Scrub Hare

A scrub hare pauses alertly in the undergrowth.

The scrub hare is a sturdy species that happens to be endemic to Southern Africa.

Name:
Scrub Hare
Scientific Name:
Lepus saxatilis
Weight:
1.5-4.5 kg
Length:
45–65 cm
Mating Season:
September - February

Description

The scrub hare is a very common species of hare found in the Kruger. Their body color is a neutral grey color decorated with small black areas in between, which results in a distinct color by which they can be identified and distinguished from other species of hares and even rabbits. Their long ears are rounded and blackly colored at the tips, and stand erected above their heads most of the time. They have small, puffy tails, which are white at the bottom, like its abdomen and chest. Their average weight range is between 1.5 and 4.5kg (3.3 and 10lb).

Distribution

Scrub hares are Southern African and South African locals and are found virtually anywhere in South Africa, from regions dominated by fynbos in the Eastern and Western Cape Provinces, to the bushveld and Lowveld, the sub-tropical regions of KwaZulu-Natal and even the ever arid Karoo semi-desert areas. In addition to South Africa, these animals can be found in Swaziland, some southern parts of Namibia and throughout the highland areas of Lesotho, typically anywhere along borders with South Africa. Sightings of these animals have been reported in many African countries more north, from Mozambique to Senegal and even Ethiopia, but no substantial populations were found to reside there.

Status

The Scrub hare or Savannah hare can be added to our long list of species that are currently in no danger or threat to extinction, but are steadily declining and will continue to do so for the majority of the near future due to loss of habitat and over-hunting, mostly. Within the next 100 years, their population is estimated to decrease with a further 20%. Their current overall population, between both known sub-species, is around 10 000 individuals, although these numbers are usually very conservatively estimated. Only 4 countries are have Scrub hares in one form or another, and expanding agricultural areas in these countries also pose a significant threat to their loss of habitat.

Habitat

Scrub hares are quite adaptive creatures, to some extent, being found in a range of similar habitats or environments despite their name. Savannah areas along with woodlands and taller grasslands are among its favorite environments, and during the evening short or open grasslands are added to this list. All they need in an environment is lots of grassy areas, and enough cover in which to hide during the middle of the day from predators who may be keeping their eyes open from a far. Forest and desert areas are however a bit extreme for these animals, although they have adapted well to lands developed into agricultural areas.

Social Organization

These small herbivores almost solely live with no one but themselves, between sexes and individual hares. The only time of the year two of these creatures can be seen together is when they are attempting to produce the next generation of Scrub hares, during mating season, or when offspring accompany their mother in the early and vulnerably stages of their lives. Furthermore males may react with some hostility when other adult male accidentally interact with them or come across their path at some point or another as a form of showing dominance. This may be heightened by mating season when all males are fighting for a partner.

Social Behavior

Scrub hares are typically nocturnal animals, coming out at night when predators that look from above are forced to retire for the day because of the lack of light. On overcast days they may even come out earlier because of this reason. When moving to grassland areas in search of food they typically consume mostly green grasses. In harsher conditions like droughts they may eat leaves, stems and bark or whatever vegetation they can get their hands on to obtain enough nutrition to survive. They also need to drink water to properly digest grasses they eat, and to stay hydrated in the hot African heat.

Reproduction

These hares breed at any time during the year although mating typically peaks during summer. When a female is in heat, many males will surround her in an attempt to mate with her. To sort out who gets a mate, the males will compete by boxing and kicking each other using their front and hind legs respectively. Once all have lost but 1, the pair will mate. Only 42 days or so will pass before the female gives birth to their litter of 1 -3 offspring, and they can keep this process up for nearly 4 times a year from the time both sexes are sexually mature enough to start this process.

Anti-Predator Behavior

Like many small mammals, these Scrub Hares don’t have a unique and complex way of escaping the grasp of predators that come after them. Instead they practice the oldest and most basic method of getting away from someone or something; running away as fast as possible. Flight doesn’t always get them out of trouble though, despite their natural agility and speed. Predators that may cut the lifespan of these creatures down from a further 3 years to a further 3 seconds in a matter of moments include most small cat species like servals and caracals, jackals, pythons and many birds of prey such as eagles.

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