Saturday 2 March 2024

Mad as a March Hare

 

Mad as a March Hare

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Hares have long ears with black tips. The white part of the tail is not shown when a hare runs, unlike a rabbit's scut.

Made memorable by Lewis Carroll in ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’, the mad March hare is used as an allusion to excitable, unpredictable activity. Although March is particularly associated with flamboyant behaviour, hares can be seen behaving giddily at any time between February and September.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The expression has been in use since the 16th century. In 1500 The original poet of Blowbol’s Test wrote:

Thanne รพey begyn to swere and stare, And be as braynles as a Marshe hare

(Then they begin to swerve and stare, And be as brainless as a March hare)

March is the peak time for hares to mate. The madness of the March hare is caused by the urge to mate. A male will chase a female to entice her and if she is not receptive she will begin to box with him, both contestants standing on their hind legs and hitting each other with their paws.

Sculpture of boxing hares 

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The brown hare, (Lepidus europaeus), was brought to Britain by the Romans. They probably originated in central Asia. They are largely crepuscular, but can be spotted in daylight. Hares do not live in communities in burrows, but lead solitary lives above ground, sheltering in forms about 4” deep that they scrape from the earth. Unlike rabbit kittens, which are born naked, blind and deaf and completely helpless, leverets can see and hear and are covered with fur at birth. A female hare can have up to four litters a year, each averaging four young, which she cares for on her own, leaving them in the form while she forages for food.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Foxes are the major predators of hares, which exhibit a prodigious turn of speed when fleeing. They can reach 45 mph. Sometimes, they seem to disappear into thin air, an illusion created by them dropping into a form. On average they live for only two or three years, sometimes five. The oldest documented wild hare was 12½. Notwithstanding the threat from foxes, hare numbers have declined by 80% in the last century, largely due to changes in farming practices. They are also hunted as game and shot as pests. Wildlife Trusts are working with farmers to help them manage their land with wildlife in mind, planting hedgerows and maintaining field margins.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Although hares are not generally seen in great numbers, there are at least four collective nouns for them – a down, a drove, a flick and a husk.

29 comments:

  1. What brief lives they have. The collective nouns are such fun. I learned today that they are known as "terms of venery."

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    1. 'Terms of venery' sounds such a special name - I must try to remember it.
      I love hares.

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  2. This was very interesting, thank you. I don't think we have hares in Australia, just zillions of rabbits.

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    1. Rabbits were not a welcome import to Australia, I know.

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    2. We got both hares and rabbits in NZ. You are right rabbits are not a welcome import but I wonder whether many people know or could distinguish them from rabbits. I learned young that hares run and rabbits bound. We didn't seem to mind hares on the farm the way we did rabbits.

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    3. Hares are bigger than rabbits and, as you say, move very differently. Good to hear that hares were safe on your farm;-)

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  3. Since they don't live for long, and have killer predators, I suppose 4 litters a year makes sense. But the mother hares must be exhausted.

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    1. I have visions now of mother hares wiping their weary brows with one paw and sighing!

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  4. One of the joys of winter hillwalking in the highest Aberdeenshire hills is to see a mountain hare with its coat turned pure white to match the snow. Sadly, with climate change there is less snow these days, making these beautiful native creatures more conspicuous to predators, and the population has declined sharply in recent years.
    Cheers, Gail.

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    1. That must be a lovely sight. I wonder if succeeding generations of hares will evolve to not changing their coats.

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  5. I don't think we have hares here but I really should verify that. If numbers in 100 years have dropped by 80%, they really need to be a protected species. There will have been loss of their habitat too.

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  6. P regularly saw hares in the scrubby fields on the hillside behind our old house. Only one or two but they were always there. I wonder if they are there still?

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    1. It's quite a privilege to see hares regularly.

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  7. They're not protected, which I was surprised by. Such beautiful animals.

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  8. We often saw them in spring walking around the village in the farmers fields, I loved to watch the speed across the grass.

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    1. They move quite differently to rabbits, don't they?

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  9. I only have the smaller Cottontail rabbit. I love rabbits but they are a pest. Our start cavorting about now. And they're fun to watch when you see two or three males and there's only one girl around. They can fight.

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    1. They are a joy to watch - all that life and energy.

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  10. HeHe! Nice to 'eat' to....

    https://www.clyverose.com/post/recipe-jugged-hare

    ๐Ÿ‡ ๐Ÿ‡ ๐Ÿ‡ ๐Ÿ‡ ๐Ÿ‡ ๐Ÿ‡ ๐Ÿ‡ ๐Ÿ‡ ๐Ÿ‡

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  11. Lovely photos and I enjoyed all the 'harey ' facts.
    Alison in Wales x

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    1. Hares are the favourite animal of many people. I think they're magical.

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  12. I liked the photographs you've shown on your post and I also enjoyed the read, I didn't realise they have quite a short life span.

    All the best Jan

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    1. Yes, I somehow thought they lived longer. My heart lifts when I see them.

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  13. I don't know that I've ever seen a hare. We have a lot of bunny rabbits, which are much smaller and much cuddlier looking.

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  14. Rabbits are much more noticeable and probably more numerous. I love hares.

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  15. Apart from anything else, I had absolutely no idea hares lived such a short life!
    I'd never seen a real life hare until I saw one in the garden of our holiday cottage in Shropshire late at night. I was telling Jos there was a very big rabbit in the garden until it dawned on me it must be a hare! xxx

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  16. It is very special to see one in the garden - lucky you:-) x x x

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  17. What beautiful creatures they are and such a treat if you are fortunate enough to see them in their natural habitat. Sadly I haven't had that pleasure. Thank you for the information and images.

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