Fun Hare Facts

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

What’s the difference between rabbits and hares?

  • Hares and rabbits are similar in size but hares are often a bit bigger with longer ears and back legs.
  • To escape from a predator, rabbits tend to bolt underground while hares rely on speed and make a run for it.
  • Hares and rabbits are both mammals, but actually they are completely different species! If you want to get technical, they both come from the family known as leporids and the genus Lepus.

What types of hare are there in the British Isles?

  • There are two species of hare in the UK: the European brown Hare and the Mountain Hare. In Ireland there is a sub-species of the Mountain hare called the Irish hare.
  • Mountain hares are also brown, apart from during the winter months when they moult and produce a white coat, so they can’t be seen in the snow.
  • Irish hares look similar to brown hares though can develop white patches during the winter.

How many babies do hares have?

  • Female brown hares have around four baby hares in each of their litters. They have three litters each year.
  • Baby hares are pretty grown up as soon as they are born! Because they live overground, they have to be ready to run, so they are born with fur and with their eyes open.
  • Baby hares are called leverets (baby rabbits are called kittens)

What do hares eat?

  • Rabbits and hares eat similar food like grass but there are differences. Hares are known to like a tough twig or piece of bark, while rabbits like a good vegetable.  

Where do hares live?

  • Unlike rabbits, hares do not live in groups or underground but above ground in simple nests.
  • Hares used to live in lots of places across the UK but because of various reasons, their numbers are going down. But they can still be seen in decent numbers in certain places such as East Anglia, across Oxfordshire and Cambridgeshire, in the south around Dorset and in the north such as Lancashire and Cleveland.
  • In some parts of the country, such as most of the south west of England, hares are rarely seen and may even be extinct in some areas.
  • Mountain hares – as their name would suggest – like to live in high altitudes so in the UK are generally found in Scotland. Like brown hares, their populations are shrinking and they are thought to be extinct in some areas where they once thrived.

Can you get pet hares?

  • Hares aren’t domesticated animals so most people believe they shouldn’t be kept as pets.
  • Rabbits are a very popular pet, but some animal welfare charities believe that pet rabbits can suffer because of the difference between a rabbit’s ‘natural’ life and the life of a pet.

Are hares endangered in the UK?

  • Sadly, yes, hares are endangered in the UK. The number of hares has dropped by about 80% in the last century or so.
  • Most of the problem for hares has been caused by changes in farming practices, with the loss of hay meadows and hedgerows particularly damaging.
  • Hares have also suffered because of cruel sports. As well as hare hunting and hare coursing, hares are also shot for sport.
  • The hare is the only ‘game’ animal in England and Wales where there isn’t a ‘closed’ season, meaning they can be killed all year round – even when mothers are pregnant or have just given birth.
  • Because the hare population is declining, the brown hare is classified as a Priority Species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. The aim was to double the number of hares prior to 2010, but this was not achieved.

Hare raising fun facts!

  • Brown hares can reach speeds of up to 56 km/h (35mph). The fastest a human has ever run was athlete Usain Bolt in the 2009 World Athletics Championships when he reached 44.72km/h for a short period. He’d never have beaten a hare!
  • 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.
  • We’ve all heard of the Easter Bunny, but this famous creature is most likely to have been a hare – an animal which features in the myth and lore of many countries.


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.


Sign our petition to stop the killing of animals by hunts


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.

Two hares on the grass


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.

a hare running in a meadow


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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