Brown hare

©Jim Higham

Running brown hare

©David Tipling/2020VISION

Brown hare sitting

©Chris Gomersall/2020VISION

Brown hare

Scientific name: Lepus europaeus
The brown hare is known for its long, black-tipped ears and fast running - it can reach speeds of 45mph when evading predators. It prefers a mosaic of farmland and woodland habitats and can often be spotted in fields.

Species information

Statistics

Length: 50-70cm
Weight: 2-5kg
Average lifespan: 2-4 years

Conservation status

Introduced, but naturalised species. Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981. Priority Species under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework.

When to see

January to December

About

Thought to have been introduced into the UK in Roman Times (or even earlier), the brown hare is now considered naturalised. It is most common in grassland habitats and at woodland edges, favouring a mosaic of arable fields, grasses and hedgerows. It grazes on vegetation and the bark of young trees and bushes. Brown hares do not dig burrows, but shelter in 'forms', which are shallow depressions in the ground or grass; when disturbed, they can be seen bounding across the fields, using their powerful hind legs to propel them forwards, often in a zigzag pattern. Brown hares are at their most visible in early spring when the breeding season encourages fighting or 'boxing'. Females can produce three to four litters of two to four young (known as leverets) a year.

How to identify

The brown hare is golden-brown, with a pale belly and a white tail. It is larger than the Rabbit, with longer legs and longer ears with distinctive black tips.

Distribution

Widespread, but absent from northern Scotland and the Scottish islands.

Did you know?

If you spot brown hares 'boxing' in the fields, it is most likely that you are watching a female warding off the advances of an amorous male, not two males fighting. If a fight does happen, the two hares will stand on their hind legs and attack each other with their front paws, pulling out fur. This gives the impression of two boxers in a ring.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts work closely with farmers and landowners to ensure that our wildlife is protected and to promote wildlife-friendly practices. By working together, we can create Living Landscapes: networks of habitats stretching across town and country that allow wildlife to move about freely and people to enjoy the benefits of nature. Support this greener vision for the future by joining your local Wildlife Trust.