AskDefine | Define hares

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  1. Plural of hare

Extensive Definition

Hares and jackrabbits are leporids belonging to the genus Lepus. (Four other species of leporid in the genera Caprolagus and Pronolagus are also called "hares".) Very young hares, less than one year old, are called leverets.
They are very fast moving. The European Brown Hare (Lepus europaeus) can run at speeds of up to 72 km/h (45 mph).
Hares live solitarily or in pairs, whilst "a drove of hares" is the collective noun for a group of hares.
A common type of hare in Arctic North America is the Snowshoe Hare, replaced further south by the Black-tailed Jackrabbit, White-tailed Jackrabbit and other species.
Normally a shy animal, the European Brown Hare changes its behaviour in spring, when hares can be seen in broad daylight chasing one another around meadows; this appears to be competition between males to attain dominance (and hence more access to breeding females). During this spring frenzy, hares can be seen "boxing"; one hare striking another with its paws (probably the origin of the term "mad as a March hare"). For a long time it had been thought that this was inter-male competition, but closer observation has revealed that it is usually a female hitting a male, either to show that she is not yet quite ready to mate, or as a test of his determination.

Differences from rabbits

Hares do not bear their young below ground in a burrow as do other Leporidae, but rather in a shallow depression or flattened nest of grass called a form. Hares are adapted to the lack of physical protection, relative to that afforded by a burrow, by being born fully furred and with eyes open. They are hence able to fend for themselves very quickly after birth — that is to say, they are precocial. By contrast, the related rabbits and cottontail rabbits are altricial, having young that are born blind and hairless.
All rabbits (except the cottontail rabbits) live underground in burrows or warrens, while hares (and cottontail rabbits) live in simple nests above the ground, and usually do not live in groups. Hares are generally larger than rabbits, with longer ears, and have black markings on their fur. Hares have not been domesticated, while rabbits are often kept as house pets. There is a domestic pet known as the "Belgian Hare" but this is a rabbit that has been selectively bred to resemble a hare.
The hare's diet is very similar to the rabbit's.


Folklore and mythology

The hare in African folk tales is a trickster; some of the stories about the hare were retold among African slaves in America, and are the basis of the Brer Rabbit stories. The hare appears in English folklore in the saying "as mad as a March hare".
Many cultures, including the Indian and Japanese, see a hare in the pattern of dark patches in the moon (see Man in the Moon). The constellation Lepus represents a hare. There is evidence to suggest that there was some sort of taboo regarding hares in the Proto-Indo-European culture; this is especially notable due to the likelihood that the common word for hare, *kasos, which literally means "the grey one", was a euphemism for a previous and now lost word for hare.
According to Jewish tradition, the hare is among many of the mammals deemed not Kosher.
One of Aesop's fables tells the story of The Tortoise and the Hare.

Famous hares

Three hares

Recent (2004) research has followed the history and migration of a symbolic image of three hares with conjoined ears. In this image, three hares are seen chasing each other in a circle with their heads near its centre. While each of the animals appears to have two ears, only three ears are depicted. The ears form a triangle at the centre of the circle and each is shared by two of the hares. The image has been traced from Christian churches in the English county of Devon right back along the Silk Road to China, via Western and Eastern Europe and the Middle East. It is possible that even before its appearance in China it was actually first depicted in the Middle East before being re-imported centuries later. Its use has been found associated with Christian, Jewish, Islamic and Buddhist sites stretching back to about 600 CE.


The hare has given rise to local placenames, as they can often be repeatedly observed over many years in favoured localities. An example in Scotland is 'Murchland', the Scots for a hare being 'Murchen'.
hares in Arabic: أرنب بري
hares in Bavarian: Echte Håsn
hares in Catalan: Llebre
hares in Czech: Zajíc
hares in Danish: Hare
hares in German: Echte Hasen
hares in Spanish: Lepus
hares in Esperanto: Leporo
hares in Basque: Erbi (animalia)
hares in French: Lièvre
hares in Galician: Lebre
hares in Ido: Leporo
hares in Indonesian: Terwelu
hares in Italian: Lepus (genere)
hares in Hebrew: ארנבת
hares in Latin: Lepus
hares in Limburgan: Echte haoze
hares in Maltese: Liepru
hares in Dutch: Echte hazen
hares in Japanese: ノウサギ属
hares in Norwegian: Harer
hares in Polish: Lepus
hares in Portuguese: Lebre
hares in Quechua: Liwri
hares in Russian: Зайцы (род)
hares in Albanian: Lepuri
hares in Simple English: Hare
hares in Slovenian: Pravi zajec
hares in Swedish: Harar (släkte)
hares in Telugu: చెవుల పిల్లి
hares in Thai: กระต่ายแจ๊ก
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