Rabbit Vs. Hare

Rabbit Vs. Hare
A compilation of some points of distinction between rabbits and hares intended to help you differentiate between the two species. Read on....
PetPonder Staff
Last Updated: Dec 10, 2017
Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus)
Even though it is cent percent true, the fact that black-tailed jackrabbit is not a rabbit or that the Belgian hare is not a hare, is bound to leave you in a confused state of mind. Basically, the Black-tailed jackrabbit is a species of common hare native to the United States and Mexico, while the Belgian hare is a breed of domestic rabbit selectively bred to resemble a hare. Though that was no doubt a bit confusing, most of the people out there would find it difficult to differentiate between a rabbit and a hare owing to some striking similarities between the two species.

Leporids: Rabbits and Hares

Leporids - better known as rabbits and hares, are mammalian species which are found across the world except in Antarctica and Oceania. There exist somewhere around 50 species in this family of kingdom Animalia, which are categorized into several taxonomic groups. Of these taxonomic groups, only the members belonging to genus Lepus are referred to as hares, while the members of the remaining taxonomic groups are referred to as rabbits. Both rabbits and hares, together with pikas, make up the order Lagomorpha of kingdom Animalia.

Rabbit Vs. Hare

There exist several similarities between the two animals, and all the confusion between the two are attributed to these very similarities. However, everything that meets the eye is not true in this case, and that's what you need to understand if you are to differentiate between them. As similar as they may seem to be, there exist quite a few differences between rabbit and hare - most of which revolve around their physique, lifestyle and dietary habits. Given below are 10 points of distinction that will help you differentiate a rabbit from a hare.
  1. The foremost point of distinction when it comes to rabbit and hare comparison is that of the general appearance of the two, wherein the hare is not just larger than the rabbit, but also sports larger ears and black markings on its fur.
  2. Hares have larger and stronger hind legs as compared to the rabbits, and hence, they are lot faster than the latter. In fact, the European brown hare can clock an amazing speed of 45 mph with amazing ease.
  3. Even though molting is common to both the species, the fur coat in rabbits remains of the same color all year-round, while the same in hare species - such as the snowshoe hare, is known to change from grayish-brown in summer season to white in winter.
  4. While all the species of rabbits - with the exception of cottontail rabbits - such as the Eastern cottontail, live in burrows in ground, hares live in flattened nests of grass - which are referred to as forms, on the ground.
  5. As hares stay in nests on ground, they rely on speed and camouflage when it comes to defense. Even though rabbits are not as fast as hares, the fact that they stay in burrows, and seldom venture far from their homes, helps them dodge predators with ease.
  6. The young ones of rabbits - known as kittens, are born blind and don't have any fur on their body, while the young ones of hares - known as leverets, can see and run right from the day they are born.
  7. Rabbits are social animals who prefer to live in colonies, while hares - who most often lead a solitary life, are only seen in pairs during the mating season.
  8. The fight for dominance is not at all rare in rabbit males, wherein the most dominant of the male mates with all the females in the colony. However, no such behavior is seen when it comes to hares.
  9. When it comes to dietary habits, rabbits are known to prefer tender foods such as grass and vegetables (in captivity), unlike hares who would eat anything right from plants and shoots to tree bark.
  10. While the trend of keeping rabbits as pets has become quite popular owing to their docile nature, hares are wild animals who are not known to do well in captivity.
In spite of all these differences between the two, both rabbits and hares continue to enjoy a celebrity status when it comes to popular culture and folklore, and the popularity of the Warner Bros. cartoon character Bugs Bunny, Br'er Rabbit in Disney's Song of the South, the March Hare in Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, etc., speaks in volumes about the same.