Brown Hare - Lepus europaeus

Scientific Name: Lepus europaeus (Lagomorpha).

English Name: Brown Hare; European Hare (Rabbit and hare family).

French Name: Le Lièvre d'Europe.

5 Key Characters:
  • the size of a large cat (2.5 - 7 kg).
  • usually rather solitary (except in the mating season, late winter to spring).
  • long ears tipped with black.
  • large eyes, positioned on top of the head.
  • shelters in a shallow depression (called a form in English, or gîte in French) in long vegetation or under a bush.
Lookalikes: Rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus, which is smaller and lives in family groups in burrows.

Habitat: Fields, crops, bocage (traditional pasture) and coppiced woodland (especially if there is adjoining arable land) or forest edges. They do best in habitats that are a mosaic able to provide food all year round. Agricultural monocultures do not favour them as whilst food is abundant over winter, in the summer the crops are dry and inedible. Food and cover can also be short in intensively farmed areas after ploughing and harvesting.

Active Period: Can be seen in any month, but are most visible from November to March. In the mating season (late winter, spring) small groups of hares can be seen chasing each other and fighting (known as 'boxing' because they rise up on their hind legs and bat at one another with their front feet).

Status: Widespread and common but declining, mainly due to agricultural intensification (eg removal of hedgerows, smaller field margins). Hunting hares is forbidden in this area in an attempt to allow their numbers to recover. They have benefitted in the recent past by the loss of rabbits due to myxomatosis. On the other hand, many arable farmers consider them pests. Their presence indicates a rich mosaic of habitat in a rural environment.

Photographed by Loire Valley Nature:
A form in our orchard.

A form in our orchard.
A hare footprint in January snow.

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