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What’s in a Name? Comparing the Rabbit and the Hare

Although the terms “rabbit” and “hare” are often used interchangeably, did you know that rabbits and hares are actually different animals?

While both animals belong to the same family, Leporidae, they are actually different species. Hares are typically larger, with longer ears, and are less social than rabbits. Rabbits live in colonies, which is why many have rabbits, not hares, as pets (National Geographic). Hares are faster than rabbits, and have longer, stronger hind legs, allowing them to reach speeds of 37 body lengths per second (National Geographic). Compare this to the fastest human runners, who can run only 6 body lengths per second!

While both species will molt and grow new fur in the spring, hares grow white fur during the winter. Both species live for approximately six years (AEP).

Rabbits are known for their underground burrows, but hares live aboveground. Newborn hares are born fully developed with open eyes and fur and are able to fend for themselves almost immediately, while newborn rabbits have closed eyes and no fur, and are reliant on their parent as they continue to develop. While rabbits tend to be calmer, hares spook easily. During mating season, the female hare will make the male hare chase her over several miles, and if he catches her, she will mate with him, but may throw a punch or two at him before she lets him mate her (National Geographic).

As the warmer weather approaches and baby rabbits and hares are born, it’s important to remember that mother hares and rabbits may leave their babies on their own for the day to avoid attracting predators. So if you see a nest of baby rabbits or hares on their own, don’t panic, and call us for advice before intervening!


Sources and Further Reading:

“What’s the Difference Between Rabbits and Hares?”, Dec. 19, 2014:

“Dare to Compare the Rabbit and the Hare”, Mar. 24, 2016:

2 thoughts on “What’s in a Name? Comparing the Rabbit and the Hare”

  1. I did not know the difference between them. Now I know the ones here in Calgary are hares because they change color in the winter plus their size and speed.

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