What Is the Difference Between a Rabbit and a Hare?

A hare running through a field.
A hare running through a field.

Although the words are often used interchangeably to refer to anything that resembles a bunny, rabbits and hares are not the same. There in fact exists differences in their morphological features, habitats, size, and more. Below is the description of some of these differences between these species.

Differences Between Rabbits and Hares 

Both the rabbit and hare are small mammals that are scientifically classified into the kingdom Animalia, phylum Chordate, class Mammalia and family Leporidae. The term Leporidae is a Latin word, which refers to all the species that resembles the Lepus or hare. The Leporidae family, therefore, refers to the family of both the rabbits and the hares. This family contains approximately over sixty different species of extant mammals. The Leporidae family vary in size, for instance, the pygmy rabbit has a head and body length of about 25-29 cm and weighs around 300 grams. The European hare, on the other hand, measures around 50-76 centimeters regarding head to body length and weighs approximately 2.5-5 kilograms.

Although the two species belong to the same scientific family, some differences distinguish them. For instance, hares are described as precocial animala, meaning that they are born relatively mature and very mobile. This feature is a perfect adaptation as hares live wildly and many predators can prey on them. The hares are also characterized with excellent vision at the instance of birth, and their bodies are generally covered with hair from birth. On the other hand, rabbits are described as being altricial. Altricial species are defined as the type of species in which the young ones are unable to move from one location to another on their own.

Moreover, the rabbits are also born hairless, unlike the hares, and are relatively blind and thus require closer care. The reasons mentioned earlier are what make rabbits, and not the hares, to be domesticated. The habitat of the two species is also different. Rabbits are known to live in social groups while hares live an unsocial life. Rabbits usually live in underground burrows while hares are known to live above the ground in simple nests. When compared according to size, rabbits are generally smaller than hares, with the ears of hares being more elongated than those of rabbits. Hares are also characterized with stronger and larger hind limbs since they live in places in which they are continually being preyed.

When classified according to diet, both the hares and rabbits are herbivores, and thus their diet is mainly comprised of grass, leaves, and forbs. Since their diet is primarily composed of cellulose which is very difficult to digest, they have adapted to solve this problem by using hindgut fermentation.

Distinguishing Between the Species 

Rabbits and hares are relatively found all over the globe except for the Antarctica places due to the cold weather conditions. There exist different species of rabbits and hares with different characteristics and body sizes. To distinguish the two species fully, it is essential to have a deep understanding of their various attributes.


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