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How Are Hares and Rabbits Different?

Last Updated: 03.04.20



The right rabbit hutch offers your bunny all the necessary comfort and protection. Also, there are plenty of rabbit supplies which promise to make your bun-bun’s life more enjoyable. You are the one who decides what is best for your rabbit because you know exactly what he/she actually needs.

But what about hares, are they the same as rabbits? Well, this is a question that we will try to answer in this article. And, we will start by saying that they are two completely different animals, with their own specific characteristics and needs.


They are different from birth

We can even say that hares and rabbits have more different characteristics than similarities, that different they are. They do belong to the same family Leporidae, but this doesn’t make them too much alike. Think about the goat and the sheep, for example – they too belong to the same cattle family Bovidae, but this doesn’t mean that they are the same.

Even if you might think that they are similar, because of the way they look, you should know that rabbits and hares are different from the very moment they are born. While bunnies have no hair and are blind when they are born, baby hares (leverets) are born with fur and they are able to see.

In other words, leverets are more independent than newborn rabbits who are totally dependent on their mothers. And the main reason why these two animals are born differently is that they live in different environments. Leverets are born on the surface so they need fur and sight in order to be able to protect themselves against enemies.




Most of us remember the animated cartoon character Bugs Bunny who was referred to as  “bunny”, “rabbit” – or “wabbit” – and “hare”. So you might wonder how these two animals are different if the same one was called both rabbit and hare. Well, we don’t want to ruin one of your favorite childhood cartoons but the interchanging of the different terms was not correct.

Maybe this contributed to the confusion that exists today that all hares are rabbits and vice versa. Or, the names of certain species created even more confusion among people. Jackrabbits, for example, would make you think of a species of rabbits but it is not true. It is actually a species of hares.

Also, the rock hares and the hispid hares are in fact rabbits. Weird, right? That is why you should pay attention to certain details. Rabbits are generally smaller and have shorter hind legs as well as shorter ears that have a black tip. Also, while a hare’s coat changes color from brown or gray in the summer to white in the winter, rabbits have the same color year-round.

You might find it hard to spot the difference between these two since they can both trick you with their adorable little faces. But, now that you know that they are not the same, you will pay closer attention to the details mentioned above and you will be able to notice them better.


Their homes

Another big difference between the hares and the rabbits is the fact that they live in different environments. While hares make nests above ground, rabbits make their nests in burrows underground. There is just one type of rabbits – cottontail rabbits – which prefer to make their homes just like hares, on the ground.

And if you were wondering why hares have long and strong hind legs, now you can imagine how helpful it is for them to be able to run very fast when they are chased by predators. Most of the time they are on the surface, exposed to many dangers and the best way for them to protect themselves is to run away.

Rabbits, on the other hand, just hide underground when they need to protect themselves against enemies. They usually stay underground in tunnels or burrows, especially during daytime. This means that not too much running is involved hence their hind legs don’t have to be that long or strong.




Even if they are both herbivorous, rabbits and hares have different nutritional needs. That is why their food should consist of different minerals and nutrients which will help them stay strong and healthy. Rabbits mostly feed on grass and leafy weeds, and hares usually eat grasses, herbs, and field crops.

It is known that rabbits prefer soft stems and vegetables, too, while hares prefer harder food. When winter comes, hares will feed on herbage, twigs, buds, and the bark of shrubs and young fruit trees. The same as rabbits, hares are known to be coprophagic, which means that they eat their own feces in order to get proteins and vitamins.

Rabbits will do the same – that is why when they are adopted their parents need to pay attention not to clean everything from their pets’ habitat. Otherwise, they will not be able to properly absorb and digest different nutrients from their diet.


Can you have a hare pet?

Unfortunately, hares cannot be domesticated – they remain wild. So, if you were thinking to adopt one you should reconsider your options. But, the good news is that rabbits can make great pets and they live long enough (10 to 12 years) so that you can develop a very strong connection with them.

Also, rabbits are social animals – in the wild, they live in colonies. There are even fights among them for supremacy, who is going to be the alpha male. Hares are more solitary and they prefer to spend most of the time by themselves. Moreover, they only come in pairs when they need to mate and they do not fight among them.

It is understandable why they cannot be domesticated! They want to be left alone and they don’t need any type of company and protection. Rabbits, on the other hand, prefer to socialize and interact, and that is why it is easy to have them as pets and to build a very close relationship with them.




Irina Ionescu

As a long-term learner and animal lover, Irina helps her readers find the best products and accessories for their pets, as well as the latest training techniques, tips & tricks on how to handle animals.

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