Brown hare

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Brown hare
European hare (Lepus europaeus)

European hare ( Lepus europaeus )

Subclass : Higher mammals (Eutheria)
Superordinate : Euarchontoglires
Order : Hare-like (Lagomorpha)
Family : Hares (Leporidae)
Genre : Real rabbits ( Lepus )
Type : Brown hare
Scientific name
Lepus europaeus
Pallas , 1778

The brown hare ( Lepus europaeus ), also called hare for short , is a mammal from the rabbit family (Leporidae). The species inhabits open and semi-open landscapes. The natural range covers large parts of the southwestern Palearctic ; However, due to numerous naturalizations, the brown hare is found on almost every continent. Due to the strong intensification of agriculture, the number of the brown hare is declining in many regions of Europe. The German Wildlife Protection Association declared the brown hare Animal of the Year for 2001 and again in 2015 .


Skull of Lepus europaeus
2 · 0 · 3 · 3  =  28
1 · 0 · 2 · 3
Tooth formula of the brown hare

Together with the mountain hare , the brown hare is the largest hare-like in Europe. The head-trunk length is 422–680 mm, the tail length 62–133 mm, the length of the hind feet 93–185 mm and the ear length 85–129 mm. Adult animals weigh 2.5–6.4 kg.

The fur is long, the top hairs are curved in most of the distribution area, they are only straight in the Caucasus and Asia Minor . The woolen hair has a white base. The back is variable yellowish gray, ocher brown or brownish red with yellow shades and mottled black. The flanks are more rusty yellow or reddish brown. Head and neck, chest and legs are light brown, the belly is creamy white. The ears are pale gray and show a black, roughly triangular spot at the tip. The tail is black on top and white on the underside. In winter fur , the sides of the head including the base of the ears are whiter and the hips are more gray.

distribution and habitat

Distribution of the brown hare: originally (brown), naturalized (red)

The natural range of the brown hare covers large parts of the south-western Palearctic . It extends in a west-east direction from north-central Spain and Brittany to south-west Siberia and north-west Mongolia . In a north-south direction, the area extends from Denmark and - leaving out most of Scandinavia - from northern Finland to northern Spain, to northern Italy and to southern Greece; further east to the north of Iran . The species was naturalized mainly for hunting reasons in many other areas of Europe and beyond on other continents . In Europe, the species was established by humans in Great Britain and Northern Ireland , southern Sweden, Corsica and southern Italy. Today there are also large populations in the northeast of the USA , in the south of South America , in the south and east of Australia including Tasmania and in New Zealand .

The relatively warmth-loving species inhabits open and semi-open landscapes such as light forests, steppes , dunes and the agricultural landscape with hedges, bushes or adjacent forests from sea level up to 2500 meters.

In Brandenburg , statistical surveys at the beginning of the 21st century have shown that there are on average around 8-10 brown hares per square kilometer. Environmentalists and biologists are observing that more and more rabbit populations are moving to the outskirts or in large green areas of cities. The experts suspect that the cause is that the hares' natural enemies are rarely found here. The Lichtenberg district of Berlin has launched in 2016 an interactive project for observing and counting the population by all citizens to life. The census in the Berlin district of Lichtenberg resulted in a number of 15 individuals per square kilometer, which is 4 more than the national average.

Way of life

The brown hare is predominantly crepuscular and nocturnal, especially at the beginning of the breeding season in late winter and in spring but also diurnal. The animals are solitary outside of the mating season and rest during the day in the shallow, usually well-covered hollows known as Sasse . In the event of danger, they "press" motionless to the ground and only flee at the last moment. Brown hares reach speeds of up to 70 km per hour over a short distance and jump up to 2 m high. The animals can swim well too.


Brown hares, like all real hares, have a vegetable diet. They eat green parts of plants, but also tubers, roots and grain, their appendix droppings ( caecotrophy ) and, especially in winter, the bark of young trees.

