On some of our sites, we are fortunate to have regular encounters with both brown and mountain hare.
Mountain hare (Lepus timidus) are iconic to Scotland, with their greyish brown pelts camouflaging them in the heath during summer, and white pelts in winter that blend in with the snow. They are thought to be native to the Highlands then later introduced to other areas of Britain.
Despite their scientific name ‘timidus’ we often spot them around sites warming themselves against generators or sheltering under cabins in winter. In summer, we frequently catch sight of them sheltering in ‘forms’ at the side of tracks before racing uphill.
Brown hare (Lepus Europaeus) are more common and their pelts do not change colour. Instead their appearance remains golden brown, with a pale underside and white tail. They are usually spotted more in spring during the breeding season, when boxing is more likely to occur or warm weather. Boxing tends to be a female warding off a male rather than two males competing.
Non-native to Britain, brown hare are thought to have been introduced by the Romans or Celts as there is a lack of genetic evidence predating this era.
The difference between hares and rabbits?
Hares are larger than rabbits, with brown being larger than mountain hare. Hares have longer ears and hind legs, and both hares maintain black ear tips year round. The mountain hare has a slight blue colouring to it’s summer pelt.
Rabbits tend to live in large colonies (or nests) whereas hares live solitary or in small numbers. Young hares are called leverets whilst rabbits are called kittens.
Hares and rabbits share a similar diet of plant matter. Surprisingly, both ingest droppings to gain full sustenance from their food as it passes through their digestive system twice. This also acts as a safety tactic as they can feed under cover from predators. Both are preyed on by predators such as raptors, foxes, and mustelids.
Have concerns about hares on your site? Please contact our consultants for advice.