Lepus habessinicusAbyssinian hare

Geographic Range

Lepus habessinicus is confined to East Africa. It is known from Somalia, eastern Ethiopia, and may be found in northern Kenya (Flux and Angermann, 1990; Smith and Johnson, 2008). (Flux and Angermann, 1990; Smith and Johnson, 2008)


Abyssinian hares replace Cape hares in open grassland, steppe, savanna, and desert environments. Small shrubs are used for shade and protection from predators during the day (Flux and Angermann, 1990). Abyssinian hares range in elevation from sea level to 2,500 meters (Yalden et al., 1996; Smith and Johnson, 2008). (Flux and Angermann, 1990; Smith and Johnson, 2008; Yalden, et al., 1996)

  • Range elevation
    0 to 2,500 m
    0.00 to ft

Physical Description

Abyssinian hares are medium-sized hares, with a body length of 440 to 450 mm, hind feet measure 105 to 110 mm, and ears range in length from 105 to 115 mm (Azzaroli-Puccetti, 1987). In northern Somalia, these hares have fur that is thin and soft and the tail is white underneath and black on the dorsal side. Abyssinian hares are uniformly gray on the shoulders and thighs, with black on the rump, and a white belly with a light buff coloring up on the sides. The front and back legs, as well as the neck, are also buff colored mixed with grey. Long hairs are found throughout the normal coat (Azzaroli-Puccetti, 1987). Abyssinian hares seen in Ethiopia are slightly lighter than those of northern Somalia. They are darker on top of their body with a dark patch on the forehead. The rest of the body is consistently gray from the shoulders to the rump. Ears are grey with black on the tips with white hairs. The whiskers grow to 10 cm long and are mostly white with black at the base (Azzaroli-Puccetti, 1987). (Azzaroli-Puccetti, 1987)

  • Average mass
    2 kg
    4.41 lb
  • Range length
    440 to 450 mm
    17.32 to 17.72 in


There is little known or reported on the reproductive habits of Abyssinian hares. They are thought to mate at night, like Cape hares (Flux and Angermann, 1990; Hoffman and Smith, 2005). Like most lagormorphs, Abyssinian hares are polygynandrous; males and females both have multiple mates. (Flux and Angermann, 1990; Hoffmann and Smith, 2005)

Little is known about mating behavior in Abyssinian hares, but they are likely similar to Cape hares (Flux and Angermann, 1990). Cape hares produces 8 litters a year. Near the equator breeding is continuous and litter size varies with seasonal rainfall (Flux, 1981). Most hares display competitive mating behavior, "boxing" is observed between males and females and between male rivals before copulation (Chapman and Flux, 1990). Male hares then chase females in a zigzag pattern. If a female (who is dominant in this situation) accepts the male after the chase, copulation will occur (Chapman and Flux, 1990). Hares give birth to young that are fully furred, with open eyes, and that are ready to move within minutes (Flux and Angermann, 1990). (Chapman and Flux, 1990; Flux and Angermann, 1990)

  • Breeding interval
    Breeding intervals in Abyssinian hares are unknown, but interval may be influenced by geography or weather.
  • Breeding season
    Breeding season in Abyssinian hares is not reported.

Like most hares, Abyssinian hares have little post-birth parental investment. Males play no role in raising young. Females take care of the young, which are born with fur and their eyes already open. Mother hares have very rich milk and only return once a day to feed their young for a short period, a technique known as 'absentee parenting' (Flux and Angermann, 1990; Chapman and Flux, 2008). Hares are weaned within 39 days of being born. (Chapman and Flux, 2008; Flux and Angermann, 1990)

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


Little is known about lifespan in Abyssinian hares. Some hare species are known to live 10 to 13 years in captivity (Japanese hares and European hares), or as many as 18 years in the wild (mountain hares). Hares have high breeding rates. This suggests that many individuals generally don't live long in the wild because of they are often prey for other species, resulting in up to 90% mortality within a given year (Chapman and Flux, 2008). ("Lepus capensis", 2009; Chapman and Flux, 2008)


Behavior of Abyssinian hares has not been well-studied, but is considered similar to Cape hares (Flux and Angermann, 1990) in being silent, solitary, and nocturnal. They feed at night and can travel widely, especially in pursuit of food. This behavior aids in the transport of plant seeds to other areas. Hares display ownership of a food source by stockpiling grass and then protecting the food from other hares or by guarding a female during mating (Holley, 1986). Abyssinian hares may also be similar to Cape hares in terms of sociality; out of 800 Cape hares only four groups were of observed, each consisting of three individuals (Flux and Angermann, 1990). (Flux and Angermann, 1990; Holley, 1986)

  • Range territory size
    0.1 to 3 km^2

Home Range

Home range size of Abyssinian hares is not reported. (Flux and Angermann, 1990; Hoffmann and Smith, 2005; Smith and Johnson, 2008)

