The European Hare or Brown Hare (Lepus europaeus) is a species of hare native to northern, central and western Europe and western Asia. The European Hare is a mammal adapted to temperate open country. It is related to the rabbit, which is in the same family but a different genus. The European Hare breeds on the ground rather than in a burrow and relies on speed to escape. In comparison to the rabbit, it is larger in size, has longer ears and longer legs.
The European Hare grows to about 50 – 70 centimetres and has a tail length of 7 – 11 centimetres.
The weight of a full grown adult hare varies between 2.5 and 6.5 kilograms. Because of its longer legs, it can run at speeds of up to 70 kilometres per hour. European Hares are herbivores and their diet consists of grasses and herbs during summer months and changes to twigs and bark in the winter. The European Hare is known as a pest to orchard farmers as it also feeds upon buds of young orchard trees during the end of winter.
European Hares are generally shy mammals, however, their behaviour changes in springtime. Many are seen in broad daylight chasing one another in meadows. This behaviour appears to be competitions between the male European Hares to attain dominance which allows them more access to breeding female European Hares.
During their spring dominance competitions, males can be seen performing what is known as ‘boxing matches’, hitting each other with their paws. It is most commonly done by the males, however, females have been known to perform this act by hitting males when they are not ready to mate or to test the determination of the male.
The European Hare is declining in Europe due to changes in farming practices. Its natural predators include the Golden Eagle and carnivorous mammals like the Red Fox and Wolf.
Smaller hares native to southern Europe previously regarded as European Hares have been divided as a separate species in recent years, including the Broom Hare in northern Spain.