Fun Hare Facts

They have long ears and fluffy tails. Just don’t call them rabbits! Here are some more fun facts about hares!

  • Hares are mammals from the distinctive group called leporids which rabbits also belong to, and they belong to the genus Lepus. They are similar in size and form to rabbits and eat similar herbivorous diet.
  • There are two species of hare in the UK: the European (brown) Hare (Lepus europaeus)  and the Mountain Hare (Lepus timidus).  In Ireland there is a sub-species of the Mountain hare called the Irish hare (Lepus timidus hibernicus).
  • In the UK the hare population is declining, and because of this it is classified as a Priority Species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan
  • Unlike Rabbits, hares do not live in groups or underground but above ground in simple nests.
  • Young hares are adapted to the lack of physical protection by being born fully furred and with eyes open.
  • Both UK hare species have brown coats, but in the winter the Mountain Hare turns white to camouflage against its snowy surroundings
  • European Hares can reach speeds of up to 56 km/h (35mph)
  • Hares may be fast, but that didn’t stop one losing to a Tortoise in Aesop’s fable of The Tortoise and the Hare.
  • During the spring mating season, female hares can be seen ‘boxing’ with the male hares. This is known as March Madness…
  • …not to be confused with Lewis Carroll’s Mad March Hare, who always thought it was time for tea in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.


Why we need to protect hares


Hare hunting

Before the Hunting Act was passed, one third of hunts in Britain targeted brown hares with packs of beagles, basset hounds and birds of prey. Hares spend their lives above ground so do not seek refuge underground like foxes or mink when being hunted.

If the hare does not manage to escape the hounds it will eventually tire and the hounds, with their superior stamina, will catch up and kill the hare.


Hare coursing

The aim of hare coursing is for two fast dogs (usually greyhounds or lurchers) to compete against each other in pursuit of a live hare. Bets are placed on which of the two dogs will be the quickest to turn and catch the hare.

Hares are often unsuccessfully grabbed several times by the dogs causing terrible injuries and stress. The hares are often heard screaming in terror and pain as the dogs fight over them, as they become a living rope in a brutal tug of war between the jaws of the dogs.


Snaring

Hares are one of the main victims of snares, the wire nooses that are commonly placed around shooting estates – places where birds like pheasants, partridges and grouse are shot for sport. The snares are intended to catch foxes to stop them from killing the birds (before the birds are shot), but snares catch huge numbers of animals other than foxes, including hares. In fact, according to a 2012 government study, one in three victims of snares is a hare.


Grouse shooting

As well as laying snares that catch and kill hares, gamekeepers on grouse shooting estates also cull mountain hares due to unwarranted fears they carry a tick borne virus which kills grouse chicks and is therefore seen as a threat to the grouse shooting industry.


Hare Shooting

Organised hare shooting events take place in various places, in particular in East Anglia. It is estimated by the Hare Preservation Trust that up to 40% of UK's entire hare population can be shot each year at these events. There have been repeated calls in England for a closed season for hares, but this has so far failed to happen, meaning that hares can be shot all year round including when female hares are pregnant or nursing young.

There are also concerns that hare populations are encouraged to increase in the shooting areas, which leads to a distorted estimation of the overall hare population in this country.


What is the League doing to protect hares?

  • We are continuing to investigate reports of hare hunting across the UK. In 2016 we took footage of a hunt from Eton College apparently hunting hares illegally.
  • We are campaigning to have snares banned in all parts of the UK
  • We were at the forefront of the campaign to ban grouse shooting, jointly organising a petition with Dr Mark Avery and Chris Packham which gained over 130,000 signatures and prompted a debate in Parliament.


How can I help hares?

  • Contact your MP and ask them to urge their party to keep and strengthen the hare hunting and hare coursing ban
  • Sign our petition to ban snares
  • Join one of our supporter groups to help us raise awareness about hare hunting, hare coursing and snaring
  • Share this page on your social media

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