There are lots of interesting facts about rabbits and hares. Rabbits are a popular pet for children as they are easy to keep and can be house trained just like cats and dogs. By contrast, hares are a wild animal and although they share a few similarities with rabbits, they are a completely different species.
Some people consider rabbits and hares to be part of the rodent family due to their prominent front teeth in common with creatures such as rats, but whilst rabbits and hares do have teeth that continue to grow, they are not rodents.
Wild rabbits live in communities and make their homes underground. They often form large extended families and at night it is not unusual to see a great many rabbits eating and playing in one small area. Rabbits living in the wild rely on burrows for protection against predators whereas hares use their natural speed to escape attack. Hares tend to be solitary creatures outside of the mating season and unlike rabbits, they make their homes above ground in shallow nests.
Rabbits were domesticated in the Middle Ages and were kept by French Monks for the dinner table and as a source of fur. By a process of selective breeding, different varieties of colors were bred and before long domesticated rabbits were being bred in many colors not seen in the wild.
By the 18th and 19th centuries, breeding rabbits was a popular hobby and breeding rabbits for meat was soon out of favour. Breed standards were established and national breeding clubs were formed, many of which are still practicing today. Unlike rabbits, hares have never been domesticated, although they have been considered a food source over the centuries, just like rabbits.
What other interesting facts about rabbits and hares are there ?
Hares are bigger than most rabbits and can run much faster because of their extremely powerful hind legs. Hares also have longer ears and larger feet compared to rabbits. All hares have black markings on their fur, whereas rabbits, as we have already discussed, come in many different colors and markings. Rabbits and hares both shed their coats in the spring and grow thicker coats in the autumn. However, some hares turn white over the winter months so they have camouflage against the snow.
There are also several other key differences between the two species. Whereas rabbits are born blind, helpless, and without hair, hares are born with their coats on and eyes open. This means that baby hares are far better equipped to survive immediately after birth whereas baby rabbits are much more vulnerable. Incidentally a baby hare is called a leveret and a baby rabbit is called a kitten or bunny.
I have never eaten hare, but apparently cooked hare has a much stronger flavor than rabbit. Stewed rabbit tastes rather like chicken and is quite mild in flavor—it also goes well with carrots, onions and gravy, but not if it was hopping around your garden a few hours previously and answering to the name of “Floppy”.