You don’t often see them, since they are shy creatures and hide in the long grass. But at this time of year, once the hay has been cut, you’re more likely to see a hare around here. I love our rare glimpses of them; another advantage of living en pleine campagne.
The one above appeared near our back fence a few days ago as I happened to be looking out of the window. They rarely come this close to the house. I raced for the camera, but hares move about almost all the time and I was only just able to snap it before it disappeared from view. You can see the dark tips on its lovely ears.
Fortunately, the hunting season is not on, otherwise they would be more vulnerable. I have an unfortunate memory of a hunter brandishing a freshly-shot hare by the ears in a field close by.
The ears have it
Although they are classified in the same family as rabbits, hares are much bigger with longer ears. You no doubt recall Albrecht Durer’s watercolour of a young hare. I always thought the length of its ears was fanciful, until I saw one in the flesh. I have sometimes mistaken a hare in the distance for a dog at first sight. We have no rabbits in the immediate area, probably the legacy of myxomatosis, but only a kilometre or so away you can see rabbits gambolling on the verges in the evening.
Hares don’t appear to see you unless you move. Once the SF was reclining in a sun lounger near the pool (yes, I do allow this occasionally) quietly reading a book. After a while, he became aware of another presence. A big adult hare sat twitching its ears not more than a few metres away, having come through the hedge from the neighbouring field.
The SF watched it for a while and then said something to it. It looked around suspiciously but still didn’t move. However, having smelt a rat, as it were, it eventually retreated the way it had come.
Hares can run at up to 56 km/h (35 mph). I can testify to their speed, having watched one racing around the corner of the barn with one of our previous cats in hot pursuit. The cat didn’t stand a chance of catching it.
Rabbits breed in burrows; hares breed above ground in a shallow furrow or a nest of grass. Since this makes the leverets vulnerable, they are born with their eyes open, ready to go if necessary. It does, alas, take a while for them to become streetwise and some quite large ones have been the prey of our succession of cats.
In French an adult hare is un lièvre, while a leveret (up to one year old) is un levraut. Lévriers (greyhounds) were specially bred to match the speed of hares and then later used for racing. In Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, the eponymous Emma Bovary has an Italian lévrier, a smaller variety, probably a whippet, of which she is very fond, until it runs off one day and never returns.
All a myth?
I have never seen hares boxing, which occurs during the spring mating season. Originally, it was believed that competing males box but research has shown that it’s actually females beating off their suitors’ unwanted attentions.
In folk tales and legends, the hare has a reputation for being wily (The Tortoise and the Hare etc). This may not be undeserved. I once saw a pair of hunters making their way up the track next to our wood. Shortly afterwards, a hare ran down the track in the opposite direction. It had passed unnoticed under their noses. I applauded the hare.
You might also like:
Copyright © 2015 Life on La Lune, all rights reserved