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Scrub hare (Lepus saxatilis)

26 May 2016

 

 
 

Physical description

Adult female mean weight of 4 kg as opposed to 3.2 kg in a male. Nape of the neck varies in colour from dark russet to orange-buff. Most scrub hares have a distinct white spot on the forehead just above the eyes. Upper parts are grizzled-greyish or buff with small black spots. The ears are grey. Sides of the face and portion around the eyes are paler in colour. Collar on the lower part of the neck, a white chin and a distinct red-brown patch behind the ears. Upper parts of the feet are paler in colour, hind feet are paler than the forefeet. The short, stubby, fluffy tail is jet black above and pure white below.

Scrub hare size versus a human            Scrub hare print

 

 
 

Area and habitat

It occurs in scrub and bushveld in most parts of southern Africa except in the extreme western near-coastal regions. Also occurs in central and East Africa, and then east to Senegal in West Africa.

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Behaviour

Lies up in forms in vegetation by day, with the ears folded back against the shoulders and head pulled back into the body. When flushed, runs off by jinking along an irregular course. Scrub hares occur singly and only associate when mating.

 

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Food

Starts to forage at dusk. Diet consists of leaves, small stems and the rhizomes (underground divided stems) of dry or green grass. Preffer is for succulent, green grass which also provides it with moisture. Will eat the bark of woody plants in extreme droughts.

 
Mean weight of male: 3.2kg
Mean weight of female: 4kg
Life expectancy: 5 years

Reproduction

Breeding is seasonal. Both genders become sexually mature at 1 year. Males compete for the female by "boxing" with their forefeet and kicking with their hind legs. Competition so severe it can cause injuries to the female. Mean litter size is usually 2. Gestation period is 42 days. Female may produce up to 4 litters in a year. A scrub hare weighs 115 g at birth. There may be some suckling but anatomy precludes strong suction. The life expectancy is around 5 years.

Predators

The side-striped jackal Canis adustus, cheetah Acinonyx jubatus and to a lesser extent the caracal Caracal caracal prey on scrub hares.

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Read the full article written by Prof J du P Bothma.

 

 

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