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The Main Differences Between Rabbits and Hares


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There are plenty of questions out there that we no answers to even to this day. For example, which one came first, the chicken or the egg, what is the meaning of life and we can’t forget about the most important one: is anyone a morning person or are they all just alien robots sent here to spy on us?

All jokes aside, one of the most commonly asked questions out there that we do actually have an answer for is what is the actual difference between a rabbit and a hare?

The answer may actually shock you, but before we go any further, we should probably take the time to explain the reason for this dilemma.

First of all, they look very similar to say the least. Most people that have yet to see one with their own eyes could very well be excused for making this mistake, but if you’ve been around them all of your life you should know by now the many differences between the two.

The Reasons for the Confusion

Rabbits vs Hares
Sven Ziegler / pixabay.com

Since they are so closely related to one another, they do share some of the same genes, but other than that they are part of completely different species altogether. Biologically speaking, they are both part of the exact same order and family, but as soon as we look past this, we can see that they’ve taken different evolutionary paths.

Still, it would be really silly to say that there are no other similarities between the two, especially considering just how many people don’t know the differences between them. But alas, now that we have that out of the way, we should start listing off every difference between the two, starting off with the most obvious one, aka:

Hares Are Wilder Than Bunnies

Hares Are Wilder Than Bunnies
Vincent van Zalinge / unsplash.com

There is a reason as to why the “harebrained” saying is so popular nowadays, and that all stems directly from the wildness that they showcase when caught by humans.

While you can easily train a bunny to stand on your lap and be petted by you all day long, the same can’t be said about hares as they’re typically a lot more vicious and scared of humans than we’d like them to be.

So, the term “harebrained” is a direct reference to the hares’ inability to stand still whenever a human approaches them. Even when they are in their cages, they can end up hitting their head over the bars which can easily result in them dying in an instant.

Rabbits Eating Grass
Rabbits Eating Grass / pixabay.com

In contrast to that behavior, even if the bunny has been living away from humans all of its life, when approached by one it will end up backing away and trying to hide as opposed to going absolute bonkers fighting for their life at all costs.

Hares are incredibly hard to train, even after having been bottle-fed all of their lives they can still end up running away from you when they see you coming a bit too close to them and they can even attack you if you’re not careful.

This is why if you want to have a fuzzy little pet of your own then we highly recommend that you go for a bunny as opposed to going for a hare. It will save you a lot of time and a lot of mean scratches.

Hares Are Stronger and Faster Than Bunnies

Hares Are Stronger and Faster Than Bunnies
Mabel Amber / pixabay.com

Many people don’t realize this but when it comes to their survival, hares are actually a lot better equipped to make it through the toughest conditions than any bunny out there. First and foremost, let’s just get it out of the way, hares are typically way larger than bunnies which already gives them a huge disadvantage in the open field.

Bunnies can easily hide away in the bushes and even in the tall grass, but hares can’t usually afford that luxury as they can get as large as six times the size of the typical bunny. While the typical bunny is only around 1-2kg or around 4lbs in total, hares can get as large as 6kg or 13-14lbs in total.

Luckily, hares do get the advantage when it comes to their physical prowess as they can easily outrun any bunny on the open field.

Bunnies can barely reach 40kmph or 25mph while hares can easily go as fast as 60-70kmph or 37-43mph in total. That is extremely useful to for the hares because they are so much larger, so they’d be much easier to pick out in the grass.

Since they are so much larger, they are also way stronger, which is why we highly advise against manhandling hares since they can easily end up leaving your arms literally shredded in a matter of seconds after you picked them up.

Bunnies Hide Underground While Hares Live on the Open Fields

Bunnies Hide Underground While Hares Live on the Open Fields
Pradeep Kumar Sahu / pexels.com

Another massive difference between the two is the fact that bunnies are born completely blind underground. They actually live in their underground burrows or in the small nests underneath the ground until they are big enough to outrun most dangers.

Still, since they are nowhere near as fast as the typical hare, they can end up being caught very quickly which is why they spend most of their time hidden away from the predators.

In contrast to all of that, hares are born on the surface and they can see almost instantly. They are also able to run very early in their life, as they need to considering the fact that they spend all of their time in large open areas such as deserts or prairies.

So, just to reiterate, hares are way better equipped when it comes to surviving in the wild than rabbits are. For the most part, rabbits are known for their explosive speed, but that doesn’t always end up working out for them.

The moment the predator catches them off guard it’s game over for them, while if a hare is caught off guard it can still make it out alive if it manages to get a couple of scratches in. Their stamina is also a lot better so once the hares pick up their speed, they can easily outrun most predators out there.

Another small difference between the two is in the fact that some hare species can end up changing their color throughout the seasons so as to make sure that they can blend in better with the environment.

This would mean that during winter you are a lot more likely to come across white furred hares paddling around in the snow, while during summer times they can end up changing their fur color to an offset brown.

The Hare Mating Process Is a Challenge from the Female

Hare Mating Process
Franz W. / pixabay.com

We all like the saying “mating like rabbits”, but what most people don’t realize is the fact that there is a lot of truth backing up that statement too.

Rabbits are known for being very proactive when it comes to mating, they can literally start mating from the moment that they are born. They evolved to do this because of how easy of a prey they really are in the wild, in order to make sure that they can pass on their genes.

Each litter can end up having around 12 babies in total, and as soon as the female is done giving birth, she can end up mating yet again for the sake of making more and more babies.

Hares on the other hand have a way more violent outlook when it comes to mating. First and foremost, the female can end up only having a maximum of 8 babies in total per litter as opposed to the 12 that rabbits can have. On top of that, the female hares are very much so not just going to sit there and take it, they are actually quite picky when it comes to their partners.

