Lepus faganiEthiopian hare

Geographic Range

Lepus fagani, known commonly as the Ethiopian hare or bush hare, is an endemic species of northern and western Ethiopia and neighboring regions in southeast Sudan to northwest Kenya. Within this range, the Ethiopian hare is distributed on the plateau region west of the Great Rift Valley. (Alves, et al., 2008; Happold, 2013)


Lepus fagani can be found in regions 500 to 2500 m above sea level on the plateau west of the Great Rift Valley. The Ethiopian hare occupies open, arid habitats at high elevations and bushy, semi-arid regions at lower elevations within its range. In the Baroye Controlled Hunting Area in southwestern Ethiopia (1350 to 1811 m above sea level), they occupy savanna or grassland habitats during the wet season and riverine forests during the dry season, as well as woodland habitats during both the wet and dry season. At the Kafa Biosphere Reserve in Ethiopia (1287 to 2593 m above sea level), L. fagani prefers wetland habitats. In the southwest Ethiopian highlands, the Ethiopian hare is mainly present in coffee forests, showing a preference for this habitat over natural forests. (Happold, 2013; Lado, 2015; Meinig, et al., 2015; Mertens, et al., 2018; Negeri, et al., 2015)

  • Range elevation
    500 to 2500 m
    1640.42 to 8202.10 ft

Physical Description

Lepus fagani is a medium-sized hare, weighing about 1.7 to 2.3 kg and measuring 45 to 54 cm long. The hind foot measures from 9 to 11 cm, ear length from 6.0 to 9.5 cm, and tail length from 7.0 to 10.7 cm. The Ethiopian hare has long, dense fur (20 to 25 mm) of varying color throughout the body. The dorsal pelage is colored light brown and black (agouti) and the hairs are four-banded: pale grey at the base, followed by white, buff brown, and tipped with black. The fur on the sides, nape, and neck are yellowish-brown or beige; each of these hairs are white at the base and brown at the tip. The belly is white, the chin and throat are greyish or white, and the tail is white and fluffy with a large, blackish dorsal stripe anterior to it. The Ethiopian hare has medium-sized, narrow, upright ears which are small compared to those of other Lepus hares; they are light brown with white or buff fringes on the upper and lower margins and a narrow black rim around the inner surface at the tip. The forelimbs are cinnamon-brown and the soles have blackish-brown hairs. Hind limbs are buff brown on the outside and white medially, with blackish-brown or ginger-brown hairs on the soles. Characteristic of the family Leporidae, Ethiopian hares have large eyes, long limbs (hindlimbs longer than forelimbs), and thick, dense hair on the soles of the feet. Hares in this family also have different-textured fur patches on the back of the neck, throat, and anterior part of the chest. The incisors grow throughout life and canines are absent, resulting in a well-developed diastema; the dental formula of these hares is I 2/1 C 0/0 P 3/2 M 3/3 = 28. Leporid hares, such as L. fagani, lack a baculum and the scrotum is anterior to the penis. (Flux and Angermann, 1990; Happold, 2013; Tolesa, 2014)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range mass
    1704 to 2278 g
    60.05 to 80.28 oz
  • Range length
    45 to 54 cm
    17.72 to 21.26 in
  • Average length
    50.6 cm
    19.92 in


No specific information is available about the mating system of Lepus fagani. However, hares in the family Leporidae are typically polygynandrous and mate promiscuously. (Alves, et al., 2008)

The litters of Lepus fagani are small, comprised of one to three precocial young per litter. Young (leverets) are born with their eyes open and fully furred, ready to walk and run within a few hours after birth. They are also born with fully functioning ears and sense of smell. The mother will wash and groom her newborns, then leave each of them several meters apart on the ground. Since the leverets are poorly hidden and naturally vulnerable to predators at this time, spreading them apart reduces the chance of the entire litter being eaten. After approximately one month, young are weaned and ready to go off on their own. Lepus hares breed throughout the year. Little else is known about reproduction in L. fagani. However, close Old World relatives within the genus Lepus give birth to an average of 2.1 to 3.8 litters per year, with young that are 107.93 to 119.67 g after a gestation period of about 42 to 50 days, followed by an inter-litter/breeding interval of approximately 39 to 50 days. These male and female relatives reach sexual maturity at about 175 and 228 to 266 days old, respectively. (Alves, et al., 2008; "AnAge: The Animal Ageing and Longevity Database", 2017; Buseth and Saunders, 2015; Happold, 2013)

