What Are the Difference Between Hares and Rabbits?

Difference Between Hares and Rabbits

Hares and rabbits are separate species that both belong to the same family-Leporidae. They look alike and are often used interchangeably.

This may be because they both have long ears, powerful back legs, and a divided upper lip.

Nevertheless, both are distinct, and there exists a unique difference between hares and rabbits.

The distinction between these creatures ranges from physical appearance, behavior, and even lifestyle.

Keep reading as we examine the distinction between hares and rabbits.

Difference Between Hares and Rabbits

1. Difference in Size

A key difference between hares and rabbits is in size. Hares are generally larger and weigh more than rabbits. Rabbits are smaller and stockier due to their small legs.

Hare can be up to 3lbs-12lbs in weight and 16in-28 inches in length, while rabbits, on the other hand, can weigh 1.1lbs-6.6lbs in weight and  12in- 17 in length.

2. Difference in Physical Features

An obvious difference between hares and rabbits is in their physical appearance. This can be seen in their ears, hind legs, and fur.

Hares have longer and larger ears than rabbits. More so, the hare has longer hind legs, but the rabbit, on the other hand, has smaller hind legs.

Furthermore, rabbits’ fur stays the same color year-round, whereas the hares change color from brown or gray in the summer to white in the winter. Hares also tend to have black markings on their fur.

3. Difference in Habitat

One other difference between hares and rabbits is their choice of habitat. Hares prefer to live above ground in open farmlands, grassland environments, or forest edges.

They can be found in their simple nest lying in fields, grasses, and hedgerows.

Sometimes, hares will inhabit tree hollows that other animals abandon.

They have a wide area of choice regarding their habitat choice since they tend to live alone or in pairs in above-ground nests.

The physical structure of the hare is an adaptive feature. Their  Longer legs help them escape the reach of predators when threatened, and Longer ears help them hear from farther away to detect prey in their habitat and warn them of an approaching predator so they can take cover.

Rabbits, on the other hand, often live underground in complex burrow systems called warrens. Sometimes they create warrens, and at other times they may steal burrows from other species.

This burrow system can be close to ten feet deep and up to 150 feet long. It keeps them safe from predators and gives them multiple ways to exit the ground safely.

4. Difference in Diet

Dietary preference is also another way to tell these creatures apart.

Although both creatures are herbivores, hares tend to feed on more coarse, woodier, and fibrous plants, such as twigs, bark, and bushes.

Conversely, Rabbits prefer tender leaves and shoot such as clover, fruit, and garden vegetables like carrots and the product of pastures that have been heavily grazed.

5. Difference in Speed

Another difference between hares and rabbits is in their speed. Generally, hares are faster than rabbits and can run up to 30-45 mph.

Their long legs make them faster runners, which is good since they live in open spaces and need the speed to outrun predators that come their way. In many cases, they’re too fast for most creatures to catch them.

But most rabbits can only run about 25 mph. They only need their speed to reach the safety and cover of their burrows, trees, and other overgrowths.

6. Difference in Sociability

Hares and rabbits tend to live differently. Rabbits are very social animals and tend to live in groups of up to 20 individuals in what is known as a colony. Often, they can even build warrens with other rabbits.

But hares, on the other hand, are more like hermits, and they live most of the time by themselves, only pairing up occasionally during their breeding season to mate.

The hermit-like attributes of the hare manifest even when people try to keep them as pets. Because they spook easily, they can’t be domesticated as pets.

They prefer staying in the wild in solitary confinement. Rabbits, on the other hand, make good pets.

7. Difference in Birth

Another difference between hares and rabbits can be seen at the time of their birth.

Hares are born covered in fur and precocial (I.e., fully formed and able to feed independently). But rabbits are altricial (I.e., they are born furless, blind, and helpless).

Because a young hare called a leveret is fully developed at birth, it can quickly fend for itself after birth.

Baby hares can live on their own only an hour or so after birth and are weaned somewhere within two to three weeks.

While newborn rabbits, called kittens or kits, are born dependent on their mothers- helpless, with closed eyes, no fur, and unable to regulate their temperature- they need their mothers’ attention for about eight weeks.


Hares and rabbits have many similarities considering they look alike and breed prolifically, bearing four to eight litters yearly.

Both are also pests to farmers and gardeners, and they can destroy crops and trees.

Despite their similarities, they also have their differences. In this article, we have examined the difference between hares and rabbits.

We have seen that these creatures have distinct differences in size, physical features, habitat, diet, speed, sociability, and birth.

This article, I believe, has aided in your grasp of the differences between hares and rabbits.

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