What do hares eat?

What do hares eat?

Hares are mammals that belong to the order of lagomorphs and to the family Leporidae . They are related to pikas and rabbits, although more closely to the latter because they share the same family, however hares are classified within the genus Lepus . Hares are larger animals than rabbits and, unlike them, they are born early because their eyes are open and their fur is well developed. These furry ones are very fast.

What do hares eat

Hares are native to Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America. Although rabbits have undergone a process of domestication, hares are wild animals that must live in freedom. Have you ever wondered what kind of diet they have? Do they eat other animals or only consume plants?

Type of feeding of the hares

Hares have a primarily plant-based diet . In fact, many are exclusively herbivorous animals, however, some species may include carrion at certain times of the year, so that they do not consume it constantly, but rather when the habitat conditions force them to.

The hares’ digestive system begins in the mouth, where 28 teeth used for eating are located, along with the lips and tongue. The oral area is followed by the pharynx and the esophagus. Although their diet is based on plants, they are animals with a stomach formed by a single chamber , that is, they are monogastric, unlike other herbivores that are polygastric, such as ruminants.

Hares also have a small intestine, which is related to the liver and pancreas, as these secrete substances that are involved in digestion. When undigested particles remain, they are transported to the large intestine, where the action of bacterial enzymes will finish the process. The digested products are transported to the colon, as generally occurs in other monogastric animals, however, hares, as well as other types of lagomorphs , have developed a digestive strategy to optimize the obtaining of nutrients from the plant matter they consume. In these animals, the colon has a dual function :

  • On the one hand, it produces dry fecal mass from which the nutrients have been extracted. This mass is expelled as feces.
  • On the other hand, it also produces a humid matter wrapped in a mucus that is shaped like clusters. This matter is known as cecotrophs and it is feces that the animal eats again as soon as it expels it because it can still absorb nutrients from it, so it goes through the digestive process again.

This strategy allows hares to take all the nutrients from the plants they consume, and although it differs from that carried out by ruminants, exclusively herbivorous animals, both are effective.

What do baby hares eat?

Hares are mammals, therefore, at birth they are fed by the mother with her milk , which, in fact, is essential for the newborn to develop properly because the first milk produced contains colostrum, which provides immunological benefits. and nutritious to the baby hare.

After a maximum of two weeks, baby hares begin to eat grass, leaves, or twigs. When they are one month old they are completely weaned. Hares are born well developed, so the mother’s care does not last long, so they are able to fend for themselves after weaning. In fact, mothers generally leave their young in hidden places, sheltered from predators, and only go once or twice a day to nurse them.

What do hares eat?  - What do baby hares eat?

What do adult hares eat?

Adult hares consume plants that vary according to habitat and seasonal availability, because certain plants are seasonal and not available year-round. Let’s see below what the adult hares of some species eat to see the differences between them:

Feeding of the Alaskan hare ( Lepus othus )

The diet of this type of hare is based on:

  • Woody vegetation.
  • Willow leaves.
  • shoots.
  • Tree barks.
  • roots.
  • Herbs, berries, and flowers (when available, depending on the season).

Feeding of the black hare ( Lepus insulares )

This hare eats food according to the season and they are usually the following:

  • pastures.
  • Tree barks.
  • stems.
  • leaves.

Feeding of the mountain hare ( Lepus timidus )

If you wonder what mountain hares eat, you should know that their diet changes depending on the type of habitat and the season. Some of the foods you eat are:

  • In the woods and in summer : leaves and twigs.
  • In the tundra when it is winter : heather.
  • In the tundra outside of winter : alpine plants, grasses, lichens and bark.

Feeding of the Indian hare ( Lepus nigricollis )

This hare also varies its diet depending on the season, being the following:

  • In the rainy season : short grasses.
  • In dry season : flowering plants, crops and germinated seeds.

Feeding of the European hare ( Lepus europaeus )

As in previous cases, the European hare modifies its diet in summer and winter:

  • During the summer : pastures, herbs and crops.
  • In winter : twigs, buds, bark of small and fruit trees,

White-footed jackrabbit ( Lepus americanus ) feeding

Finally, we highlight the diet of the white-footed hare, which also adapts to the seasons:

  • In summer : green pastures, herbs, peas (peas), seaweed, wild strawberries, clovers, dandelions, daisies, horsetail, poplars and willows.
  • During the winter : shoots, twigs, bark and evergreens. Given the lack of food at this time, they consume the remains of other dead hares, which is why they can be considered opportunistic scavengers .
What do hares eat?  - What do adult hares eat?

How much does a hare eat?

Hares, unlike rabbits, have not really been domesticated, so the species live in their natural habitats. In this sense, it is not so easy to know precisely the exact amount of food that hares eat, but it is known that they spend a large part of their time feeding (while they are active, of course). It has been estimated, for example, that two or three European hares are capable of consuming around the same amount of food as a sheep, who, depending on their weight, eat between 3 and 6 kg of vegetation .

Hares are mainly nocturnal animals , so they generally feed from late afternoon until before dawn, as during the day they tend to rest, preen, and bask in the sun. Thus, for example, the eating habits of the European hare usually develop from 7 at night to 7 in the morning.

Now that you know what wild hares eat, if you are passionate about these animals and want more information, do not miss this other article where we detail the Differences between rabbits and hares .

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