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European hare (Lepus europaeus)

European hare ( Lepus europaeus )

Class : Mammals (mammalia)
Subclass : Higher mammals (Eutheria)
Superordinate : Euarchontoglires
without rank: Glires
Order : Hare-like (Lagomorpha)
Family : Rabbits
Scientific name
Fischer , 1817
Bunny skull
Florida Cottontail ( Sylvilagus floridanus )

The hares (Leporidae, from Latin lepus = hare) are a mammal family from the order of the hare-like (Lagomorpha, from Greek λαγός or λαγῶς (lagos) = hare and μορφή (morph) = shape, shape). The approximately 55 species include, for example, the brown hare and the wild rabbit or their cultivated forms, the domestic rabbits .


Originally, the hares were absent in southern South America , Australia and in the oceanic region as well as on remote islands. Today the representatives of this family can be found on all continents with the exception of Antarctica , as they were introduced by humans to areas in which they were not native.


Rabbits reach a head-torso length of 25 to 70 centimeters and a weight of 0.4 to 7 kilograms. The fur color varies from white to gray to brownish. Not all hares have the long ears known from the real hares , but in all species they are longer than they are wide. The back legs are longer than the front legs and are good for walking. The face is characterized by a Y-shaped cleft from the upper lip to the nostrils, which gave the name to the " harelip " that sometimes occurs in humans .

Way of life

Rabbits inhabit a variety of habitats, from the tundra to grasslands to tropical forests . They are largely crepuscular and nocturnal animals that, depending on the species , live in communities or as solitary animals . Only the European wild rabbit digs an earthworks. All other hares seek shelter under bushes and rocks or, like the mountain hare that lives in the Arctic, build a burrow in the snow.


Hares are herbivores, they feed on grasses, herbs, leaves and flowers. They show a behavior known as cecotrophy : in addition to normal solid faeces , they produce a softer, vitamin-rich faeces in the appendix , which is absorbed and swallowed immediately after being deposited. This is collected in the cardiac region of the stomach and digested again. In this way, part of the food passes through the digestive system twice and becomes more open. Thus the vitamins formed in the intestine can be absorbed.


In general, rabbits are characterized by a high fertility rate. The female can give birth several times a year, the gestation period is around 25 to 50 days, the litter size averages two to eight, sometimes up to 15 cubs.



Phylogenetic systematics of the rabbits according to Matthee et al. 2004

 Pigeon hares (Ochotonidae / Ochotona )


 Bush rabbit ( Poelagus marjorita )


 Red rabbit ( Pronolagus )


 Striped Rabbit ( Nesolagus )


 Volcanic rabbit ( Romerolagus diazi )


 Wild rabbit ( Oryctolagus cuniculus )


 Bristle Rabbit ( Caprolagus hispidus )


 Bushman hare ( Bunolagus monticularis )


 Ryukyu rabbit ( Pentalagus furnessi )


 Cottontail Rabbit ( Sylvilagus )


 Dwarf rabbit ( Brachylagus )


 Real rabbits ( Lepus )

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Hares, together with the pika, form the order of the hare-like (Lagomorpha). The systematic position of this order was long controversial, the animals were often viewed as members of the rodents .

The family is divided into two subfamilies with eleven genera and around 55 species. The adjacent cladogram shows the phylogenetic relationship of the individual genera within the hares. It is based on molecular biological data and was developed by Conrad A. Matthee et al. Developed in 2004.

The genera of the hares are (in monotypical genera the only species is mentioned):

Hares and rabbits

The division of this family into hares and rabbits is not a systematic one. " Rabbit " is not a systematic taxon , "hare" - not in the sense of the whole family (Leporidae), but as a group of species or genera - only if it is restricted to the genus of the real hare ( Lepus ). Some genera, the red rabbits ( Pronolagus ) for example, are sometimes referred to as hares, sometimes as rabbits. Nevertheless, a number of characteristics can be cited that influence whether a genus or a species is called a hare or a rabbit:

  • Bunnies usually have longer ears and stronger hind legs than rabbits.
  • Rabbits hide from predators in shelters. Rabbits live in the open field and flee at high speed when attacked.
  • Hares are usually solitary animals, while some species of rabbit, such as the wild rabbit, are sociable.
  • Newborn rabbits are born naked and blind after a short gestation period (usually 27–30 days) and are nestled , while newborn rabbits after a longer gestation period (37–50 days) have a coat and open eyes and are fleeing and abandoned .

Linguistic peculiarity

The term wild hare is also used in connection with roast hare and hare dishes . Wild hare is not a classification.


Web links

Commons : Rabbits (Leporidae)  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Gus Mills, Lex Hes: Mammals of Southern Africa - An Illustrated Encyclopedia. Könemann Verlag, Cologne 1997, ISBN 3-8290-3610-8 , p. 114.
  2. ^ A b Conrad A. Matthee, Bettine Jansen Van Vuuren, Diana Bell Terence J. Robinson: A Molecular Supermatrix of the Rabbits and Hares (Leporidae) Allows for the Identification of Five Intercontinental Exchanges During the Miocene. In: Systematic Biology. 53 (3), pp. 433-447. ( Abstract )
  3. Don E. Wilson & DeeAnn M. Reeder (eds.): Leporidae ( Memento of the original from December 19, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. in Mammal Species of the World. A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed).  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.vertebrates.si.edu
  4. Systematics of the Lagomorpha in the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS)