Japanese hares are reddish-brown in color. They have very short tails that are only 2-5 cm long and almost invisible. Their name is derived from the Ancient Greek brachys "short" and ouros "tail". In areas of northern Japan, the west coast, and the island of Sado, where snowfall is heavy, Japanese hares lose their coloration in the autumn and become white until the spring, when the reddish-brown fur returns.
Japanese hares are native to Japan. They are found across main islands Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu. These hares inhabit mostly mountains or hilly areas. They also live in forests or brushy areas. Due to human encroachment, though, they now occur around urban environments.
Japanese hares are crepuscular animals and feed mainly in the evening and early morning. They are silent except when they are in trouble and give out a call for the distress. They don't create burrows themslevs but hide in the scrub or brushcan or may occupy abandoned burrows sometimes. Japanese hares are solitary creaturesl that prefer to live alone except during mating season. At this time, males and females gather for breeding.
Japanese hares are polygynandrous (promiscuous) which means that both males and females have multiple partners during a breeding season. During this time, males and females meet together and males may behave aggressively, doing boxing, in order to compete for mates. The breeding season continues year round. Females produce several litters per year, each of which contains 1-6 young. The gestation period lasts around 43-45 days. Little is known about the parental care in Japanese hares. The age of maturity is uncertain, but it is suggested that females probably breed within a year of birth.
There are no major threats to Japanese hares at present. However, the population of this species on Sado Island suffers greatly from the predation of introduced Japanese marten. These hares now occur in urban environments so much and they have become a nuisance in some places. They are hunted in certain regions for food, fur, pelts, and to help control their growing numbers.
According to the IUCN Red List, the total population size of the Japanese hare is unknown. However, there is an estimated population of the species in Niigata prefecture containing 140,000 hares. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are stable.
Japanese hares are very important as a prey item being a prey for local predators. They also impact the vegetation which they consume. This species is one of the few hares that eat the bark of trees; it does this occasionally and it can cause major damage to trees and forests.