Communication and Perception

Hares are solitary and silent animals and tend to use their hearing rather than their sight to perceive their environment (Flux and Angermann, 1990). Abyssinian hares communicate, like most hares, with grunts or screams. Female Abyssinian hares use 'grunting' to call for their young. A high pitched scream can also be heard when they are caught by a predator (Chapman and Flux, 2008). (Chapman and Flux, 2008; Flux and Angermann, 1990)

Food Habits

Abyssinian hares are herbivorous, they eat many types of vegetation including grasses, shrubs, and forbs found in their savanna, grassland, steppe, valley floor, and cultivated agricultural land habitats (Flux and Angermann, 1990). (Flux and Angermann, 1990)

  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • flowers


Abyssinian hares use vegetation, such as shrubs, to hide from predators (Flux and Angermann, 1990). Hares feed at night, using their hearing to avoid predators. To avoid predation, they may: 1) sneak into thick vegetation or brush or 2) freeze in place to reduce visibility (Chapman and Flux, 1990). Specific predator species are not reported, but they may be taken by large raptors, canids, or snakes throughout their range. (Chapman and Flux, 1990; Flux and Angermann, 1990)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic

Ecosystem Roles

Hares can replace each other easily if the ecological conditions are right. For example, Abyssinian hares replace Cape hares in the open grassland, steppe, savanna, and desert environments of East Africa (Flux and Angermann, 1990). In addition to being an important prey source and dispersing seeds, they can reverse the natural downhill flow of nutrients in a ecosystem by eating on the valley floor and defecating as they travel uphill (Flux and Angerman, 1990). Similar to Cape hares, Abyssinian hares prefer pasture that has been overgrazed by livestock and land where fires have burned the vegetation, resulting in new growth. These human activities have extended the range of these hares significantly (Flux and Angerman, 1990). (Flux and Angermann, 1990)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • disperses seeds

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Abyssinian hares can be a source of food and fur for humans.

  • Positive Impacts
  • food
  • body parts are source of valuable material

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Abyssinian hare ranges are thought to be expanding due to human activities, such as overgrazing of pastures by domesticated livestock (Flux and Angermann, 1990). Hares also can be a nuisance in agricultural fields by eating and destroying crops, although the economic significance of this is unknown (Chapman and Flux, 2008). (Chapman and Flux, 2008; Flux and Angermann, 1990)

Conservation Status

Abyssinian hares are considered "least concern" by the IUCN because of their large range and abundance. (Smith and Johnson, 2008)

Other Comments

Some authors consider Lepus habessinicus a subspecies of Lepus capensis. (Azzaroli-Puccetti, 1987)


Ashley Nickolai (author), University of Wyoming, Hayley Lanier (editor), University of Wyoming - Casper, Tanya Dewey (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



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

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


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.

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.


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.


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.


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


the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.


specialized for leaping or bounding locomotion; jumps or hops.


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


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.

year-round breeding

breeding takes place throughout the year

young precocial

young are relatively well-developed when born


2009. "Lepus capensis" (On-line). Human Aging Genomic Resources. Accessed November 29, 2013 at http://genomics.senescence.info/species/entry.php?species=Lepus_capensis.

Azzaroli-Puccetti, M. 1987. The systematic relationships of hares (genus Lepus) of the Horn of Africa. Cimbebasia, 9/1: 1-22.

Chapman, J., J. Flux. 1990. Introduction and overview of the Lagomorphs. Pp. 1-6 in J Chapman, J Flux, eds. Rabbits, Hares and Pikas: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN.

Chapman, J., J. Flux. 2008. Introduction to the Lagomorpha. Pp. 1-9 in P Alves, N Ferrand, K Hacklander, eds. Lagomorph Biology: Evolution, Ecology, and Conservation 1-9. Springer Berlin Heidelberg: Springer Berlin Heidelberg. Accessed November 07, 2013 at http://link.springer.com.libproxy.uwyo.edu/book/10.1007%2F978-3-540-72446-9.

Flux, J. 1981. Reproductive strategies in the genus Lepus. Pp. 155-174 in K Myers, C MacInnes, eds. Proceedings of the World Lagomorph Conference. Guelph: University of Guelph.

Flux, J., R. Angermann. 1990. 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: International Union for Conservation.

Hoffmann, R., A. Smith. 2005. Lagomorphs. Pp. 185-211 in D Wilson, D Reeder, eds. Mammal Species of the World, 3rd Edition. John Hopkins University Press: John Hopkins University Press.

Holley, A. 1986. A hierarchy of hares: dominance status and access to oestrous does. Mammal Review, 16: 181-186.

Smith, A., C. Johnson. 2008. "Lepus habessinicus" (On-line). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Accessed November 04, 2013 at http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/full/41289/0.

Yalden, D., M. Largen, D. Kock, J. Hillman. 1996. Catalogue of the mammals of Ethiopia and Eritrea. 7. Revised checklist, zoogeography and conservation. Tropical Zoology, 9: 73-164. Accessed November 22, 2013 at http://www.catsg.org/cheetah/05_library/5_3_publications/X_Y_and_Z/Yalden_et_al_1996_Mammals_of_Ethiopia_and_Eritrea_Revised_checklist.pdf.