Lepus capensisCape hare

Geographic Range

Lepus capensis is native to non-forested areas of Africa, including one population in the south and a distinct one in the Sahel and Sahara. It is also widespread through parts of the Middle East and Central Asia ( http://www.geobop.com, http://www.borealforest.org; Wilson and Reeder, 1993)


This species is found in open land, such as meadows, pastures, cultivated fields, sandy moors, and marshes, close to hedges, thickets, and forests. Lepus capensis inhabits bioclimatic regions that are temperate and humid, hot and dry, and can be found in barren and extreme arid deserts. ( http://www.borealforest.org, Kronfeld and Shkolnik 1996) (Kronfeld and Shkolnik, 1996)

Physical Description

Brown Hares have a slender body with a bushy tail. The oval-shaped head has very long (12 to 14 cm), black-tipped ears and large, reddish-brown eyes. This species also has very long and powerful hind legs. Lepus capensis has ginger-brown fur with shades of black on the upper parts, a more ginger-colored breast and sides, with white inner sides of the legs and belly, and reddish-gray hair on the nape of the neck. ( http://www.borealforest.org, Grzimek 1990, http://www.harrogate.co.uk/biltonhistory) (Grzimek, 1990; Heptinstall, Nigel, 1996; Peltonen, Aki, 2000)

  • Range mass
    4 to 5 kg
    8.81 to 11.01 lb
  • Range length
    520 to 595 mm
    20.47 to 23.43 in


The mating system of these animals has not been reported.

Mating among L. capensis occurs from January to June, with the young being born from March to October. Gestation lasts 42 days, and the doe raises 2 to 4 litters of 1 to 6 leverets per year. During the mating season, mating activities are very lively in the late morning or early afternoon. ( http://www.borealforest.org, Grzimek 1990) (Grzimek, 1990; Peltonen, Aki, 2000)

  • Breeding interval
    Breeding may occur at intervals of approximately three months.
  • Breeding season
    Breeding occurs from January to June, with young produced from March to October..
  • Range number of offspring
    1 to 6
  • Average number of offspring
  • Range gestation period
    38 to 41 days
  • Average gestation period
    40 days
  • Range weaning age
    14 to 28 days
  • Average weaning age
    28 days
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    7 to 9 months
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    7 to 9 months

Lepus capensis newborn weigh an average of 4.5 oz and develop rapidly in the nest. The young are suckled for three weeks, at which time they are already eating plant food. Young are idependent and completely weaned by one month. At this time they reach a weight of about 2 lb. Brown hares reache adulthood at 7 to 9 months. ( http://www.borealforest.org, Grzimek 1990) (Grzimek, 1990; Peltonen, Aki, 2000)

  • Parental Investment
  • precocial
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female


Specific information on the longevity of this species is not available. However, hares rarely live more than a year in the wild. Only a few individuals obtain 5 years, and the highest recorded age of 12.5 years is an exception. (Grzimek, 1990)


Behavior of L. capensis is very similar to that of European field hares. They have greatly elongated hindlimbs, allowing for an excellent running ability. They can run at speeds up to 48 miles per hour, and leap 8 ft forward and almost as high. Hares are also good climbers and swimmers.

Ritual fights between males occur before reproduction in the spring. The males chase and then box one another by standing up on their hind legs and hitting each other with their front legs.

Hares can survey their surroundings while lying down to rest with their large eyes that cover a field of 360 degrees. Hares close their eyes when they feel safe, falling into a semisleep. Deep sleep is rare, and rarely lasts for more than one minute per day. During this deep sleep the eyes are tightly closed and the hare lies on its side. When any sound is detected, or possible danger seen, a hare will press close to the ground and become rigid and motionless.

A special feature of a population of L. capensis in Mongolia, is using marmot or suslik burrows, which is thought to be a climatic adaptation. ( http://www.borealforest.org, Grzimek 1990, http://www.lineone.net/wildlife, Vaughan 2000) (Grzimek, 1990; Peltonen, Aki, 2000; Tiscali.com, 2001; Vaughan, T.A. and Czaplewski, N.J., 2000)

Home Range

The size of home ranges for these hares has not been reported.