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
  • sexual
  • viviparous
  • Breeding season
    Breeding can occur throughout the year
  • Range number of offspring
    1 to 3
  • Average weaning age
    1 months
  • Average time to independence
    1 months
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    228 to 266 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    175 days

Since a mother Ethiopian hare would not be able to defend her offspring in the event of a predator attack, absent parenting is practiced. The mother will leave her litter alone as much as possible to prevent attracting attention to them, visiting them only once or twice a day to nurse them for a few minutes. After feeding, she will wash the leverets’ genitals in order to remove their urine and minimize any traces of scent clues. Males are not involved in caring for young. (Buseth and Saunders, 2015)

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


The specific lifespan of Lepus fagani has not been studied. Other Lepus hares can live a maximum of 3 to 18 years in the wild and up to 13 years in captivity. ("AnAge: The Animal Ageing and Longevity Database", 2017)


The Ethiopian hare is primarily nocturnal, but can show occasional activity at dusk and dawn on cloudy days. During the daylight hours, these hares rest alone in ‘forms’ (small open nests) on the grass. Lepus hares such as L. fagani are solitary, only associating for courtship and mating. However, they often travel to feeding places at dusk where they can, seldomly, be spotted in groups of three to four individuals. Since predators could be lurking at any time, these hares feed in a constant state of alertness; each individual can spend more time foraging when more individuals are on the lookout for danger. Lepus hares, though solitary, do have social rules and some hierarchy among males. They are much less territorial than others in the family Leporidae, as they do not scent-mark objects or individuals and they do not seem to have a well-defined area to protect. Food is plentiful, so territorial behaviors are only observed during mating in the breeding seasons. Lepus hares tend to stay under the cover of bushes, shrubs, or rocks during the day and run out into the open when they are attacked in order to avoid predators. They are known for their quick quadrupedal running and maneuverability, and they can flee quickly over large distances. All lagomorphs, including L. fagani, groom extensively by licking their fur, cleaning their feet, and dust bathing. Water is shaken away during heavy rain and the feet are kicked to dry them. (Alves, et al., 2008; Buseth and Saunders, 2015; Flux and Angermann, 1990; Happold, 2013)

Home Range

Specific information about the home range of Lepus fagani is unavailable. However, other Lepus hares living in open habitats occupy individual home ranges of 0.1 to 3 square km, which often overlap at favored feeding areas. Hares are not territorial, but some hierarchy is in place which affects access to food sources. Population densities are normally about one hare per 0.05 to 0.2 square km. (Flux and Angermann, 1990)

Communication and Perception

Lepus fagani, like all Lepus hares, has large eyes suited to its nocturnal or crepuscular lifestyle. These hares have also developed an excellent sense of smell, movable ears, and a field of view that spans almost 360° for maximal predator awareness. Lepus hares are silent and are not known to communicate by scent-marking objects or individuals; however, species recognition is likely accomplished by scent. Little else is known about communication and perception in L. fagani. (Alves, et al., 2008; Buseth and Saunders, 2015; Flux and Angermann, 1990)

Food Habits

Hares in the family Leporidae, such as the Ethiopian hare, are herbivorous grazers with a nutrient-poor diet consisting primarily of short, fresh grasses, herbs, and leaves. Since digestion of plant material is quite difficult, these hares possess a very long cecum to enhance digestion in the hindgut. Ethiopian hares also practice coprophagy, or ingestion of their own feces so that food passes twice through the digestive tract. (Happold, 2013)

