Hares are small mammals that are often confused with rabbits. But, the difference between hare and rabbit is not subtle; instead, there is a wide range of contrast between these two similar-looking animals.
I have seen people using the word hare synonymously with rabbits. That makes sense because these two types of cute animals belong to the same family and have many things in common, like both of them have long ears, continuously growing incisors, herb eating habits, short bushy tails,s and many more.
But you might find it surprising to know the area of the differences between them. This article will try to describe all the characteristics where these two types differ from each other.
Basically, the hare is a kind of rabbit, but morphologically they are significantly different from other rabbits. Hares belong to the genus Lepus from the biological family Leporidae. On the other hand, Rabbits are mammal chordate animals of several genera from the biological family Leporidae in the order Lagomorpha.
Table of Contents
|Taxonomy||The hare is an animal of the genus Lepus from the biological family Leporidae.||Rabbits are animals of several genera, excluding Lepus from the biological family Leporidae.|
|Size and weight||Hares are larger animals than rabbits.||Generally, the rabbit’s length and weight are less than hares.|
|Ear||The hare’s ears are elongated and larger than rabbits’ and pikas’.||Rabbits’ ears are elongated and smaller than hares’ and larger than pikas’.|
|Speed||The hare is faster than rabbits||Rabbits are slower than the hare.|
|Color||The hare is golden brown or reddish-brown in body color.||Wild rabbits’ body color is light brown, and the domestic breeds have many unorthodox different colors.|
|Chromosome||The hare genome has 23 pairs of autosomes and one pair of sex chromosomes.||Rabbits have 21 pairs of autosomes and one pair of sex chromosomes.|
|Skull||The hare has a jointed or kinetic skull.||Rabbits have an akinetic skull.|
|Development of babies at birth||The hare is precocial.||Rabbits are altricial.|
|Sociality and Domestication||The hare lives a solitary life, sometimes in pairs for a short period, and they are not domesticated.||Rabbits (except the cottontail, 7 species of genus Sylvilagus) live in a social group, and most of the rabbit types are domesticated.|
|Nest||The hare lives in hollow nests above the ground amongst dense vegetation.||Rabbits (except the cottontail, 7 species of genus Sylvilagus) live in burrows.|
|Behavior||Hare is one of the fastest animals; it runs away from its predators when attacked as fast as it can.||Rabbits run rapidly to hide from their predators at the nearest hiding place.|
|Lifespan||Generally, the hare can live 3 – 5 years in the wild, and some individuals can even live up to 12 years.||Rabbits can live up to 9 years in the wild, and domestic rabbits can live up to 12 years.|
|Mating system||The hare’s mating system is polygynous and promiscuous||Rabbits are generally promiscuous.|
Which is a hare?
The hare is a kind of rabbit which belongs to the genus Lepus from the biological family Leporidae in the order Lagomorpha. Some species of the hare bear the name jackrabbit. The hare’s phylogenetic nomenclature is given below:
A female hare is called a Jill, and a male one is a Jack. A young hare less than a year old is called a leveret, and a group of hares is known as a drove. Leverets of a single delivery are called a litter. A hare nest is known as a form, and the sound of a hare is called squeak.
Hare physical characteristics
The hare has an oval-shaped body and is about 40 – 76 cm in length. Hares from various species weigh between 2.5 – 7 kg.
The hare has a jointed or kinetic skull.
The ears of hares are elongated and larger than the ears of rabbits. These ears can act as a thermoregulator, which regulates body temperature.
Hares that live in hot climates have relatively longer ears than those which live in a cold environment.
They have longer hind legs comparatively longer than their forelegs. The limb hares are usually larger and longer than the majority of rabbit species’. Their hind legs are larger and stronger than rabbits’. The hind feet are larger than the front feet.
Hares are golden brown or reddish-brown in body color. The Cape hare (Lepus capensis) has gray color on its belly. The Arctic hare (Lepus arcticus), the mountain hare (Lepus timidus), and the snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus) change their color seasonally. In the summer or spring, the hare’s body color turns into golden brown or reddish-brown, and in the winter, the color becomes brilliant white. They have black markings on their fur.
