European Hare (Lepus Europaeus)
The European hare (Lepus europaeus), also known as the brown hare, is a species of hare native to Europe and western Asia. It is a mammal adapted to temperate, open country. It is related to and looks very similar to theEuropean rabbit, which is in the same family but in a different genus. Hares are larger than the European rabbit, have longer ears and hind legs and breed on the ground rather than in a burrow. They rely on speed to escape frompredators.
Generally nocturnal and shy in nature, hares change their behaviour in the spring, when they can be seen in broad daylight chasing one another around fields and meadows. During this spring frenzy, they can be seen striking one another with their paws (“boxing”). For a long time, this had been thought to be competition between males, but closer observation has revealed it is usually a female hitting a male, either to show she is not yet ready to mate or as a test of his determination. This species has a fairly long breeding season which lasts from January to August. Hares are herbivorous and feed on grasses, herbs, twigs, buds, bark and field crops. Their natural predators includebirds of prey, canids and felids.
The European hare is listed as being of Least Concern by the IUCN. However it is declining in mainland Europe because of changes in farming practices. The hare has been a traditional symbol of fertility and reproduction in some cultures, and its courtship behaviour in the spring inspired the English idiom mad as a March hare.
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