Spring Hare

A spring hare pauses under the glare of a flashlight.

The spring hare is a nocturnal species of rodent that occurs widely across Southern Africa.

Name:
Spring hare
Scientific Name:
Pedetes capensis
Weight
3 kg
Length:
35 to 45 cm
Mating Season:
Throughout the year

Description

The very oddly looking Spring hare is one of the more peculiar-looking species, and has surprisingly small, bat ears and long tails when compared to other hares or rabbits. They are a ginger color, with the exception of the black tip on their long tails. They can usually be seen standing in an upright position on their large hind legs, with their small, ‘T-Rex’ arms uselessly hovering below their skulls. They typically weigh around 3kg (6,6lb) on average, and can jump even further because of this, using their strong hind legs they so frequently rely upon when attacked to propel themselves into the air.

Distribution

The range of these hares starts more north than their relatives, the scrub hare. The south of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is their most northern refuge. Further south from there parts of Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe, non-coastal Namibia, throughout Botswana, southern Mozambique, Swaziland and South Africa make up the list of countries which they have been known to reside in. The Namib Desert, as usual, doesn’t offer enough sustenance in the form of vegetation for them to survive in. They are also absent in most of the fynbos-rich areas of the Cape Provinces, with their southernmost habitats found in the Transkei and parts of the Eastern Cape.

Status

This species’ wide range of distribution and populations thought to be quite abundant are the main factors responsible for their conservation status labeled as least concern. Although they are thought to be common, there is very little information and recorded evidence to back this statement and even population estimates of these animals are absent. They are a very important form of protein for many indigenous people of Botswana and South Africa, with many historic tribes known to hunt them to this day, including the famous San tribes of the Kalahari. This is one of the only threats to their populations and doesn’t pose any major setbacks for their survival.

Habitat

The main component these animals look for in a habitat is a certain type of soil, namely sandier, finer soil. This may seem odd but has enables them to easily make borrows to live, protecting them from potential dangers when they are resting, and also shielding them from different, possibly harsh weather extremes. Along rivers and within drier, more arid areas of bushveld or savanna typically fit this bill, and they are more common in these areas. Dry river banks are also perfect environments for these creatures to thrive in, along with overgrazed plains of grass, and floodplains or other areas with little and less dense ground cover.

Social Organization

There is some evidence of these animals living in some kind of a community or group, whether it be for safety reasons or social reasons, or simply to make life easier for themselves. These small communities can be best seen when these Spring hares prepare and dig their burrows. Some 3 or 4 burrows, each filled with its own little family, is dug in a triangular or circular shape within close a close proximity of each other, typically quite close to the largest tree found in their home range. They do have a home range in which they prefer to stay which encompasses about 250 square meters, starting at their burrows.

Social Behavior

Spring hares are occasionally active during the day, although this may seldom happen. They are predominantly nocturnal creatures, most active during the night when they can be seen grazing and foraging within their home range, or jumping to a water source to drink. Up to 40 Spring hares live within one of these home ranges. When they are active during the day, it is typically within the tunnels within and between their burrows, or within unchartered ground which may soon be a tunnel. Their life expectancy reaches its peak at 14.5 years of age, and this is usually in extreme cases when in captivity.

Reproduction

The Spring hare’s reproductive endeavours start when it reaches sexual maturity, typically when they weigh around 2.5kg, with their age varying widely depending on the favorability of the habitat they live in and the conditions they usually encounter. They give birth year-round and have a gestation period of between 2 and 3 months, giving them enough time during the year to give birth to 4 litters. After birth, a mother is its offspring’s eyes for 3 days, after which they open. From there it takes a mere 7 weeks before the young Spring hares are ready and able to leave the care of their mothers and finally fend for themselves.

Anti-Predator Behavior

The Spring hare’s main form of defense is flight. The sight, sound or even smell of a predator is enough to trigger a quick response from these animals, attempting to get away. They use their strong hind legs and jumping abilities to run or jump away from attackers as fast and effectively as possible. Smaller cat species such as Caracals and Servals are their main predators along with dog species, but any larger predators can also make prey out of them, although a Spring hare might not soothe the hunger of an adult lion or a pack of hyenas.

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