hare, name for certain herbivorous mammals of the family Leporidae, which also includes the rabbit and pika. The name is applied especially to species of the genus Lepus, sometimes called the true hares. Hares generally have longer ears and hind legs than rabbits and move by jumping rather than by running. Unlike rabbits, hares are born covered with fur and with their eyes open. Hares are native to Eurasia, Africa, and North and Central America; they have been introduced into Australia in recent times. They range in weight from 3 to 13 lb (1.4–5.9 kg) and from 13 to 25 in. (33–63 cm) in length. They are usually brown or grayish in color, but northern species acquire a white coat in winter. Hares live in meadows, brushy country, and woodland clearings; they are largely nocturnal although they may forage in the day if undisturbed. Members of most species rest in shallow hollows, called forms, that they make in vegetation; they have regular trails from these forms to their feeding spots. Females make nests of their own fur for receiving the young. Hares feed on grasses, leaves, and bark. Like rabbits, they reingest their own droppings so that food passes twice through the digestive system. Most North American hares are very large, with extremely long ears, and are called jackrabbits. Other North American species are the varying hare (or snowshoe rabbit), Lepus americanus, which ranges over the northern half of the continent; the Arctic hare, L. arcticus, found on the coasts and islands of the Arctic Ocean; and the Alaska, or tundra, hare, L. othus, found in N and W Alaska. The large brown hare, L. europaeus, is native to Europe, where it is valued as game. Introduced as a game animal in the NE United States, it has become an agricultural pest. The so-called Belgian hare is actually a domestic rabbit.Hares are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Lagomorpha, family Leporidae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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