Mountain Hare

(Lepus timidus)




Facts about this animal

The mountain hare is slightly smaller than the brown hare, reaching a head-body length of 50-60 cm and a weight of 2.5-4 kg. It has a more rounded shape shorter ears and legs than the brown hare, and there is no black upper surface on the tail. Mountain hares moult twice a year - in late autumn, and again in the spring when they lose their winter coat. Typically, the summer coat is greyish-brown with klighter under parts, the winter coat white with black ear tips. There are regional differences however.


Mountain hares feed on heather, bilberry, twigs of gorse, juniper, grasses, herbs and occasionally, farm crops.


Mountain hares are mainly solitary, but in severe weather, or at good food sites, may congregate in large groups of up to 70. Occasionally, particularly in deep snow, they burrow for shelter. They have home ranges of between 80 and 100 hectares. Mountain hares can reach speeds of over 60 km per hour when threatened. The breeding season is between February and September. The females produce 2 or 3 litters of 1-5 leverets per year. The gestation period lasts between 44 and 55 days. The young are born with fur and their eyes open, and are weaned at three weeks. They live in a 'form' (a depression in the ground), under the cover of heather or rock outcrops.

Did you know?
That the mountain hare's North American cousin, the snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus) is the main prey of the lynx to the extent that lynx numbers fall and rise in response to population levels of the showeshoe hare?


Name (Scientific) Lepus timidus
Name (English) Mountain Hare
Name (French) Lièvre variable
Name (German) Schneehase
Name (Spanish) Liebre variable
Local names Estonian: Valgejänes
Finnish: Metsäjänis
Icelandic: Snæhéri
Italian: Lepre bianca, lepre delle nevi
Lithuanian: Baltasis kiskis
Norwegian: Snøhare
Polish: Zajac bielak
Romansh: Lieur alva
Slovenian: Planinski zajec
Swedish: Skogshare
CITES Status Not listed
CMS Status Not listed



Photo Copyright by
Alan Wolfe



Range Discontinuous. Northern part of the palaearctic region from Scandinavia and Poland to the Pacific coast of Russia, isolated populations in Ireland, Scotland, the Alpine range, and Japan. There are introduced populations in the Peak District in northern England, and on some Scottish Islands including Orkney, Shetland, Mull and Skye.
Habitat Tundra and open forest, moors, bogland and steppe
Wild population No global estimate. Throughout their distribution mountain hares show unstable population dynamics characterised by regular and sometimes dramatic changes in abundance. The periodicity, amplitude and degree of cyclicity are different in different regions. The reasons for these fluctuations and geographic differences are not fully understood. In 1995 there were an estimated 350,000 in Scotland. Yearly hunting bags in Switzerland range from 1170 to 1480 animals.
Zoo population 16 reported to ISIS

In the Zoo

Mountain Hare


How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Note 79 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
Alan Wolfe

Why do zoos keep this animal

Mountain hares are primarily kept for educational purposes, in particular to illustrate the adaptation of this species to alpine or polar living conditions.