People usually get confused between rabbits and hares because they look very similar. Sometimes even the names are confusing. For example the Belgian hares are actually a breed of rabbit, not hare. On the other hand, Jackrabbits is not actually a rabbit but a type of hare.
Both rabbits and hares belong to the same order Lagomorpha and family Leporidae and they both have short tails. Hares are usually larger than the rabbits.
The main difference between rabbits and hares is that hares are stronger built so that they can run away from predators.
- Hares usually have bigger size and higher speed.
- When they are born, hare babies have hair and are able to see whereas the rabbit babies are blind and hairless.
- Hares have stronger hind legs than rabbits which allow them to run faster.
- Rabbits have brown fur in the summer and it is replaced with grey fur in the winter whereas hares fur is replaced with white fur in the winter.
- Rabbits are domesticated and often kept as pets while hares are not. Domestic rabbits have diverted into a lot of cute rabbit breeds.
- Hares live above the ground while most rabbits live underground.
- Hares are not as social as rabbits as they usually live by themselves. Rabbits generally live in group.
Both rabbits and hares’ eyes are positioned on the sides so that their vision is nearly 360 degree. They can both see behind them without turning their heads which is useful for prey animals. They also have better eyesight than human which allow them to watch out for the bird predators.
The only blind spot is right in front of the rabbit. If you are standing right in front of them, they probably can’t see you. However their big ears and exceptional smelling ability have helped them overcome this weakness. When the rabbits are looking at you from the side, they are actually staring straight at you.
What about Belgian hares and jackrabbits?
The Belgian hares are originally bred to be a meat rabbit, a meat source for human. However the result was not desirable because these rabbit was unsuitable to be farmed due to their behaviour. It is believed that these rabbits are one of the most intelligent rabbits and are able to learn their names. They are also the most active rabbit among all domestic rabbits.