To save our wild hares is important, because these beautiful creatures are now endangered. We have lost around 80% of our hares, and each year 40% of them are shot (although hare coursing is illegal, it does carry on in some places, and hare poaching for food). Some people who own grouse shooting estates also shoot hares, believing they carry a tick which could transfer to grouse chicks, bred only for shooting. This leaves leverets to starve.
England has two types of hares: brown hares and mountain hares. They are very different from rabbits: much larger with longer legs and huge black-tipped ears. Unlike rabbits that live in burrows, hares live in shallow depressions and mostly feed at dawn and dusk, or at night. Their main predator (apart from humans) is foxes. Their main weapon is their speed: hares can run twice as fast as Usain Bolt (the fastest man on the planet). They run in a zig-zag pattern, although they are still too exhausted to run from dogs used for illegal hare coursing, which results in the hares being ripped apart in a ‘tug-of-war’.
The main other dangers to hares are a disease similar to myxomatosis (a man-made disease which cause an awful death to rabbits) and the changes in farming practices. Whereas years ago, hares could live in long grass and live off grass, vegetation and hedgerows, today most of our hedgerows have disappeared, and modern farming practices (like machinery and pesticides) harm both hares and leverets (babies).
The best way to help is to leave areas of long grass (and if mowing, start from the inside out, so that hares have chance to escape to neighbouring fields). Experts also suggest farming organically, and leaving some areas of long grass, for hiding and breeding.
Did you know that when you see two hares ‘boxing’, this is not two males fighting for a mate? It is usually an uninterested female!
‘In that direction’, the Cat said (waving its right paw round) ‘lives a Hatter. And in that direction’ (waving the other paw) ‘lives a March Hare. Visit either you like: they’re both mad’. Alice in Wonderland
How to Save Our Hares
- Hare Preservation Trust is run by possibly England’s best expert on hares. Her site has heaps of info on how farmers can help preserve hares, and also can give advice if you find an injured or orphaned hare (she runs a website Moon Gazers, with advice on how to care for orphaned leverets and juvenile hares, if needed. The Hare Book is her beautiful ode.
- Hares are protected species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. So if you see any abuse or illegal coursing, you can report it to Animal Crime Unit (run by the League Against Cruel Sports), National Wildlife Crime Unit or Crimestoppers (anonymous).
Beautiful Books about Hares
- Song of the Golden Hare is by the wonderful Welsh illustrator Jackie Morris. This book tells the story of a boy and his family who families search for leverets orphaned by the hunt, to keep them safe.
- The Hare and the Moon is a beautiful colour almanac by artist Catherine Hyde, following the phases of the moon an a hare’s journey through 12 months of the year, in a lyrical tribute to the natural world. Waking from the winter solstice, a hare begins her journey. Running in January, watching in February, leaping in March and in December, it’s time for a sleep!
- The Secret Life of the Mountain Hare is a guide to the elusive hare that lives in northern England and Scotland. These captivating creatures have inhabited Britain’s upland landscape, since the last major ice age. Seasonally white or brown, they are shy and charming – and can run like the wind!
- The Hare and the Moon is beautiful almanac that follows the phases of the moon and a hare’s journey throughout the 12 months of the year. This is beautiful and lyrical tribute to the natural world. Waking from the winter solstice, a hare begins her journey. Through the landscape and changing seasons, she moves in harmony with the moon. Atmospheric and gorgeous paintings show the hare running January, watching in February and obviously leaping in March! Until she comes full circle, sleeping in December.12 double-page paintings of the hare’s journey are accompanied by full pages of art showing a tree, a flower and a bird, for each month of the year. This rich celebration of flora, fauna and country life includes hawthorn and cowslips, swallows, blackbirds, buzzards and owls, harebells, holly, olive, rowan and poppies. You’ll find folklore, myth and legend, in this beautiful gift book.
Song of the Golden Hare is a beautiful book, written and illustrated by a talented creative, to instill a love of hares by everyone. It tells the story of a boy who has been waiting all his life, hoping to hear a hare’s song. The boy and his family are special. While others hunt the hares, his family search for leverets orphaned by the hunt, to keep them safe. And they hold the secret, of the song of the golden hare.
When the hares begin to move across the land, the boy and his sister know their greatest challenge has begun. They must follow and watch and wait. Until the time comes for the old queen to leave, and her child to reign in her place. But others are searching for the golden queen of the hares: a hunter and his hounds. Can two children keep the golden queen safe?
He loved hares for their twilight dancing wildness, the light in their amber eyes, their long velvet ears, their speed. He loved music for the way it made his heart dance.
Hares are severely endangered, see the post on how to save our wild hares, on what we can collectively do to help.
About the Author
Jackie Morris wanted to be an artist, ever since she saw her dad drawing a lapwing. After designing cards for Greenpeace and Amnesty International, she fell into illustrating children’s books. She lives in Wales with her son and daughter, two odd dogs and cats of various colours (but mostly ginger). You can buy all of Jackie’s books online at Solva Woollen Mill. She is also the author of The Lost Words (a book on restoring nature’s language, by Robert Macfarlane).
The Secret Life of the Mountain Hare is book that wildlife presenter Kate Humble calls ‘enchanting’. With a foreword by Welsh naturalist Iolo Williams, this focuses on beautiful Scotland, though mountain hares also live in northern England. These captivating creatures have inhabited Britain’s upland landscape, since the last major ice age. Seasonally white or brown, they are shy and charming – and can run like the wind!
This book looks at ever endearing gestures and facial movement of these beautiful creatures. Above all, mountain hares are survivors. But where you see them, it’s an indicator of a healthy environment, where natural predators and prey, live their lives in a constantly shifting balance.
Andy fell in love with mountain hares on first sight, and has been writing about them ever since. Hares are severely endangered, see the post on how to save our wild hares, on what we can collectively do to help.
About the Author
Andy Howard is a leading wildlife photographer who lives and teaches in the beautiful Scottish Highlands, where he is often out with his camera snapping mountain hares, otters, red squirrels and birds. If you like his writing style, also check out his other book The Secret Life of the Cairngorms, which focuses on the wildlife in Cairngorms National Park, a spectacular landscape of mountains and rivers, and a unique alpine moorland that is home to rare plants, birds and animals. You can spot mountain hares, red deer, whooping swans, visiting greylag geese from Iceland and the only free-range herd of reindeer in the British Isles!