Reproduction and Age

Motion sequence in a young brown hare

Males fight for a female who is ready to conceive, in the process they hunt and "box", that is, hit each other with their front paws. The tufts of hair torn out during these fights are called ramming wool in the hunter's language . The breeding season in Central Europe lasts from January to October, the females give birth 3 to 4 times a year. The gestation period is about 42 days. The litters include 1–5, exceptionally 6 young. The newly born young rabbits weigh 100–150 g and, like all rabbits, are pronounced “ nest -fledgers ”, they are born hairy and seeing. When they flee from the nest, the young rabbits live alone, but not abandoned and should neither be touched nor taken by people. The rabbit only comes to suckle about twice a day. The previously known maximum age in the wild is 12.5 years, but over half of the hares do not live to be a year old.

Natural enemies

All over the world, hares are among the prey animals for predators and carnivores . In Europe, the different are predators , raptors and corvids , which prey in particular the majority of young rabbits.

Existence and endangerment

Hare "squeezing" in the Sasse with big ears and an attentive look

Since the 1960s, the population has been falling sharply in many parts of Europe. The main reason is considered to be the strong intensification of agriculture, in particular the massive use of fertilizers and pesticides as well as the intensive use of machines. Investigations in the years 2004 to 2009 showed that the cultivation of winter cereals , rapeseed and maize in particular is having a negative effect on ever larger fields. Diminishing fringing, herbaceous and perennial corridors and a reduction in fallow areas by almost three quarters within the last ten years are significant factors in the decline in the population. In Germany, the species is therefore listed in the Red List as "endangered" (category 3), in some federal states such as Brandenburg and Saxony-Anhalt as "critically endangered" (category 2). According to the IUCN, the world population is considered to be not at risk (“least concern”).

In 2016, an average of 11 hares per square kilometer lived in German fields and meadows (in 2011 there were 12), although there were strong regional differences. The lowest populations are found in the new federal states with an average of 5 animals, in Saxony only 3, while North Rhine-Westphalia has the largest population with an average of 17 brown hares per square kilometer. (For comparison: in 2011 there were an average of 26 in Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein). According to projections, there were around four million hares in Germany in 2011 and around two to three million in 2016.

Man and hare

Road traffic

Many rabbits find death in the streets. According to estimates by the German Hunting Association, around 60,000 brown hares fall victim to road traffic in Germany every year. The situation is similar in Austria, where there were around 23,200 rabbits in 2016.


German hare hunting range

Brown hares are hunted in almost all European countries . The usual in Germany hunting methods are the hunt and the individual raised hide . As fleeing small game , hares are traditionally hunted with shotguns and shotgun shells . In Germany, around 825,000 brown hares were shot in the 1985/86 hunting year , after which the number fell sharply and reached its lowest level in 1997/98 with 406,000 hunted animals shot. Since then the hunting routes have decreased again. In the 2015/16 hunting year, 242,000 hares were shot. According to the regional population differences, there are also very considerable differences here. The shooting in the entire area of ​​the new federal states was 9,000 hares at 3 percent, in Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Saxony with a total of almost 200,000 at over 82 percent of the German hunting range . The closed season begins in mid-January.

Fleeing brown hare

In the 2015/16 hunting season, the hunting distance in Austria was 120,400 hares. Here, too, there are serious differences between the individual federal states. Lower Austria had by far the highest proportion with 66,300, which corresponds to 55 percent of the total distance. The closed season in Austria begins on January 1st every year. The last hunt is called Hasensilvester . For fur utilization see rabbit fur .

The term wild hare sometimes used is not a classification. However, it is used in connection with roast hare and other hare dishes.

Hunter language

In the course of centuries, its own mode of expression as who jargon of hunters developed that particular look and feel of the small game scoring MeisterLampe concern. The ears are called spoons, the eyes seers, the tail a flower. Because of his shape he is called the crooked one. When moving, the hare makes a characteristic escape trail and then goes into the Sasse.

Brown hare on the edge of the meadow

Cultural history

Albrecht Dürer : Brown hare , watercolor (1502), Albertina, Vienna
Depiction of a hare hunt from the Villa Romana del Casale

As a very common domestic animal, the hare has also found its place in fairy tales ( The hare and the hedgehog ), fables ( Meister Lampe ) and idioms (fearful hare, hare's foot, hare breading ). Its shyness, its speed, its agility and its long ears are proverbial. Along with the egg, it has become a symbol of fertility and Easter . In 751, Pope Zacharias described the brown hare in a letter to Boniface (probably referring to Jewish food prohibitions ) as unclean and prohibited its consumption. On the other hand, the Archbishop Theodore of Canterbury (602–690) allowed the consumption of rabbit meat and emphasized the health-promoting effects. In Roman times depictions of the hunt were a popular subject in art, and hare hunts are also shown more often in this context. The picture of a young brown hare by Albrecht Dürer is extremely well known. With the performance How to explain pictures to the dead hare , Joseph Beuys introduced the hare to modern action art in 1965 .