Communication and Perception

The communication patterns of these animals have not been reported in detail. However, it is likely that as with all diurnal mammals, there are some forms of visual communication, such as is seen in the ritual interactons between males during mating season. Tactile communication is probably important between mates, as well as between mothers and their offspring. Chemical cues may help to identify reproductive condition, and may play some role in mating. Hares have acute hearing, but the role of this in communication within the species is not known. (Grzimek, 1990)

Food Habits

Brown hares are primarily herbivorous. Their diet includes herbaceous plants, cereals, berries, vegetables, and some fungi, such as mushrooms. This species of hare also eats some of its fecal droppings laid during the night, and digests them a second time to obtain essential nutrients (proteins and vitamins) from material as it passes through the alimentary canal a second time. (Peltonen, Aki, 2000; Vaughan, T.A. and Czaplewski, N.J., 2000)

  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • wood, bark, or stems
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • flowers
  • lichens
  • Other Foods
  • fungus
  • dung


Hares are in danger from the first day of their existence from a number of predators, including raptors and foxes and other mammalian carnivores. Their greatly elongated hindlimbs have allowed them to adopt a bounding gait and occupy areas with limited shelter. So, instead of taking cover when danger approaches, they depend on their running ability for escape. About 20 to 40 percent of annual hare offspring are eliminated by predators or natural causes. Loss among hares is to a much greater extent due to diseases and parasites than predators. Deaths are also connected with weather, nutritional deficiencies, agricultural activities, and road traffic. (Grzimek, 1990; Vaughan, T.A. and Czaplewski, N.J., 2000)

Ecosystem Roles

Hares provide about 5 percent of total food intake for their predators. (Grzimek, 1990)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Humans hunt these hares for food.

  • Positive Impacts
  • food

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

When L. capensis populations are high, these hares may cause damage in young forest plantations and among crops. (Peltonen, Aki, 2000)

  • Negative Impacts
  • crop pest

Conservation Status

These animals are not currently a conservation concern.

Other Comments

Many populations of this species have been recognized as distinctive and sometimes been considered full species. (Wilson and Reeder, 1993)


Nancy Shefferly (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Dana Begnoche (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Bret Weinstein (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map


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

desert or dunes

in deserts low (less than 30 cm per year) and unpredictable rainfall results in landscapes dominated by plants and animals adapted to aridity. Vegetation is typically sparse, though spectacular blooms may occur following rain. Deserts can be cold or warm and daily temperates typically fluctuate. In dune areas vegetation is also sparse and conditions are dry. This is because sand does not hold water well so little is available to plants. In dunes near seas and oceans this is compounded by the influence of salt in the air and soil. Salt limits the ability of plants to take up water through their roots.

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.

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


an animal that mainly eats leaves.


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


an animal that mainly eats seeds


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


referring to animal species that have been transported to and established populations in regions outside of their natural range, usually through human action.


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).


marshes are wetland areas often dominated by grasses and reeds.


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.


found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

World Map


specialized for leaping or bounding locomotion; jumps or hops.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


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


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.


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.

young precocial

young are relatively well-developed when born


Blomstrom, David, 1998. "Geobopological Survey" (On-line). Accessed November 11, 2001 at www.geobop.com/geozoo.

Grzimek, 1990. Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Heptinstall, Nigel, 1996. "Bilton Historical Society" (On-line). Accessed November 11, 2001 at www.harrogate.co.uk/biltonhistory.

Kronfeld, N., A. Shkolnik. 1996. Adaptation to Life in the Desert in the Brown Hare (*Lepus capensis*). Journal of Mammalogy, 77/1: 171-178.

Peltonen, Aki, 2000. "borealforest.org" (On-line). Accessed November 11, 2001 at www.borealforest.org.

Tiscali.com, 2001. "British Wildlife Guide" (On-line). Accessed November 11, 2001 at www.lineone.net/wildlife.

Vaughan, T.A., R., Czaplewski, N.J.. 2000. Mammalogy. Orlando, FL: Harcourt, Inc..

Wilson, D., D. Reeder. 1993. Mammal Species of the World. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution press.