This comparison lists several important differences between rabbits and hares in their physical features, lifestyle, habitat and behavior. Both animals belong to the Lagomorpha order of mammals; we also discuss some similarities between the two.
Differences in Physical features
There are several differences in the physical features of hares and rabbits that allow us to distinguish between the two.
- Size and speed: Hares are generally larger and faster than rabbits.
- Ears and feet: Hares have longer ears and larger feet than rabbits.
- Appearance: Hares have black markings on their fur.
- At birth: Rabbits are altricial i.e. their young are born blind and hairless. In contrast, hares are generally born with hair and are able to see (precocial). Young hares are therefore able to fend for themselves very quickly after birth.
- A young hare is called a leveret and a young rabbit is called a kitten, kit, or, least correct but very commonly, a bunny.
- Hind legs: Hares have very long and strong hind legs, more so than rabbits.
- Hair/fur: Rabbits and hares both molt and then grow new hair. This happens in both spring and in fall. Rabbit's brown summer fur is replaced with fur that is more grey. Hares, especially those living in cold, snowy regions, turn white in the winter.
- Hunters say that hare has a much stronger, gamier flavor than rabbit (which actually does taste like a milder version of chicken).
- Tails: Both rabbits and hares have short tails.
Comparison of Lifestyle and Behavior
- Hares have not been domesticated, while rabbits are often kept as house pets.
- All rabbits (except the cottontail rabbit) live underground in burrows or warrens, while hares live in simple nests above the ground (as does the cottontail rabbit). Rabbits also have their litters underground. Hares rely on running rather than burrowing for protection.
- Rabbits are very social animals and live in colonies. Male rabbits even fight within a group to become the dominant male. The dominant male rabbit then mates with most of the females in the area. On the other hand, hares live most of the time by themselves. They come together in pairs for mating only. There is almost no fighting among hares - they just pair off.
- Rabbits prefer soft stems, grass or vegetables. Hares eat more hard food: bark and rind, buds, small twigs and shoots.
- Both rabbits and hares breed prolifically, bearing four to eight litters each year.
- A litter of rabbits generally has three to eight young. They have a gestation period of about a month, are sexually mature in about six months, and live in the wild for about six years.
- Although rabbits and hares are valued as game by hunters both for their food and fur, they are also pests to farmers and gardeners. They can destroy crops and trees.
- The Jackrabbit is actually a hare.
- Rabbit's eyes are positioned on the sides, so they can cover larger areas. Rabbits can see behind them without turning their heads.
- A male rabbit is called a buck, a female - a doe, babies - kittens.
- Rabbit's eyes remain black when reflecting a bright light. In comparison human eyes appear red, cats and dogs - green, and deer eyes turn orange).
The hare and rabbit's different physical characteristics are distinctly seen in the video below.