See also

Rabbit in art


  • S. Aulagnier, P. Haffner, A. J. Mitchell-Jones, F. Moutou, J. Zima: The mammals of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East - The destination guide. Haupt, Bern / Stuttgart / Vienna 2009, ISBN 978-3-258-07506-8 , pp. 160-161.
  • AJ Mitchell-Jones, G. Amori, W. Bogdanowicz, B. Krystufek, P. J. H. Reijnders, F. Spitzenberger, M. Stubbe, J. B. M. Thissen, V. Vohralik, J. Zima: The Atlas of European Mammals. Poyser, London, 1999, ISBN 0-85661-130-1 , pp. 166-167.
  • Renate Angermann: Vertebrates (= Erwin Stresemann [start], Konrad Senglaub [Hrsg.]: Excursion fauna of Germany. Volume 3). 12th edition, Spektrum, Akademischer Verlag, Heidelberg 1995, ISBN 3-334-60951-0 , p. 428.
  • Ilse Haseder , Gerhard Stinglwagner : Knaur's large hunting dictionary. Weltbild-Verlag, Augsburg 2000, ISBN 3-8289-1579-5 ; Keyword: rabbits. P. 318 ff.
  • Eberhard Schneider: The brown hare - biology, behavior, tending and hunting (= BLV hunting book ). BLV-Verlagsgesellschaft, Munich / Bern / Vienna 1978, ISBN 3-405-11770-4 .

Web links

Commons : Feldhase  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Daniel Hoffmann: Animal of the Year 2015 - The Brown Hare ( Memento from March 3, 2016 in the Internet Archive ), Schutzgemeinschaft Deutsches Wild, accessed on January 24, 2015.
  2. The brown hare on the IUCN Red List, distribution map, accessed on November 20, 2016.
  3. Steffi Bey: Brown hares are drawn to the city. Lichtenberg initiates a project to research animals. In: New Germany . January 8, 2016 ( online ), accessed November 20, 2016.
  4. Der Tagesspiegel : Hasen-Heimat Lichtenberg , April 12, 2017, accessed on July 27, 2017
  5. ^ ABU: Farmers Help Brown Hare , April 4, 2007, accessed on July 27, 2017
  6. Thomas Gehle, Research Center for Hunting and Game Damage Prevention, Bonn: The thing with the rabbits. In: Agricultural weekly paper Westphalia-Lippe. 04/2013, January 24, 2013, page 44 f.
  7. Süddeutsche Zeitung : Brown hares remain numerically stable , April 7, 2017, accessed on July 27, 2017.
  8. ^ Hans Joachim Steinbach: Powder and lead ( Memento from March 4, 2016 in the Internet Archive ). In: Deutsche Jagd-Zeitung Online, accessed on October 26, 2015.
  9. DJV Handbuch 2005. Deutscher Jagdschutzverband e. V., Mainz, pp. 306-308.
  10. German Hunting Association : Annual hunting range 2015/16. In:, accessed on July 28, 2017.
  11. § 1 of the Federal Hunting Act .
  12. Hunting statistics 2015/16. In:, accessed on July 28, 2017.
  13. Hunting calendar
  14. ^ I. Haseder, G. Stinglwagner: Knaurs Großes Jagdlexikon (corresponding keywords).
  15. Track documentation - Brown hare in parallel gallop. In:, accessed on December 25, 2014 (trace hunter Marcus Kampmeier, April 25, 2014).
  16. S. Schott: Rabbit. § 3. Cultural history. In: Herbert Jankuhn, Heinrich Beck, Heiko Steuer (Ed.): Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde . Vol. 14, 2nd edition, de Gruyter, Berlin 1999, ISBN 3-11-016423-X , pp. 30–31, here: p. 31, column 1 ( preview in the Google book search).