Caprolagus hispidushispid hare

Geographic Range

Caprolagus hispidus has previously been recorded along the southern foothills of the Himalayan mountain chain, in the area from Uttar Pradesh, through Nepal, Sikkim, Bengal, and Bhutan, to Assam. Hispid hares are currently very rare, and are extinct over most of this area. They are now confined to northwestern Assam, and a few areas in Nepal. (Burton and Burton, 1988; Ghose, 1978; Massicot, 2003; Oliver, 1978; Oliver, 1980)


Generally, hispid hares live in areas with tall-grass savannah. They enjoy habitats that are essentially flat, well drained, and thinly forested. Since hispid hares are dependent on the roots and shoots of thatch for food, they are associated with areas that have a high amount of thatch, commonly referred to as thatchland or elephant grass. This vegetation grows up to 3.5 meters in height (during the monsoon). (Burton and Burton, 1988; Ghose, 1978; Massicot, 2003; Nowak, 1999a; Oliver, 1978; Oliver, 1980)

In the early months of the year (January through April), the grassland and nearby forests are set on fire in an attempt to control the faunal composition of the region. Hispid hares move to cultivated fields and shelter on the banks of dried up streams. Once the monsoon reaches its peak, the thatch becomes waterlogged and C. hispidus moves to the forested areas of nearby foothills. (Burton and Burton, 1988; Ghose, 1978; Massicot, 2003; Nowak, 1999a; Oliver, 1978; Oliver, 1980)

Physical Description

Mass avererages 2500 grams, and length ranges from 405 to 538 mm. C. hispidus have short, broad ears, and small eyes. This species has strong claws and large teeth. The hind legs of C. hispidus are short and stout, not often exceeding the length of the forelimbs. There are two layers of fur: a coarse, bristly, outer layer, and an under layer which is shorter and finer. The top layer of pelage is dark brown in color due to a mixture of black and brownish-white hairs, whereas the bottom layer consists of hair that is strictly brownish white. The tail also has two layers of pelage, both of which are brown; the top layer is darkest. (Burton and Burton, 1988; Ghose, 1978; Nowak, 1999a)

  • Average mass
    2.5 kg
    5.51 lb
  • Range length
    405 to 538 mm
    15.94 to 21.18 in


There is no available information about the mating systems of C. hispidus. Because this species is the only one in the genus Caprolagus, we are not able to make any generalizations about reproduction in this species based on close relatives.

Little is known about the reproduction of C. hispidus. However, locals have reported catching young from January to March. Two out of three females captured in the months of January and February were pregnant. (Ghose, 1978; Massicot, 2003; Nowak, 1999a; Oliver, 1978; Oliver, 1980)

Members of the family Leporidae are known to have a gestation of 25 to 50 days. Within the family, females usually give birth to between two and eight young, although there can be as many as 15 young per litter in some species. Females are typically polyestrous, and can give birth to several litters per year. (Nowak, 1999b)

  • Breeding interval
    Hispid hares breed once or twice per year.
  • Breeding season
    Based on capture of pregnant females, breeding apparently occurs in late winter or early spring.
  • Range number of offspring
    2 to 5

There is little information available about the parental care habits of C. hispidus. It is assumed that this species is similar to other members of the order Lagomorpha. Most lagomorphs exhibit little or no parental care. Males have never exhibited any form of parental care, but females feed the young for about 5 minutes every 24 hours. This is the only contact between the mother and young. (MacDonald, 2001)

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement
  • pre-fertilization
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female


Since hispid hares are hard to find, not much is known about their natural lifespan. In captivity, these animals do not survive very long. There were four or five hispid hares captured for the Gauhati Zoo during 1975, but they all died during transport. Another pair was captured in 1976 and was kept for two to three months until one escaped and the other was released. One captured hare wanted to avoid humans so much that he fractured his skull by dashing his head against the wire enclosure. (Oliver, 1978; Oliver, 1980)


Little is known about the behavior of C. hispidus. Local people have said that these animals are slow moving. Hispid hares are usually solitary, although members of the species have been seen in pairs. They are nocturnal animals that are most often seen by vehicle headlights. Hispid hares have shown no evidence of burrowing or nest building. The only physical evidence of C. hispidus activity are thatch cuttings and fecal deposits that are characteristic of the species. The cuttings and fecal deposits show resting and feeding locations, but may also have territorial significance. (Ghose, 1978; Massicot, 2003; Oliver, 1978; Oliver, 1980)

