American Desert Hare

Category: Wildlife

The American desert hare is a widespread species that lives in southwestern North America. Like all hares, it has long ears and strong legs, and can jump over 10 feet on a single leap. It can also run up to 30 miles per hour.

American Desert Hare

American Desert Hare

Scientific & Common Names

Kingdom - Animalia

Phylum - Chordata

Class - Mammalia

Order – Lagomorpha

Family – Leporidae

Genus - Lepus

Species – L. californicus

Common Name – American Desert Hare, Black-tailed Jackrabbit

Characteristics

The American desert hare is a typical hare, or jackrabbit, with very long ears and long legs. Its fur is dark buff gray with a sprinkling of black above, and creamy white below on its belly and the inside of its legs. The common name “black-tailed jackrabbit” refers to the black fur on the top of its tail.

Breeding

These hares mate all year long, and are normally solitary until they congregate to breed. During the mating season, males and females will playfully chase each other around. A female can birth up to four litters in the span of a year, each with anywhere from 2 to 5 babies. The birthing takes place in a shallow, fur-lined cavity in the ground, and the young become fully independent in the span of about a month.

Behavior

Desert hares spend much of the day resting in the shade, using their coloration to hide from predators. They become more active at night, and must constantly be on alert, as many species consider them prey including wolves, coyotes, foxes and owls. They lift their tail to warn other hares of approaching predators, and will run in zigzag patterns to escape a pursuing animal.

History

Hares are quite similar to rabbits, and both can be found in the family Leporidae. Unlike rabbits, hares are not typically domesticated. They tend to be larger than rabbits, with longer ears. Rabbits are social and live in underground burrows called warrens, while hares are more solitary and live above ground. Because of this, their young are born with full fur and eyesight, whereas rabbit babies are born blind and hairless. Most hares can be found in the genus Lepus, and are also referred to as jackrabbits.

Present Status

The American desert hare is designated as a species of “Least Concern”, and they are the most widespread of all North American hares. They are abundant in their native range which encompasses almost all of southwestern North America. They have also been introduced into many areas on the east coast of the United States quite successfully.