In general, most of the population would believe that a rabbit and a hare are the same. This is not correct. Believe it or not, they are two different species. The two even look quite different. We could call them cousins, but the same, they are not.
There are some obvious differences between the two and also some not so obvious differences. Let’s begin at the beginning.
Rabbits vs Hares: Origination
History has told us that the rabbit originated about 40 million years ago in Asia. When the continents split, the rabbits made their way across the different continents and began to spread across the globe.
Rabbits vs Hares: Appearance
When you compare the two, a rabbit and a hare, side by side, you will see some distinct differences. You will find that the hare has longer ears and is larger in size. The hare also has much longer legs, this is beneficial when being hunted. They can move much faster.
Rabbits are born naked, without fur. A baby has closed eyes. The gestational period is 30 to 31 days, sometimes 33 days.
A rabbit will hide instead of running. They make their homes in shrubs and bushes, and they will dig down into the dirt when making their nest.
The hare is born with fur, their eyes are already open. The gestational period will last 42 days. The hare will be found in open areas, such as the prairies. They will create their nests in shallow holes or depressions in the land.
The hare will run from the enemy or the predator, rather than trying to hide. The hare has an uncanny speed allowing it to run from the predator.
A rabbit and a hare will both shed their fur. It is called molting. However, the hare will have a more complex and dramatic color change, according to the season. The hare has more of a camouflage ability during the season changes. For instance when winter comes around, the hares in the snow regions will grow white fur, it helps to hide in the snow. The spring, summer and fall the fur is generally shades of brown to help it’s hiding ability. Hares also have black markings on their fur.
Not only does the hare have longer ears, they have a longer body and longer feet. The longer feet aid them when they are trying to outrun a predator.
Rabbits vs Hares: Diets
The two also have differing diets. A hare will search for twigs, roots and plant shoots to fulfil their diets. A rabbit will be seen eating vegetables with green leafy tops, such as carrots. They also love grasses.
Rabbits vs Hares: Homes
The wild rabbit burrows down into the ground, in burrows. Some are up to 10 feet deep. Many of the cottontail rabbits will search out burrows that have been dug by other animals. The hare is not such a stickler when it comes to making their home. They will stay above ground and trample the grasses and vegetation down to make a nest of sorts.
Rabbits vs Hares: Socializing
The rabbit is a highly social animal. They live in groups or colonies of up to 20 rabbits. The hare is more of a loner. They prefer solitary life. They do come together at a couple of other times during the year. They will be together for mating and during the late winter time. The cottontail rabbit differs from his kind in that he likes to live alone, in solitude, like the hares.
Rabbits vs Hares: Babies
After a hare gives birth, the babies are capable of leaving the mother much sooner than rabbit babies. This is mainly due to the fact that they are born with open eyes and their fur. This growth and development takes time in the baby rabbits.
Rabbits vs Hares: Purpose
Both rabbits and hares provide food and their fur for human use. Rabbit fur is a well enjoyed fur for coats and shawls, for women around the world. Many countries rabbit and hare is a cuisine that is quite popular.
When the hare and rabbit population is unusually high in numbers, the hare is known for destroying gardens, vegetation and fields.
Between the two, you will most often find that the rabbit is the domesticated of the two. Hares have never been domesticated, however, there have been rabbits bred with hares, but it is not one of the common methods. The Belgian hare is the main type that is most often the reason for cross breeding.
Rabbits vs Hares: Similarities
While there may be many differences, there are also some similarities. The main similarity is that they are both herbivores, meaning they eat and thrive on vegetation of one sort or another.
They can both be considered to be on the endangered lists. This is due to habitat loss, climate change or a few other factors.
The two, although somewhat similar in genes, are not able to mate with each other. This is not genetically possible. The hares have not been domesticated.
Both the hare and the rabbit can live long lives, but the hare has less chance of living a lengthy life in the wild. The average lifespan of a hare is 4 years in the wild. There are many who have far outlived that length and live to be 12 years old. Rabbits who are well cared for, medically, physically and socially can live well into their teen years. This is likely due to the fact that they are seen routinely by veterinarians.
The rabbits will live in family groups, when able to. The hares again, prefer solitary life.
Rabbits vs Hares: Breeding
When a hare is ready to mate, the male and the female will begin a boxing match of sorts. This boxing happens when the female, unreceptive at the time, fends off the males. The hares have a lengthy breeding season. The season runs from January to August. Their gestation runs around 40 days.
Rabbits are known for their reproductive capabilities. The season begins in the middle of February and can run through late summer. The gestation period is only around 30 days. They can and often will have many litters throughout the year. The female is able to become pregnant very shortly after giving birth. This also explains why they have the bad rap about breeding. It is actually not a bad rap, since it is the truth.
Rabbits vs Hares: Following Birth
Once the hare gives birth, she will leave during the day. The young are left alone and remain in the nest. The mother will return in the evening and feed the young.
Rabbits, on the other hand, the babies are born blind. They are totally dependent on the mother. The babies will suckle only for two weeks, after the two weeks, they do begin to eat vegetation. The only time the baby rabbits leave the nest in the first couple of weeks is if there is any sign of trouble. When they turn four to five weeks old, the baby rabbits are able to eat alongside their mother.
Rabbits vs Hares: Problems
The wild hares tend to have many issues living out in the world. There are many that are injured or killed by vehicles. The majority of deaths likely happen due to predators. Hares are also more vulnerable to infection and diseases than domesticated rabbits. Fleas spread some of this infection. They can cause Swollen eyes when they have this infection.
Other dangers are obviously dogs and other predators. The hares do often get caught up in fencing and other wires. Snares and traps will take the lives of many hares.
Wildlife medical centers are often inundated with lots of young hares, believed to be orphaned. In fact, as previously mentioned, the mother will leave the babies alone all day long. She does return in the evening. So if you happen to come across a litter of babies, do not move them. It is best to keep an eye out to see if the mother returns. If there is no sign of the mother returning within 24 hours, then the kits can be taken to the animal center.
One way that people can witness the differences up close would be at a zoo or indoor wildlife center. If the rabbit and the hare are caged close to each other, obviously with solid walls between. It would be much easier to watch how the two act, live and interact. When place too close together, however, they would likely consider each other to be the enemy and would do what it takes to protect themselves and their young.
Even if you were to capture a hare, you would be unable to domesticate it. They are not born genetically to be in captivity. They may be just as adorable as rabbits, but do not be mistaken. They are wild animals and will do what needs to be done to be out in the wild, out where they feel safe and can protect themselves.