So, they usually end up outrunning them to the ends of the world, trying to run away from any potential mate at all times. If the male manages to keep up with her then she now has two options, she can either mate with him or start a boxing match. That’s right, you read that correctly, the female will literally beat the everlasting heck out of her potential mate if she feels like he’s not worthy of being with her.

The funniest part about this is that they usually win too, since females typically have more stamina than males, meaning that they can still fight quite effortlessly after running around for a couple of hours while the male will quickly give up in this case.

Hares Are Nocturnal While Rabbits Are Crepuscular

Hares Are Nocturnal While Rabbits Are Crepuscular
congerdesign / pixabay.com

This is mostly because rabbits fear anything and everything that exists other than their own. So as soon as dawn hits, they come back to life and they start running out of their little holes, searching for food and water to live with.

You will almost never actually see a rabbit run around during the dead of the night because they are nowhere near equipped enough to handle the cold.

Hares on the other hand have a whole different routine to say the least. They are much larger in size and they are born covered in fur so they can easily survive even in the coldest of temperatures.

Because of this they usually go out for food during the night time, and after they’ve had their three meals a day diet, they end up sleeping throughout the rest of the day.

The only real problem with this is the fact that since hares do live on the surface, they can end up being attacked while they’re asleep. So, in order to combat this, they end up finding tall grass areas, bushes or any other place that they can hide into.

Rabbits Often Times Attack Hares

Rabbits Often Times Attack Hares
Mathias Elle / unsplash.com

This may come as a shocker to you, but for the most part hares are nowhere near as violent as rabbits are. This is because rabbits actually do have their own burrows that they’ve built for themselves so they’re a lot more territorial. Hares will spend all of their time trying their hardest to outrun the predators that are following them. This sometimes results in a hare entering a rabbit’s burrow.

While this isn’t as common as you’d think, mostly because hares are usually too large to fit in the rabbit’s territory, it can still happen and if push comes to shove, nine out of ten times the rabbits will come out on top.

While the hares are a lot larger than the rabbits, hares don’t usually equate their size as any advantage in a fight so they’ll try to run away as fast as they could when trouble comes. This will often times end up with the rabbits actually mounting the hares, not for mating reasons mind you, but instead just as a way to dominate the hares.

Mating wise there is absolutely no chance in hell that the hare could end up pregnant after this little incident, since they’re about as far from one another as we are from apes.

Still, it is quite interesting to note that rabbits, while on the smaller side, are actually a lot more violent than hares, to the point where when they meet up in the wild the hares will end up being completely dominated by the rabbits.

Hares Have a Different Diet than Rabbits

Hares Have a Different Diet than Rabbits
David Mark / pixabay.com

While both of these species do end up consuming grass for the most part, hares are a bit different in this aspect since they can end up consuming a lot more low-hanging fruits and wild seeds than rabbits.

On top of that they can also eat tree bark. While not the most nutritious diet out there, since they are a lot bigger, they often times have to resort to eating the tree bark just so that they can make sure that they have enough energy to outrun all of the potential predators out there.

Hares meat is also very different, with a darker shade and a stronger flavor than rabbits’ meat.

Rabbits Live in Groups While Hares Live on Their Own

Rabbits group
Rabbits group / Aswathy N / unsplash.com

Since they procreate so much, rabbits can end up living with groups of up to 20 different members at the same time. This number can dwindle a lot over the course of time, but since they procreate so much it’s no wonder that they always have their buddies with them at all times.

On the other side of the spectrum, hares are a lot more of the loner type than rabbits. They actually live most of their lives on their own, to the point where they only really interact with other members of their species when it comes to the mating season.

Sometimes however there are some exceptions as the later winter comes. Because provisions are a lot harder to come by, the female hares can end up following the males around and allowing them to court them for the sake of eating their fill by the end of the season.

This works wonders for both the male and the female since the female gets to survive another winter and the male doesn’t need to literally go in a ring with his significant other just to have a chance at mating with her.

Other Differences Between Rabbits and Hares

Young Hare
TheOtherKev / pixabay.com

We mentioned previously how rabbits are a lot smaller than hares, but what we didn’t say is the fact that this isn’t all just about their size as a whole. Hares also have longer hind legs and longer ears, and they are known for having black tips on their ears too.

While hares are a lot larger, they will almost never instigate a fight with a human simply because they spend most of their lives running away from the danger. Rabbits on the other hand are small but they are not afraid to attack you if you mistreat them.

Don’t try to lift any of them up though because even though hares will never start a fight with you that doesn’t mean that they will just stand there and wait as you pick them up.

They can quickly carve their initials on your arms and if you’re not careful they can also really bite off a finger in a matter of seconds. Also, while baby rabbits can seem quite friendly as they can end up chasing you around on the field, never actually pick one up.

The mother is always nearby and if she sees you pick up the baby it will either abandon it or it will attack you to save its baby’s life.


Differences Between Rabbits and Hares

So, what did we learn today? To put it bluntly, we learned the fact that while they can be quite similar to one another, rabbits and hares are two different species altogether and they have a plethora of differences between one another.

Everything from their size, their fur color, their mating rituals and their sleeping schedules differs from one another, so the next time that you see one for yourself you should be able to instantly point out whether you’re dealing with a rabbit or a hare.

Thank you for reading and we hope that you now know more than you did when you first came to us.

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About Leah Shelton

Involved in the “green” arena for over 20 years, Leah has worn many hats due to her diverse experience and knowledge in the field. In addition to writing for Agronomag, she’s also a sustainability consultant with a unique perspective on eco-friendly farming practices. Learn more about Agronomag's Editorial Process.

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