There are many animals in this world that look alike but are different from each other. This thing is very common in many races of animals. People often get confused between those animals that have many similarities. Biology broadly defines the differences between those animals and why are they not alike.
In this article, we will discuss animals that people often love to pet. These two animals are Rabbits and Hares.
Rabbit vs Hare
The main dissimilar quality between rabbits and hares is their size. Hares have a larger size than Rabbits, from legs to ears. Both belong to the same family, i.e., Leporidae. Though their species differ. Hares belong to the species of Jackrabbits. And the species of rabbits are rock hares. As we get into the article, we will understand why both species are completely different from each other. They both might have similar 'bunny' faces but differ in characteristics.
Difference Between Rabbit and Hare in tabular form
|Parameters of comparison||Rabbit||Hare|
|Physical Appearance||Rabbits are smaller in size, as compared to hares.||On the other hand, Hares are larger in size.|
|Habitat||They prefer living in forests or brush.||And they live in fields and meadows.|
|Behaviour||Rabbits socialise more.||They do not socialise as rabbits. They prefer to stay alone.|
|Reproduction||They are born without fur and blind.||They are born with open eyes and fur in their body.|
|Diet||Rabbits eat multiple things like herbs, grasses, and sometimes bark. They are herbivores in nature.||On the other hand, hares eat only grasses. They are herbivores in nature.|
|Running style||They are not as fast as hares and run straightforwardly.||They are faster than rabbits and run in a zig-zag pattern. And they can attain speed up to 45 mph (miles per hour).|
|Life span||They live for 10-12 years and live longer than rabbits.||They live for 3-4 years and do not live longer as rabbits.|
|Adaptation capability||They are not as adaptive as hares. And cannot live in harsher conditions. They are mostly good at living in mild and temperate places.||They have better adaptative capability than rabbits and can live in harsher conditions. They are more fitted in tundra and desert region.|
|Grouping||They are generally found in groups called warrens.||They do not form any groups and prefer staying in solitary.|
Animals that hop well are called rabbits. I guess, most of us know this much.
But there are more details that we miss. Rabbits are small, furry mammals, who are from the family of Leporidae, to which hares and pikas also belong. They are known for their long ears, powerful hind legs, and ability to hop.
Rabbits are small mammals, which falls under the order Lagomorpha, including pikas. Oryctolagus cuniculus, the most common breed of rabbits, includes 305 breeds of domestic rabbits. It also includes European rabbits and their descendants. European rabbits are common on every continent except Antarctica. These rabbits are known for wild prey and the form of livestock and pet in domestics.
Going back to the Middle Ages, European rabbits were kept as livestock, since ancient Rome. Through selective breeding, a variety of breeds were generated. Since the 19th century, most were kept as pets. And some were kept as research projects.
Rabbits as livestock
Rabbits are also an important form of livestock, from which we derive meat and fur. Earlier breeds provided a better amount of meat as they were larger in size but in modern times the size ranges from dwarf to giant. Rabbits’ fur is preferred for its softness. The use can be seen in coat colours and patterns. For example, an angora rabbit was chosen for its long, silky fur. Another example is domestic rabbits, which are preferred for the commercial fur trade, like rex.
- Size and Weight- As we have mentioned Flemish giant rabbits, are the largest rabbit species and weigh a maximum of up to 6.8 kg. Whereas, pygmy rabbits are the smallest species of rabbit and weigh a minimum of 0.4 kg.
- Fur and colouration- The main function of furs is to insulate them. They have multiple colours like black, brown, grey, and white.
- Ears and eyes- The main function of ears is to sense predators. Ears are long and can be a maximum of 10 cm. Rabbits have large eyes located on the sides of their head, which gives them a wide vision.
- Teeth and digestive system- The special thing about rabbit teeth is that they keep on growing. Rabbits have two sets of teeth; one grows behind the other. The digestive system is also special as they help them to derive nutrients from tough plant material.
Rabbits get sexually mature when they are 4-5 months old. Both males and females get sexually mature till this period.
Rabbits are quick and efficient in giving birth to young ones. Female rabbits give birth to 4-12 rabbits at a time. According to Animal Diversity Web (AWB), only 15 per cent of rabbits stay alive on their first birth.
Giving birth to rabbits are not a big deal as it just takes a few minutes of mating to get a female rabbit pregnant. Their mood to mate triggers, when there is a change in the environment, or change in temperature. And more importantly, the gestation period stays up to a month.
Younger rabbits are known as kits and are born in litter or a group containing kits ranging from 4-12. The average number of kits is 5.
