The South African springhare is a large and unusual rodent native to southern Africa. The springhare resembles a small kangaroo, with well-developed hind legs, which allows it to leap over 2 m (6 ft 7 in) in a single bound and it gets its name from this ability. The color of this mammal varies from a reddish-brown to a pale grey, with a black tip on the tail. It has four toes on the hind feet with claws that look like small hooves; these are wider than those found on the forefeet. The springhare also has large eyes, and its ears have a tragus that prevents sand from entering when it is digging.
South African springhares live only in south-eastern Africa. They inhabit semiarid steppes and dry savannas preferring open areas with sandy soil.
South African springhares are mostly nocturnal but are occasionally active in the day. They live in tunnels that they dig themselves and the entrance of each burrow is plugged with soil from the inside. It is easier for them to dig during the rainy season when the soil is wet. Springhares live in small family groups. They tend to make three burrows together in a circular shape, each filled with its own family. These burrows are mostly found near the largest tree or bush within their home range. The home range of each family is within 25 to 250 m (82 to 820 ft) of their burrow but they may expand their area during a drought; up to 40 individuals may live within one of these home ranges. Sometimes, springhares leap out of their burrows when they come out at night. They jump like a kangaroo on their hind legs and will retreat to their burrow when frightened.
South African springhares breed throughout the year. After the gestation period of 2-3 months, the females give birth to a single young and may produce up to 3 litters per year. The young are born well-developed, furred, and are active within a very short time of birth. However, they are not weaned until 7 weeks of age and do not leave the burrow until they are about half grown. Reproductive maturity is reached when young springhares are 8 months old.
South African springhares are not threatened at present. However, they are often hunted by indigenous people for food and for their skins.
The IUCN Red List and other sources don’t provide the number of the South African springhare total population size. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List.
These unusual animals play a very useful role in their native ecosystem. The burrows that dig springhares are sometimes used for hiding during the daytime by a number of other species, including the Black-footed cat and the Ground pangolin.