? At that time, Heini Hediger, then Director of Basel Zoo, invented the "mirror cage", a set of two adjoining symmetric cages with the possibility of shifting the animals without stress from one compartment to the other. Shifting the hares every second day into a clean cage was necessary at that time when no effective coccidiostatics and anthelminthics were available.
|Name (Scientific)||Lepus capensis/europaeus|
|Name (English)||Brown Hare, European Hare, Cape Hare|
|Name (French)||Lièvre brun, Lièvre européen, Lièvre du Cap|
|Name (Spanish)||Liebre europea|
|Local names||Afrikaans: Vlakhaas
Croatian: (Europski) zec
Czech: Zajíc polní
Danish: (Europæisk) hare
Dutch; (Europese) haas
Hungarian: Mezei nyúl
Italian: Lepre comune
Polish: Zajac szarak
Romansh: Lieur brina
Slovakian: Zajac pol'ný
Slovenoan: Poljski zajec
Turkish: Bayagi tavsan
|CITES Status||Not listed|
|CMS Status||Not listed|
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|Range||Lepus europaeus (yellow): Northern, central, western Europe and Asia, and the most northern parts of Africa. Lepus capensis (red): Africa, Middle East, Central and Eastern Asia. Introduced to Canada, USA, Central and South America and Australia.|
|Habitat||They prefer temperate open habitats like grasslands, often around agriculture fields and near woodland and hedgerows.|
|Wild population||Unknown, but declining. Population densities range from 0.1/ha to 3.4/ha (1990) (Red List IUCN 2011)|
|Zoo population||L. europaeus: 18 reported to ISIS L. capensis: 4 reported to ISIS|
In the Zoo
How this animal should be transported
For air transport, Container Note 79 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.
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Why do zoos keep this animal
Brown hares are usually kept for educational purposes because they are well-known to people as "Easter bunny" and from fairy tales, and have been anthropomorphised in movies such as Walt Disney's "Bambi", but less an less seen in the wild - at least in Europe. Of special interest are the differences between rabbits and hares, and the brown hare's reproductive physiology.
In a few instances, zoos have also made available brown hares for reintroduction or restocking projects.