Sunday, March 13, 2011

On the Wild Side: Mad as a March Hare

Once again it is March and the female hares are busy boxing passionate male hares. Hares are cousins to rabbits and they are much longer-limbed and can reach speeds of up to 45 mph when chased by a predator. The Brown Hare ranges throughout western and central Europe and the UK. The phrase, “Mad March Hare” derives from the frenzied behavior of females fending off males, and males also fighting amongst themselves. The photo above depicts a single Brown Hare with Stonehenge in the background. Several sources suggest the fields around the prehistoric monument as a good places to observe hares.
To hear an interesting podcast from the BBC on Hares (23 minutes) go to this link. BBC Host Lionel Kelleway has close encounters with boxing hares during a walk with Gill Turner who knows many of the hares individually on a farm in Hertfordshire.
By the way, the bunny, Thumper, in the Disney movie Bambi was named after the the behavior of female hares. Unlike rabbits hares do not burrow into the ground and instead live exposed in fields. Their babies (leverets) spread out to hide and when it is time to nurse the mother thumps her back foot rapidly on the ground to call them. Rabbits on the other hand normally thump both back feet at one time to warn of danger and typically stop after one or two thumps. They will stand alert until they feel the danger has passed. (Photo credit: www.christopherholt.com)