Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
It is a mammal of temperate open country, unrelated to the superficially similar rabbit. It breeds on the ground, rather than in a burrow, and relies on speed to escape. With its long legs, it is a byword for sprinting.
It is larger, longer-eared and longer-legged than a rabbit, and is strictly herbivorous. They eat grasses and herbs during the summer months but change to feeding on twigs, bark, and the buds of young trees in winter, making them a pest in orchards.
Normally a shy animal, it 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. For a long time it had been thought that this was more 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.
This species has become introduced and is now feral in Eastern North America, where it is sometimes known as the 'Eastern Jackrabbit'. It was imported from Germany by a farmer living near Cambridge, Ontario, Canada in 1912.
It escaped from the farm, successfully colonized fields and woodland edges, and quickly made the "Jackrabbit" a common sight in southern Ontario, New York State and New England. Natural predators such as eagles, owls, foxes, coyotes, and bobcats, together with humans and dogs, have kept the American population under control.
"Jackrabbit" in American usage (attested in 1882) more specifically refers to the closely related Black-tailed Jackrabbit (Lepus californicus) and the White-tailed Jackrabbit (Lepus townsendii). The name is supposed to be a shortening of "jackass-rabbit", so called for its long ears.
For hares in general, see Hare.
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