Brown Hare ecology

Brown Hare facts & figures

(Our thanks to the Brown Hare Action Project for their permission to reproduce the following information.)

The ecology of the Brown Hare can be summarised as follows:

Origin: grasslands of Central Asia.

Introduced to Britain: before/during the time of the Roman invasion.

Description: larger than rabbits (head-body length: 48-70cm; weight: 3-5kgs); orange-grey fur with long, black-tipped ears.

Diet: young cereal crops, wild grasses and herbaceous plant species.

Behaviour:

lives exclusively above ground, utilising depressions in the ground, known as forms, to avoid predation: speed is their main defence (up to 50 km per hour). Mainly nocturnal, foraging at dusk and dawn.

lives exclusively above ground, utilising depressions in the ground, known as forms, to avoid predation: speed is their main defence

Breeding season: Feb-Sept, up to 4 litters/year (average number of leverets is 4).

Gestation: 41-42 days. Leverets weaned by 4 weeks.

Habitat: the Brown Hare is a common and conspicuous farmland species in Britain. Preferred habitat includes arable farmland (especially land managed for cereals, ley farming, upland pasture), long grasslands, hedgerows, woodland and ditches.

Distribution: widespread, but is absent from the north-west and western Highlands, where is it replaced by the mountain hare (Lepus timidus). The Brown Hare is present in Northern Ireland as a relatively recent introduction, where it competes with the indigenous Mountain Hare. Because of this, further action to support the population in Northern Ireland is discouraged.

Current Status: still relatively common and widespread in agricultural areas. Information from shooting estates such as game bag records and sighting indices collected by hare hunters suggest that since the early 1980s the hare population has remained relatively stable. Since both these sources of data were associated with specialised habitat types and/or areas of high hare density, it is unclear whether the hare population is stable in the countryside generally.

The pattern of recent population decline appears to have occurred throughout much of Europe. This is most evident in West European nations subject to the EU Common Agricultural policy (CAP) e.g. Germany. However, it is also apparent in other European nations such as Switzerland and Poland .