Rabbits are born hairless, helpless, and blind. They rely on their mother's milk in the starting days of their life. It takes 10 days for their eyes and ears to open, and fur starts to develop. They get free from their mother's care after 4-6 weeks and can start eating food other than their mother's milk, according to the Wildlife Centre of Virginia.
On the other hand, male rabbits do not play a single role in the kit's growth and some are even aggressive. Though, female rabbits take care of their children as caring mothers and stay attentive until they can take care of themselves. Mother rabbits also build nests for their children. After 2-3 months, kits can start their own family. If there are no predators, then they can live for long years.
Where do they live?
Rabbits are highly adaptable species. They are found in different habitats all around the world, from forests to wetlands. They can live anywhere if they have a proper food supply shelter.
Some examples are-
1. Cottontail rabbits prefer dense, covered places like meadows and forests. They are found in continents like North America and South America.
2. European rabbits are mostly found in Europe, Asia, and Africa. And they live in steppes and open grasslands.
3. Jackrabbits tend to migrate to hot and dry places and are seen in the South and North of America.
4. And other species live in urban and suburban places, mostly gardens and parks.
Hares are mammals, which fall under the order Leporidae, like rabbits. They are known for their long hind legs, large ears, and fast running speed.
1. Large ears- Ears are on their head, that are pointed and long. It lets them detect enemies from a good distance.
2. Long hind legs- Legs are long and powerful helping them to run faster and quickly to avoid predators.
3. Dense fur- They have furs from their birth. And as they older, the fur grows more and gets dense. Furs have the same function as rabbits, i.e., provide insulation. Their fur's colour can change depending on the season, which helps them to fit in their surroundings. For example, Arctic hare can change their fur colour.
4. Large eyes- It functions the same as rabbits, i.e., to detect predators.
5. Size and Weight- Hares have a size range of 45 to 70 centimetres in length, which makes them larger than rabbits. The smallest hare can weigh down to 1.3 kg and the largest hare can weigh up to 6 kg.
6. Sharp claws-Hares have sharp claws that help to dig burrows and defend them from predators.
7. Digestive system- They have a good digestive system, which helps them to extract nutrients better. This ability lets them survive in tough conditions.
Hares are visible on all continents, including North America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia. There are many species with different regions and abilities.
1. In North America, snowshoe hares live in the regions of Canada and the United States. And other species seen are White-tailed hares, black-tailed hares, and Arctic Hares.
2. In Europe, the Brown Hare is common and famous in the countries of the United States, France, and Germany. And other species are Mountain Hare and European Hares.
3. In Asia, Chinese hares live in China, Korea, and Russia. And other closely related species are Indian Hare, Manchurian Hare, and Japanese Hare.
4. In Africa, Cape Hare is mostly seen. And other closely related species are Scrub Hares and Ethiopian Highland Hares.
5. In South America, hares are rarely found and no species are native.
Hares prefer sparse vegetation, grasslands, tundra, and meadows with little cover. As it suits their purpose to run efficiently and hide skilfully from their predators.
Some species adapt to cold climates. For example, snowshoe hares are found in boreal forests with snow cover. In this harsh winter condition, they make some adaptations which prevent them from their predators. Like, the best is the adaptation of white fur, where they can blend in the snow and hide from their predators. Another adaptation in cold climates is their large feet to move over snow.
Reproduction and breeding
Breeding for hares takes place in the spring and summer months. In this period, males fight with each other to get access to females and attract a mate.
The gestation period is around 42 days. Then, females give birth to a litter. The size of little varies from one to eight, lesser than rabbits.
The female hares give birth to younger ones in a depression made in the ground, known as a form. Sometimes, she visits them to take care or she runs away. This is mostly done to hide the younger ones from predators.
Differences Between hares and rabbits in points
- If you compare them based on size and weight, then it is very clear that rabbits are smaller than hares. Hares are larger in size. Not only that, they are also heavier than rabbits. The first point of difference solely talks about the difference based on their physical appearance.
- The second point of difference can be the place, where both the species live. Rabbits prefer more hiding places, so they live in fields with thick vegetation. Whereas, hares live in open grasslands, meadows, and fields.
- The third point of difference is how the species looks after birth. Rabbits are born without fur and closed eyes. Whereas, hares are born with fur and open eyes. Not only that, they have a smaller gestation period than rabbits.
Hares and rabbits might look the same at first glance. But, as we get into detail on their difference, we find out that both are very different from each other. They even look different in physical appearance. They look alike at first glance as they are closely-related species, and both belong to the same family. But calling them the same animals is a big mistake. They are found in different regions of the world; they live for different periods. They reproduce in different time zones, with differences in giving the number of younger ones. Not only that, but their predators are also different. There can be many more examples, which can prove that both species are highly different from each other.