European hares are large fast-running mammals. Their eyes are set high on the sides of their head, and they have long ears and flexible necks. The fur color is grizzled yellow-brown on the back; rufous on the shoulders, legs, neck, and throat; white on the underside and black on the tail and ear tips. The fur on the back is typically longer and more curled than on the rest of the body. The European hare's fur does not turn completely white in the winter, although the sides of the head and base of the ears become whitish and the hip and rump region may gain some grey.
Nocturnality is an animal behavior characterized by being active during the night and sleeping during the day. The common adjective is "nocturnal",...
A herbivore is an animal anatomically and physiologically adapted to eating plant material, for example, foliage, for the main component of its die...
In zoology, a folivore is a herbivore that specializes in eating leaves. Mature leaves contain a high proportion of hard-to-digest cellulose, less ...
Coprophage animals are those that consume feces. Domesticated and wild mammals are sometimes coprophagic, and in some species, this forms an essent...
In zoology, a graminivore (not to be confused with a granivore) is an herbivorous animal that feeds primarily on grass. Graminivory is a form of g...
Terrestrial animals are animals that live predominantly or entirely on land (e.g., cats, ants, snails), as compared with aquatic animals, which liv...
Jumping (saltation) can be distinguished from running, galloping, and other gaits where the entire body is temporarily airborne by the relatively l...
Precocial species are those in which the young are relatively mature and mobile from the moment of birth or hatching. Precocial species are normall...
Grazing is a method of feeding in which a herbivore feeds on plants such as grasses, or other multicellular organisms such as algae. In agriculture...
Among animals, viviparity is the development of the embryo inside the body of the parent. The term 'viviparity' and its adjective form 'viviparous'...
A burrow is a hole or tunnel excavated into the ground by an animal to create a space suitable for habitation, temporary refuge, or as a byproduct ...
Polygynandry is a mating system in which both males and females have multiple mating partners during a breeding season.
Polygyny is a mating system in which one male lives and mates with multiple females but each female only mates with a single male.
NoNot a migrant
Animals that do not make seasonal movements and stay in their native home ranges all year round are called not migrants or residents.
European hares are native to much of continental Europe and part of Asia. Their range extends from northern Spain to southern Scandinavia, eastern Europe, and northern parts of Western and Central Asia. They have been extending their range into Siberia. European hares primarily live in open fields with a scattered brush for shelter. They are very adaptable and may occur in mixed farmland.
European hares are nocturnal and shy in nature animals. They change their behavior in the spring when they can be seen in broad daylight chasing one another around in fields. During this spring frenzy, they sometimes strike one another with their paws ("boxing"). European hares spend a third of their time foraging. During the daytime, they hide in a depression in the ground called a "form" where they are partially hidden. They can run at 70 km/h (43 mph), and when confronted by predators they rely on outrunning them in the open. European hares usually spend time singly but can be seen in both large and small groups. They do not appear to be territorial, living in shared home ranges of around 300 ha (740 acres). They communicate with each other by a variety of visual signals. To show interest European hares raise their ears while lowering the ears warns others to keep away. When challenging a conspecific, a hare thumps its front feet; the hind feet are used to warn others of a predator. They squeal when hurt or scared, and females make "guttural" calls to attract their young.
European hares are primarily herbivorous. During the spring and summer, they feed on soy, clover, corn poppy, grasses, and herbs. During autumn and winter, they primarily choose winter wheat, piles of sugar beet and carrots provided for them by hunters. They also eat twigs, buds and the bark of shrubs and young fruit trees during winter. They sometimes eat their own green, faecal pellets to recover undigested proteins and vitamins.
European hares are both polygynous (single males mating with multiple females) and polygynandrous (promiscuous). Females have six-weekly reproductive cycles and can mate for only a few hours at a time, making competition among local bucks intense. This phenomenon is known as "March madness", when the normally nocturnal bucks are forced to be active in the daytime. During this spring frenzy, hares sometimes strike one another with their paws ("boxing"). This is usually not a competition between males, but a female hitting a male, either to show she is not yet ready to mate or as a test of his determination. The breeding season lasts from January to August. Females give birth in hollow depressions in the ground. Each female may have 3 litters per year consisting of 1-8 young. Gestation lasts 41-42 days. Babies are born fully furred and ready to leave the nest soon after birth. They disperse during the day and come together in the evening. Their mother visits them for a short night nursing and after that leverets disperse once more. Young can eat solid food after 2 weeks and are weaned at 4 weeks after birth. Reproductive maturity occurs at 7-8 months for females and 6 months for males.
European hares have a wide range and are moderately abundant. However, populations have been declining in mainland Europe since the 1960s, at least partly due to changes in farming practices. These hares have been hunted across Europe for centuries, with more than five million being shot each year; in Britain, they have traditionally been hunted by beagling and hare coursing, but these field sports are now illegal.
According to IUCN, the European hare is locally common and widespread throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List, however, its numbers today are decreasing.