Children's Page - Spring and Summer 2013
Hi! Welcome to the Children's Page of the Hare Preservation Trust!
Spring and Summer 2013
Fun facts about hares
Painting by Amanda Clark
The brown hare is believed to have been introduced by the Romans, or else during the Iron Age and have been a beautiful part of Britain ever since! Brown hares can be found living near farmland, heathland and sometimes even woodland. They feed on the tender new grasses, fresh herbs and young cereal shoots in the spring and summer.
You'll know you've spotted one because brown hares are larger than rabbits, with longer limbs, and a long loping gait. They have beautiful black-tipped ears that are as long as their heads! Hares hold their tails down when they run so it looks dark or even black rather than white like the underside of a running rabbit's tail. Hares begin to shed or moult in spring and show a lighter coat as opposed to the reddish one they wear for winter time. You will know if a hare has passed your way by keeping an eye out for tufts of fur caught in brambles, or their droppings on the ground, which look a little bit like rabbit droppings but larger, with a slightly pointed end.
The best time to see one is early in the morning or in the evening on open grassland, especially near farmland. Although they are usually solitary, you may be lucky enough to see a mysterious circle of hares. The open fields in parts of East Anglia are a favourite place for brown hares to live, and so are the Marlborough Downs. When spotted from a distance, a running hare can be mistaken for a small deer, with its long legs and loping gait but young experts such as yourselves won't be fooled! Just look for the long black tipped ears and the dark tucked in tail!
Painting by Danielle Barlow
Mad as a March Hare
Hares breed between February and September and a female or 'doe' hare can even have more than one litter of two or three young hares, or leverets, each year!
Leverets are born with a full coat of fur and with their eyes wide open and are able to run just a few days of their birth! This is amazing when you think about how human babies cannot walk for months and months after birth and need their parents to look after them for years!
Baby hares or leverets receive very little care from their parents who spend the day searching for food and so the babies lie very still in their nests called scrapes or 'forms' to avoid being seen by predators.
For about the first month of their lives, the leverets come together at sunset to be fed by their mother. Hare milk is very high in fat and nutrients so that baby hares only need to be fed once a day! After about a month they have to learn to take care of themselves. Goodness they grow up fast!
Normally very shy animals, hares become very bold in the spring, when they can be seen playfully chasing one another across the meadows. During this spring caper, hares can be seen "boxing", which is where hares strike out at one another with their paws, and this legendary 'mad March hare' behaviour was assumed to be competition between males but is actually female hares fending off passionate males! You may be able to tell the females or 'does' from the males because they tend to be slightly larger than the males averaging about 2 feet in length. Talk about punching above your weight!
Boxing actually takes place throughout the whole breeding season but because new plants only just start to grow back in early spring giving us a great view across fields, we see Hares boxing most in March and so we have the saying 'mad as a March hare!'
Painting by Lisa O'Malley
Were you visited by the Easter Bunny Hare?!
Believe it or not the Easter Rabbit or Easter Bunny as folks sometimes call him is actually an Easter Hare! In fact, in places in northwest Europe, like Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and some other European mainland countries, he is still called the Easter Hare rather than the Easter Bunny! The same is true amongst the American Pennsylvania Dutch who tell their children about the "Osterhas", sometimes spelled "Oschter Haws". "Hase" means "hare", and not rabbit so Easter Hare!
The Pennsylvania Dutch still believe that only very good children are given gifts of coloured eggs in the nests that they made in their caps and bonnets at Easter, in the UK chocolate eggs are also a treat left by the Easter Hare! Eggs, like rabbits and hares, have been thought of as fertility symbols since ancient times. Since birds lay eggs and rabbits and hares give birth to large litters in the early spring, these became symbols of the rising fertility of the earth at the Vernal Equinox. The equinox is when the angle of the Earth's axis is tilted neither away from nor towards the Sun, and the center of the Sun is at the same level as the Earth's equator. 'Vernal' refers to the Latin word for spring so the vernal equinox can also be called the spring equinox and marks the beginning of springtime. Did the Easter Hare visit you this year?
Painting by Trina Meyer