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Hares And Rabbits

( Originally Published 1936 )

In the Leporidae the upper lip is cleft, the ears are long, the hind legs are considerably longer than the fore-legs, and there is a short tail. They have five toes on the front feet, four on the hind feet, and the soles are furred. The species are found in nearly all parts of the world.

Rabbit (Lepus cuniculus)

The Wild Rabbit is a smaller animal than the Hare, not much exceeding a foot in length, without the tail. It is generally of a uniform greyish-brown colour above and whitish beneath, the under part of the tail being conspicuously white, the ears much shorter than the head, and little, if at all, tipped with black. See Plate 18, Fig. 86. Rabbits live in large communities called rabbit-warrens, in burrows in the ground, and are very prolific, breeding several times in the year. The young are born naked, blind, and helpless.

The Rabbit is believed to have been originally a native of the South of Europe and North Africa, but has long been naturalised in most parts of Central Europe, and has also been introduced in many other parts of the world. When abundant, it becomes a terrible pest, destroying all kinds of vegetable produce, and often whole plantations of young trees by nibbling away the bark. Rabbits and Hares are frequently shot or trapped for food, and ferrets are used to drive them from their burrows. Tame varieties are often larger than the wild, and may be black, white, piebald, or tan in colour, many fancy breeds having lop ears and large dewlaps.

Hare (Lepus europoeus)

The common Hare is considerably larger than the Rabbit, measuring about two feet in length, and is reddish-brown above and white beneath. The ears are larger than the head, and tipped with black, and the hind-legs are much longer than the fore-legs. See Plate 18, Fig. 90. The Rabbit is most active in the morning and evening, but the Hare generally sleeps during the day in a depression in long grass called its " form." It is widely distributed in Europe, but is a less abundant animal than the Rabbit, though some-times sufficiently so to be injurious to crops and young trees. The young are born with their eyes open, and are hairy, not naked as is the young Rabbit.

In North America the common wild Rabbit of Europe is replaced by a form of the true Hare, the creature which we generally know as the Rabbit being none other than this. It has a great range, being found in nearly all parts of the continent under several specific names, one of the most common, the Cotton-Tail, from the little snow-white tail which it raises and lowers in running. Its habits are those of the typical Hares, although in general appearance it differs somewhat from the European species, is not so large and has shorter ears. In the Western part of this country is a variety known as the Jack-Rabbit, distinguished by its enormously long ears, large, round, and staring eye, and extremely long-legged and delicate build. It has immense speed in running, and is often pursued by greyhounds, giving great sport to the hunters by the way it turns and twists about. Also in the Western part of the United States is found, high up in rocky places, a little animal known as the Pica, a somewhat degenerate form of the Rabbit, with short, rounded ears and practically no tail, the creature to some extent resembling the guinea-pig in appearance.

Mountain Hare (Lepus timidus)

The Mountain Hare much resembles the common Hare, but is rather smaller, and the ears and hind-legs are shorter in proportion. It is grey in summer and white in winter, but the tips of the ears are always black. See Plate i8, Fig. 89. It has a wide range over the northern parts of North America, Europe, and Northern and Central Asia to the Himalayas. In the southern portions of its range it is found chiefly in mountainous regions, and is the Hare of Iceland, Scandinavia, and Ireland, where the common Hare is not found. In the Arctic regions it is replaced by a very similar species, the Polar Hare (Lepus glacialis), which is white (except for the black ear-tips) all the year round, and burrows in the ground like the Rabbit.

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