Other members of the family Leporidae are known to drum their hind feet when they are threatened, or to help define territories. (Nowak, 1999b)

Home Range

The mean home range of males is approximately 8,204 square meters, but for females it is only 2,786 square meters. (Nowak, 1999a)

Communication and Perception

Not much is known about the communication of C. hispidus. It is known that all rabbits and hares (members of the family Leoporidae) secrete scent from glands in the groin area and under the chin. The scent is apparently used in sexual communication. Many rabbits and hares use foot drumming as a means of communication. (MacDonald, 2001; Nowak, 1999b)

Because C. hispidus is a mammal, we can infer that they use some visual signals. Also, there is probably tactile communication between mates, as well as between mothers and their offspring, although most lagomorph mothers do not provide extensive parental care. (MacDonald, 2001; Nowak, 1999b)

Food Habits

C. hispidus is an herbivorous animal. The diet of C. hispidus consists mainly of bark, shoots and roots of grasses (including thatch species), and crops on occasion. Although hispid hares feed in a preferred locale (specific to each animal), they choose to feed in different sites within this locale. (Massicot, 2003; Oliver, 1978; Oliver, 1980)

  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • roots and tubers
  • wood, bark, or stems


There are no known anti-predator adaptations among C. hispidus. Dogs and humans are apparently the greatest predators of these hares. (Burton and Burton, 1988; Ghose, 1978; Massicot, 2003; Nowak, 1999a; Oliver, 1978)

Ecosystem Roles

This animal is believed to be prey for dogs as well as humans. Other information is unknown. (Burton and Burton, 1988; Nowak, 1999a; Ghose, 1978; Oliver, 1978)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Humans hunt these animals for food. (Oliver, 1980; Ghose, 1978; Oliver, 1978)

  • Positive Impacts
  • food

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Hispid hares are believed to be crop pests. (Nowak, 1999a)

  • Negative Impacts
  • crop pest

Conservation Status

Hispid hares are one of the worlds rarest mammals. This animal was feared extinct in 1964, but in 1966, one was spotted. The range of this animal is much smaller than it once was. There were an estimated 110 hispid hares worldwide in 2001. Due to rapid habitat destruction, lack of success in captivity, and hunting, their numbers continue to shrink. As a result of their rarity, little is known about hispid hares. These animals are threatened mainly due to conversion of their habitat to agriculture and grassland burning. They are often confused with the more common Lepus nigricollis and are therefore hunted for food. They are also preyed on by dogs. (Burton and Burton, 1988; Ghose, 1978; Massicot, 2003; Nowak, 1999a; Nowak, 1999b; Oliver, 1978; Oliver, 1980)


Nancy Shefferly (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Sara Knoth (author), Michigan State University, Barbara Lundrigan (editor, instructor), Michigan State University.



living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

World Map


uses sound to communicate


living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.


union of egg and spermatozoan


A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


active during the night


remains in the same area


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


lives alone


uses touch to communicate


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


Living on the ground.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.


A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.


uses sight to communicate


reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.


Burton, J., V. Burton. 1988. The Collins Guide to Rare Mammals of the World. Lexington, Massachusetts: The Stephen Greene Press.

Ghose, R. K. 1978. Observations on the Ecology and Status of the hispid Hare in Rajagarh Forest, Darrang District, Assam, in 1975 and 1976. Bombay Naturaly History Society Journal, Vol. 75: 206-209.

MacDonald, D. 2001. Rabbits and Hares. Pp. 693-702 in The Encyclopedia of Mammals, Vol. 3. New York, NY: Facts On File, Inc.

Massicot, P. 2003. "Animal Info-Information on Rare, Threatened and Endangered Mammals" (On-line ). Animal Info- Hispid Hare. Accessed 03/02/03 at

Nowak, R. 1999. Bristly Rabbit, or Hispid "Hare". Pp. 1731-1732 in Walkers Mammals of the World, Vol. 2, 6th Edition. Baltimore, Maryland: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Nowak, R. 1999. Hares and Rabbits. Pp. 1720-1721 in Walker's Mammals of the World, Vol. 2, 6th Edition. Baltimore, Maryland: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Oliver, W. L. R. 1980. The Pygmy Hog: The Biology and Conservation of the Pigmy Hog and the Hispid Hare. Les Augres Manor, Trinity, Jersey, Channel Islands: Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust.

Oliver, W. L. R. 1978. The Doubtful Future of the Pigmy Hog and the Hispid Hare. Bombay Natural History Society Journal, Vol. 75: 341-372.