  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • Other Foods
  • dung


Though little is known about the specific predators of Ethiopian hares, scat analysis in studies of the spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) and the African wolf (Canis lupaster) have revealed small amounts of Ethiopian hare remains in the scat of both these animals. Lepus hares also commonly fall victim to birds of prey, such as eagles and buzzards. To avoid predators, the Ethiopian hare uses its multicolored fur as camouflage. It has long, movable ears, an excellent sense of smell, large eyes, and an almost 360° field of view in order to sense predators. With lightweight bodies and long, powerful hindlimbs, these hares are designed for rapid movement over long distances. They are highly maneuverable, often running in a zigzag pattern to confuse predators. (Buseth and Saunders, 2015; Flux and Angermann, 1990; Gutema, et al., 2018; Yirga, et al., 2013)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic
  • Known Predators
    • Spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta)
    • African wolf (Canis lupaster)
    • Eagles
    • Buzzards

Ecosystem Roles

Specific information about the ecosystem role of Lepus fagani is lacking. However, lagomorphs in general make up the base of many predator-prey systems; they can support a community of small to medium-sized predators due to their intermediate size and high abundance. The Ethiopian hare, African savanna hare (L. microtis), and scrub hare (L. saxitilis) competitively exclude the Abyssinian hare (L. habessinicus) in thicker scrubland habitats. (Alves, et al., 2008; Flux and Angermann, 1990; Leach, et al., 2015)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Lepus fagani is locally known as the “tinschel” among the indigenous people of Metema Woreda, northwestern Ethiopia. The indigenous people traditionally use three parts of the hare to treat four different ailments experienced within their community. Ointments are prepared from excreta (feces and urine) of L. fagani to treat various sores and wounds and from the fat to treat warts. Ethiopian hare meat is prepared to a liquid and drank or fumigated (inhaled) to treat cattle disorder and epilepsy. Individuals in this community do not eat the Ethiopian hare as a regular source of food. (Kendie, et al., 2018)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There is no information available about the negative economic importance of Lepus fagani on humans, mainly because the hare has very little contact with humans in its natural habitat.

Conservation Status

Lepus fagani is listed as a species of least concern on the IUCN Red List. The preservation of large areas of open grassland habitats within their range is an important factor in the conservation of the species. (Flux and Angermann, 1990; Johnston and Tolesa, 2019)

Other Comments

Analysis of mitochondrial and nuclear sequences reveals a very close phylogenetic relationship between Lepus fagani and two other Ethiopian hares: the Abyssinian hare (L. habessinicus) and the Ethiopian highland hare (L. starcki). Though some consider L. fagani a subspecies of L. habessinicus, molecular data suggest that they are separate species and that L. fagani recently diverged from L. habessinicus. Occasional hybridization does occur between these three Ethiopian species where their ranges overlap. L. fagani is also closely related to the group containing the scrub hare (L. saxitilis) and African savanna hare (L. microtis); the Ethiopian hare has historically been considered a subspecies of L. microtis. (Tolesa, et al., 2017)


Ivory Jorgenson (author), University of Manitoba, Annemarie van der Marel (editor), University of Manitoba, Genevieve Barnett (editor), Colorado State University.



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

World Map


uses sound to communicate

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


an animal that mainly eats the dung of other animals


active at dawn and dusk


having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.


a substance used for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease


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.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


an animal that mainly eats leaves.


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


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


specialized for leaping or bounding locomotion; jumps or hops.

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.


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


lives alone


uses touch to communicate


Living on the ground.


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

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.

young precocial

young are relatively well-developed when born


2017. "AnAge: The Animal Ageing and Longevity Database" (On-line). Accessed October 25, 2019 at https://genomics.senescence.info/species/query.php?search=Lepus.

Alves, P., N. Ferrand, K. Hacklander. 2008. Lagomorph Biology: Evolution, Ecology, and Conservation. Berlin, Germany: Springer.

Buseth, M., R. Saunders. 2015. Rabbit Behaviour, Health and Care. Oxfordshire, UK: CABI. Accessed October 19, 2019 at https://books.google.ca/books?id=vE8oBgAAQBAJ&lpg=PR7&ots=jJlH__QcGn&dq=lepus%20fagani&lr&pg=PR4#v=onepage&q=lepus%20fagani&f=false.

