What’s the difference between rabbits, jackrabbits and hares?
When most of us spot a grey, long-eared creature hopping along we immediately identify it as a rabbit, but how can we know if it’s actually a hare? Rabbits and hares all belong to the same family – Leporidae.
Canada has five native species of rabbits and hares:
- The Eastern Cottontail
- The Mountain Cottontail (also known as Nuttall’s Cottontail)
- The Snowshoe Hare
- The Arctic Hare
- The White-tailed Jackrabbit
And two introduced species:
- The Brown (or European) Hare
- The European Rabbit
So what exactly is the difference between rabbits, jackrabbits and hares? For starters, a jackrabbit is actually a hare. That’s right, the White-tailed Jackrabbit is a hare! Now let’s compare the differences between rabbits and hares.
Separating the rabbits from the hares
Hares are typically larger than rabbits, with longer ears, longer legs and larger hind feet. They are faster too; depending on the species, hares can reach speeds of 43 km/hr to 64 km/hr, whereas rabbits reach speeds of about 29 km/hr. Their colouring also differs, but only in winter. Rabbits remain a grey/brown colour all year long. Hares are a similar grey/brown colour in summer, but they turn white in winter to camouflage with their wintery surroundings.
Is it a leveret or a kitten?
Hares and rabbits differ even before they’re born! Hares have a gestation period of around 36 to 50 days, depending on the species. The young, called leverets, are born in a slight depression in the ground. Rabbits, on the other hand, have a gestation period of around 30 days. The female makes a nest lined with fur and grass where the young, called kits or kittens, are born. Leverets are born completely furred and with their eyes open, and they are able to hop around only hours after their birth. Kittens, however, are completely helpless at birth – they lack fur and have their eyes closed.
It isn’t always easy to distinguish between a rabbit and hare, especially in summer when they’re a similar colour. But paying a little more attention to the details might help you to identify who’s hopping along!