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Animal Fact File: European Hare

Name: European Hare

Scientific Name: Lepus europaeus

Description: The European hare, also known as a brown hare, is a fast running mammal. The hare has eyes high on the side of its head, long ears and teeth that grow continuously. They can be distinguished from other hares and rabbits by the long legs and active young.

European hare in the UK

Species: The European hare is a leporids, belonging to the same family as rabbits. There are 32 species of hare, such as jackrabbits and arctic hares, adapting to a wide variety of conditions.

Colouring: Hares are golden brown in colour, with paler stomachs and white tales. Their long ears have dark tips.

Length: 70cm

Weight: 4kg

Habitat: European hares are native to continental Europe and were possibly introduced in Britain by the Romans. Hares live in open fields that have scattered brush to use for shelter. In the UK, they can be seen most frequently on arable farms with wheat and sugar beet crops. They are seen less frequently where there are more foxes and buzzards.

Diet: Hares are herbivores, eating mainly grass. They thrive best in places there are weeds, herbs, twigs and tree bark to add to their diet. In winter, they can eat crops and young trees if there are not enough alternative food sources.

Breeding: The breeding season for a European hare is long, from January to August, with up to three litters a year. Females nest in a depression on the surface of the ground and litters produce three or four young.

Lifespan: The European hare can live up to 12 years.

Top Speed: 45mph

Other Facts:

  • Hares are a traditional game animal, but can also be treated as pests as they cause damage to cereal crops and young trees.
  • In England and Wales, hares can be shot throughout the year on enclosed land; on moorland, they can be shot between 11 December and 31 March.
  • Hares are polygynous; a single male mating with multiple females, and competition for mating is intense.
  • A young hare or leveret, is fully furred when born and ready to leave the nest soon after birth.
  • The height of breeding season is known as “March madness,” when nocturnal bucks are active during the day to fight off competition and females will fight suitors she is not interested in.
  • Hare’s fights look like boxing, and can get quite vicious, drawing blood and pulling out fur of opponents.
  • The European hare is the fastest land mammal in the UK, and will run from predators in a zigzag pattern. 
  • The brown hare can be found throughout Great Britain except in the north of Scotland.

Spotting a hare in the fields is always exciting – and it is also a favourite feature on many of our country gifts and country clothing! Take a look at our online shop for some lovely gifts for a country home!