Our wild hares are just beautiful. They are very different to rabbits, with much longer ears with black tips, and longer legs. Whereas rabbits live in burrows, hares live in shallow depressions, always on the lookout for (foxes), when feeding at dawn and dusk. They run (in a zig-zag pattern) twice as fast as the world’s fastest man. Two hares ‘boxing’ are not males fighting: rather an uninterested female, trying to fend off an unwanted admirer.
But we have now lost 80% of our wild hares, and yet still 40% are shot each year, including people who run grouse shoots (hares carry a tick that could transfer to grouse). When shot, this leaves the baby leverets to starve. Others suffer with illegal hunting of hares by dogs, which results in some being ripped apart in a ‘tug-of-war’.
Just like rabbits, hares are also prone to the manmade disease myxomatosis. This has been made worse with modern farming practices. Years ago, hares could live in long grass and live off grass, vegetation and hedgerows. But today with most hedgerows gone, modern farm machinery and pesticides harms our beautiful hares.
If you are a farmer, go organic and leave long grass for hiding and breeding. Mow from inside out, to give hares best chance of escaping to other fields.
‘In that direction’, the Cat said (waving its right paw round) ‘lives a Hatter. And in that direction’ (waving the other paw) ‘lives a March Hare. Visit either you like: they’re both mad’. Alice in Wonderland
How to Save Our Hares
- Hare Preservation Trust is packed with info on how farmers can help hares, plus you can find advice to help injured or orphaned hares. The founder’s website Moon Gazers has tips to care for orphaned leverets and juvenile hares. Read her beautiful ode: The Hare Book.
- If you find an injured or orphaned hare, contact your local wildlife rescue (often mothers are watching leverets from nearby). Swollen eyes may be a sign of myxomatosis (which can be treated). Injuries to legs need help, as hares need all four legss, to run from predators (Tiggywinkles has good info).
- Report illegal coursing or abuse to Animal Crime Unit , National Wildlife Crime Unit or Crimestoppers (anonymous).
Reading List on Hares
- A Year in the Wild is a unique book, with all the art coming from foraged wild materials. Discover the four seasons, brought to life in art from pressed flowers and leaves. Helen Ahpornsiri transforms petals and seeds into bounding hares, swooping swallows and fluttering butterflies. Turn the page to watch flowers unfold, see birds take flight or peek inside animal homes.
- The Secret Life of the Mountain Hare is a beautiful ode to mountain hares that live in northern England and the author’s native Scotland. Andy Howard (a wildlife photographer) offers a beautiful guide to these captivating creatures who have inhabited our upland landscapes, since the last major Ice Age. Seasonally white or brown, they are shy and charming – and can run like the wind!
- Song of the Golden Hare is a tale by Welsh artist Jackie Morris. The story of a boy and his family, who search for leverets orphaned by the hunt, to keep them safe.
- The Hare and the Moon is a colour almanac by artist Catherine Hyde, following the phases of the moon an a hare’s journey through 12 months of the year. This lyrical tribute to the natural world begins on waking from the winter solstice. The hare begins her journey: running in January, watching in February, leaping in March. And in December, it’s time for a sleep! Features 12 double-page paintings of the hare’s journey, with full pages of art showing a tree, flower and bird for each month of the year.
- The Hare And the Moon is a self-published fable to calm children, by artist and therapist Sophie Shaw. The sweet scared hare will gently show your child how to overcome worries, using simple techniques. When Hare is beaten by the Turtle in race, his mum tells him to go and meet the Moon..
Maisie the Mountain Hare is an educational book for children, to meet a hare who loves playing with friends. As the baby hares grow, theier coats turn white to help camouflage them in winter, and with no snow in sight, the siblings are in danger – can they work together to stay safe? Includes illustrations of Scottish animals and heather-covered Cairngorm landscapes.