Hares

Hare caught in a rare moment of stillness

Hare caught in a rare moment of stillness

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

Hare taken from a distance, with a lovely russet chest

Hare taken from a distance, with a lovely russet chest

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.

Self-preservation

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.

Hare at rest with its ears folded downwards

Hare at rest with its ears folded backwards

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.

This hare's ears almost look like feathers

This hare’s ears almost look like feathers

You might also like:

What a Hoot: In Praise of Owls
Getting a Buzz(ard)
Moles!
Hunting with Fireworks

Copyright © 2015 Life on La Lune, all rights reserved

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About nessafrance

My husband and I moved to an 18th-century farmhouse in SW France in 1997. I am fascinated by French history, rural traditions and customs and enjoy seeking out the reality behind the myths. I run my own copywriting business and write short stories and the occasional novel in my spare time. My husband appears here as the SF, which stands for Statistics Freak, owing to his penchant for recording numbers about everything.
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11 Responses to Hares

  1. amelie88 says:

    We don’t have hares in my parents’ backyard but we do have plenty of rabbits. They eat everything much to my father’s chagrin. Actually saw one hopping around today during dinner while I visited my parents for Father’s Day.

    Like

  2. Osyth says:

    What wonderful pictures of my absolute favourite animals. They are so much more elegant and interesting than Peter Rabbits. I too, have witnessed them box. Just once on a misty morning driving to work in Oxfordshire – I nearly crashed the car as I was transfixed so. Thank you for a lovely lovely post.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. MELewis says:

    I love the fact that living in France allows you to enjoy so much of nature, up close. Walking the pups in the neigbhouring farm field the other day, I saw a hare up the path a ways. Luckily he disappeared into the stalks before the dogs saw him. We also frequently see small deer (chevreuil) and the occasional wild pig (sanglier). Plus magnificent birds of prey hovering over the freshly mown fields!

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      We consider ourselves lucky to live in an area where there is so much wildlife (too much, according to some of the farmers, re the sangliers!). There is little intensive farming, mostly pasture, and a lot of woodland. Good terrain for the animals.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Jo Lamb says:

    Simon and I had the lovely pleasure of seeing boxing hares in Dorset when walking our Spaniels – it was an amazing thing to see and so difficult to capture on film…

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      Oh, lucky you! I would love to see hares boxing. They are so difficult to get on camera, even singly, but we love to see them. We are very fortunate here that it’s not very intensive agriculture. There’s a lot of woodland and pasture, which benefits animals like the hare.

      Like

  5. Beth says:

    A really enjoyable post, Vanessa! I like that it draws on several different areas of knowledge because it makes reading an eclectic, fleshed-out experience, and I learned some interesting things. Living en plein compagne in SW France sounds wonderful – I live in a tiny mountain town in the Eastern U.S. and enjoy living with the local wildlife a bit too. Suddenly I wish there were a few hares among all the small furry animals we have here:))).

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      We also have our share of small furry animals. Rather too many since we lost our cat recently… But we love the wildlife here and I find it increasingly hard to imagine going back and living in a city.

      Like

  6. MarinaSofia says:

    We’ve had pheasants and partridges crossing our back garden and boars in the nearby forest, but no hares yet. They look really tame, but I bet they rush off at the slightest noise.

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      Not many pheasants here but sometimes groups of young partridges mill about on our lane. And there are definitely boar around but you rarely see those. Hares seem to go by sight rather than sound, so as soon as you move they take off.

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