Flux, J., R. Angermann. 1990. Chapter 4: The Hares and Jackrabbits. Pp. 61-94 in J Chapman, J Flux, eds. Rabbits, Hares and Pikas: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN. Accessed October 19, 2019 at https://books.google.ca/books?id=Q994k86i0zYC&lpg=PA7&ots=RrstRvQAJX&dq=lepus%20fagani&lr&pg=PA7#v=onepage&q=fagani&f=false.

Gutema, T., A. Atickem, A. Bekele, C. Sillero-Zubiris, M. Kasso, D. Tsegaye, V. Venkataraman, P. Fashing, D. Zinner, N. Stenseth. 2018. Competition between sympatric wolf taxa: an example involving African and Ethiopian wolves. R. Soc. Open Sci., 5: 172207. Accessed October 19, 2019 at http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsos.172207.

Happold, D. 2013. Family Leporidae: Hares, Rock Hares, and Rabbits. Pp. 694-702 in D Happold, ed. Mammals of Africa Volume III: Rodents, Hares and Rabbits. London, UK: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Johnston, C., Z. Tolesa. 2019. "Lepus fagani" (On-line). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Accessed October 19, 2019 at http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2019-1.RLTS.T11798A45178437.en.

Kendie, F., S. Mekuriaw, M. Dagnew. 2018. Ethnozoological study of traditional medicinal appreciation of animals and their products among the indigenous people of Metema Woreda, North-Western Ethiopia. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine, 14: 37. Accessed October 19, 2019 at https://doi.org/10.1186/s13002-018-0234-7.

Lado, S. 2015. Population history and taxonomy of African hares (genus Lepus) inferred from genetic variation. (Unpublished Master's Thesis), 1: 1-119.

Leach, K., W. Montgomery, N. Reid. 2015. Biogeography, macroecology and species’ traits mediate competitive interactions in the order Lagomorpha. Mammal Review, 45(2): 88-102. Accessed December 23, 2019 at https://doi-org.uml.idm.oclc.org/10.1111/mam.12035.

Meinig, H., M. Yonas, N. Hermes. 2015. Assessment of small and medium sized mammals (Soricomorpha, Lagomorpha, Rodentia, Procavidae) in the Kafa Biosphere Reserve. (NABU Biodiversity Assessment), 1: 1-24.

Mertens, J., W. Emsens, M. Jocqué, L. Geeraert, M. De Beenhouwer. 2018. From natural forest to coffee agroforest: implications for communities of large mammals in the Ethiopian highlands. Oryx, 1: 1-8. Accessed December 23, 2019 at https://doi.org/10.1017/S0030605318000844.

Negeri, D., T. Gadisa, T. Habtamu. 2015. The Diversity, Distribution and Relative Abundance of Medium and Large-sized Mammals in Baroye Controlled Hunting Area, Illubabor Zone, Southwest Ethiopia. Intl. J. of Mol. Evol. and Biodivers., 5(4): 1-9.

Tolesa, Z. 2014. Evolutionary Relationships among Hares (Lepus spp.) from Ethiopia: Multivariate Morphometry, Molecular Phylogenetics and Population Genetics. (Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation), 1: 1.

Tolesa, Z., E. Bekele, K. Tesfaye, H. Slimen, J. Valqui, A. Getahun, G. Hartl, F. Suchentrunk. 2017. Mitochondrial and nuclear DNA reveals reticulate evolution in hares (Lepus spp., Lagomorpha, Mammalia) from Ethiopia. PLoS ONE, 12(8): e0180137. Accessed November 12, 2019 at https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0180137.

Yirga, G., W. Ersino, H. De longh, H. Leirs, K. Gebrehiwot, J. Deckers, H. Bauer. 2013. Spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) coexisting at high density with people in Wukro district, northern Ethiopia. Mammalian Biology, 78: 193-197.