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Motswari shares fascinating insights on the hare

For a change, we'll give the tortoise a break and focus on the interesting information about the Motswari hare. A recent Motswari blog shares insights on the hare,  revealing the interesting facts about the fuzzy creature. They also describe what features to look at when identifying a hare from a rabbit.

Introducing, the grizzly grey scrub hare. Guide and nature enthusiast, Shanre Scheepers, shares her insight on these adorable little critters making regular appearances at Motswari.

“Many people find it difficult to tell the difference between a hare and a rabbit. On spotting one in the bushveld, here are a couple of things to take note of.

Hare or Rabbit?  

Unlike its rabbit counterpart, a scrub hare has a larger body shape with a pure, white underbelly and very long hind legs. They have markedly longer ears with black markings on the tips, a typically grey-brown coat, a long, very well-developed hind and a short fluffy tail.

Despite their similar appearance, hares and rabbits are completely different species. They are members of the same order of mammals: lagomorpha – the order compromising of large-eared terrestrial mammals. These mammals are lacking canine teeth, but has a peg-like upper incisors and generally has hair on the soles of their feet. They practice coprophagy (re-ingestion of faeces) whereby they obtain much-needed vitamins.

Rabbits and hares are different from the moment they are born. Baby hares (or leverets) are born with fur and open eyes. They are able to move within the first hour of their birth. Baby rabbits (or bunnies) are totally blind and hairless. They are extremely dependant on their mother when they are born.

A scrub hare's life expectancy in the wild is around 5 years – that is if they survive their first year with lurking predators such as leopards, snakes, owls and other predatory birds, caracal, cheetah and side-striped jackals. Nevertheless, they are found in most parts of Southern Africa.

The African elephant and scrub hare have what is referred to as a “commensalism relationship”. A commensalism relationship is where one species benefits from the other for food or shelter. The scrub hare benefits by resting and staying out of harm’s way by sleeping under the branches of all the trees pushed over by elephants. Their place of rest is called a “form”, as the grasses under the fallen trees start taking the form of the frequent resting hare.

When is the best time to spot a fluffy scrub hare?

During the last hour of an afternoon drive, a tracker will generally bring out a spotlight to view all the nocturnal animals getting ready for their night activities that includes hunting, browsing or grazing.

As soon as the sun sets, the scrub hares come out from the forms in which they rested and stayed safe from danger, throughout the day. They are often seen positioned on the road. Sometimes they are running towards the light from the vehicle, or even seen running away from the vehicle. They run in a quick, zig-zagging motion. This zig-zagging motion is similar to a rugby player’s side-stepping motion.  This is done to confuse opponents.

Similarly, in the scrub hares case, it's done to confuse the predator of the general direction in which the hare is fleeing, when danger occurs. Hares will run out into open areas and use their speed in to avoid predators. They then lie flat on the grass relying on their characteristic camouflage. They are known to reach speeds of 70km/h (45mph), which proves that the hare is, indeed, faster than the tortoise.

Upon your next visit, come and enjoy the quirks of this cute little critter at Motswari. Waking up you’re likely to see the remains of chewed up leaves, shrubs and rhizomes. These adorable scrub hares just love to nibble on them.