When it comes to hare’s genome, these animals have 23 pairs of autosomes and 1 pair of sex chromosomes, and they are precocial, which means new-born hares have eyes, hair, and fully erupted teeth and look like a miniature hare, and they can fend for themselves after birth.
Which is a rabbit?
Rabbits or true rabbits are mammal animals of several genera from the biological family Leporidae in the order Lagomorpha. A domestic rabbit is known as a bunny, and the young one is known as a kit or kitten. The male and female rabbit are known as a buck and a doe. A group of wild rabbits is called a colony or a nest, and a group of domestic rabbits is identified as a herd. The burrow of rabbits is commonly known as a rabbit hole, and a group of burrows is called a warren. Scut is the tail of a rabbit. Kits or kittens of a single delivery are called a litter. The Rabbits’ phylogenetic nomenclature is given below :
|Subfamilies:||Palaeolaginae (Extinct), Archaeolaginae (Extinct),Leporidae|
Rabbit Physical characteristics
Rabbits from various species are about 25 – 55 cm (twenty-five to fifty-five centimeters) in length. They have an oval-shaped body. Rabbits from various species weigh 300g – 4kg (three hundred grams to four kilograms). Domestic rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus domesticus) can weigh more.
Rabbits’ ears are elongated and smaller than hares’ and longer than pikas’. Some breeds of the domestic rabbit’s ears are bowed down. Some species of the domestic rabbit’s ears are as long as the hare’s. Their ears can act as a thermoregulator, which regulates body temperature.
Rabbits have large hind legs comparatively longer than their forelegs. Their limbs are larger and longer than pikas’. The majority of rabbit species’ limbs are smaller and shorter than the majority of hare species’. Their hind legs are smaller and weaker than hares. Rabbits can stand on their hind legs and the size of the front feet and hind feet are quite similar. They have akinetic skulls.
Wild rabbits’ body color is light brown. Domestic breeds (Oryctolagus cuniculus domesticus) have many unorthodox different colors. Rabbits’ fur can change color for camouflage. Rabbits have no black markings on their fur.
Rabbits have short bushy tails. The cottontail has a white tip at the top of its tail. Other rabbits have dark on the top and white below their tails.
Rabbits have 21 (twenty-one) pairs of autosomes and 1 (one) pair of sex chromosomes. Rabbits are altricial that they are born blind, hairless, toothless, and helpless
Hare vs. Rabbit: Nest, domestication, and habitat
The hare lives in hollow nests above the ground amongst dense vegetation. The snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus) occasionally uses the burrows of mountain beavers (Aplodontia rufa). Generally, the hare can live 3 – 5 years in the wild. Though, exceptionally some individuals can live up to 12 years.
Rabbits (except the cottontail, 7 species of genus Sylvilagus) live in burrows. The cottontail lives in hollow nests above the ground amongst dense vegetation. Some rabbits do not dig burrows; they use abandoned burrows of other animals. Rabbits can live up to 9 years in the wild and domestic rabbits can live up to 12 years.
The hare has not been domesticated; they have no domestic species or subspecies.
The European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) has a domestic subspecies (Oryctolagus cuniculus domesticus), which has 305 breeds worldwide.
The hare lives in Africa, Most of Eurasia, and North America. It can live in both cold and hot climate regions. Various species can live in various environments like snowy lands, steppes, savannahs, semi-deserts, and deserts.
In the wild, rabbits live in North America, parts of Africa, Northern parts of South America, Southeast Asia, Sumatra, and some islands of Japan. They cannot be found in most of Eurasia. Domestic rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus domesticus) can live everywhere humans do. Rabbits can live in various environments like meadows, forests, steppes, savannahs, wetlands, deserts, and semi-deserts.
The hare is faster than rabbits. It can leap and jump more distance and height than a rabbit or a pika. A subspecies of the Cape hare (Lepus capensis arabicus) can run up to 80 km/h over a short distance. The snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus) can jump at an average height of 3.65m. Jackrabbits can run up to 64 km/h over long distances and can leap up to 3m at a time.
Contrarily, rabbits are slower than hares. They can leap and jump more distance and height than a pika and less than a hare. Rabbits can run up to 56 km/h over a short distance. The European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) can run with an average speed of 40 km/h over long distances. Some domestic breeds can run faster and can jump more than one meter high.
Behavior and communication
When hares are attacked, they run away from their predators as fast as they can. Hares are generally nocturnal, but diurnal activities of the snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus) increase during the breeding season.
The hare is a very silent animal. It makes a few noises and has less variation than rabbits and pikas. But conversely, the rabbits make different noises expressing different feelings. But they do not have as much variety of sounds as pikas.
Rabbits run rapidly to hide from their predators at the nearest hiding place. Sometimes they fight to defend their territory united. Generally, rabbits are nocturnal, but they can come out in open daylights during long summertime.
The key differences between hare and rabbit
- The hare is a lagomorph mammal of the genus Lepus from the biological family Leporidae. On the other hand, Rabbits are lagomorph mammals of several genera, excluding Lepus from the biological family Leporidae.
- The hare’s ears are more elongated compared to its body shape than those of rabbits’.
- The hare and rabbits have large hind legs longer than their forelegs. Hares’ legs are larger and longer comparatively to rabbits’.
- The hare genome has 23 pairs of autosomes and 1 pair of sex chromosomes. And Rabbits have 21 pairs of autosomes and 1 pair of sex chromosomes.
- Hares from various species are about 40 – 76 cm in length and weigh 2.5 – 7 kg, while rabbits from various species are about 25 – 55 cm in length and weigh 300g – 4kg.
- Hares are faster than rabbits.
- Hares mostly live over the ground nets, while the rabbits generally live underground.
- The body colors of hares are different from the rabbits. Most of the hares are golden brown or light brown. Contrarily, rabbits can be found in various colors.
- Hares are polygynous and promiscuous both while the rabbits are generally promiscuous.
Hare and rabbit mating system
The hare’s mating system is polygynous (one male with several females) and promiscuous (several males with several females or every male with every female). They can bond a pair for a short period.
Rabbits are generally promiscuous. The cottontails (7 species of genus Sylvilagus) are polygynous and promiscuous. The European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) is polygynous and monogamous (one male with one female).
Hare’s gestation period is 38 – 52 days in different species. The majority of species have an average gestation period of 42 days.
Generally, rabbits’ gestation period is 28 – 42 days in different species. Domestic rabbits’ (Oryctolagus cuniculus domesticus) gestation period is 28 – 31 days.
The hare produces 3 – 4 litters per year, and its litter size is 1 – 7 in different species. Domestic rabbits’ (Oryctolagus cuniculus domesticus) litter size can be as large as 14 (fourteen).
Frequently asked questions
How many species are in the order Lagomorpha?
There are around 87 species in the Lagomorpha order. The Lagomorpha is an order for mammals.
What animals are in the Lagomorpha order?
Similar looking animals like hares, rabbits, pikas are from the Lagomorpha order.
How long do bunnies live for?
Although the lifespan of bunnies differs based on species, on average, the bunnies can live up to 9-12 years.
Do pet rabbits bite?
Rabbits are cute furry innocent animals. Rabbits as pets are really popular, but they may show aggressive behaviors sometimes. Especially when they are in heat, feared, or are stressed.
Bunnies and hares are not the same. Despite many similarities, the difference between hare and rabbit is vast. They differ in physical length, body colors, nest, speed, and many more. This article has elaborately emphasized several areas where these two cute mammals differ from each other.
Monroe is a science enthusiast, a molecular biology graduate, and a zoophilist. He’s been writing articles on general science for nearly a decade and helping local school kids on various scientific projects.