Arctic hare

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Arctic hare
Arctic Hare 1.jpg
Conservation status
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Lagomorpha
Family: Leporidae
Genus: Lepus
Species: L. arcticus
Binomial name
Lepus arcticus
Ross, 1819

4, see text

Arctic Hare area.png
Arctic hare range

The arctic hare[2] (Lepus arcticus), or polar rabbit, is a species of hare which is adapted largely to polar and mountainous habitats. The arctic hare survives with a thick coat of fur and usually digs holes in the ground or under snow to keep warm and sleep. Arctic hares look like rabbits but have shorter ears, are taller when standing, and, unlike rabbits, can thrive in cold climates. They can travel together with many other hares, sometimes huddling with dozens or more, but are usually found alone, taking, in some cases, more than one partner. The arctic hare can run up to 60 kilometres per hour (40 mph).[3] Its predators include the arctic wolf, arctic fox, and ermine, as well as, the Gyrfalcon, peregrine falcon, and snowy owl.[4]


The arctic hare is distributed over the tundra regions of Greenland and the northernmost parts of Canada, while they also live as far south as the Island of Newfoundland. In Newfoundland and southern Labrador, the arctic hare changes its coat colour, moulting and growing new fur, from brown or grey in the summer to white in the winter, like some other arctic animals including ermine and ptarmigan, enabling it to remain camouflaged as their environments change.[5] However, the arctic hares in the far north of Canada, where summer is very short, remain white all year round.[5][6]


The arctic hare is one of the largest living lagomorphs. On average, this species measures from 43 to 70 cm (17 to 28 in) long, not counting a tail length of 4.5–10 cm (1.8–3.9 in). The body mass of this species is typically between 2.5–5.5 kg (6–12 lb), though large individuals can weigh up to 7 kg (15 lb).[7][8]

The arctic hare's diet consists primarily of woody plants, but can also include buds, berries, leaves, and grasses.[9] In the early summer it consumes purple saxifrage. It has a keen sense of smell and may dig for willow twigs under the snow. When foraging for plants, the arctic hare prefers spots with less snow so they may more easily locate fallen twigs or plants on the ground for them to feed on.

Female hares can have up to eight baby hares called leverets. The leverets stay within the mother's home range until they are old enough to survive on their own.[10]

Their life spans average 5 years if they are not killed by their predators or do not die of unnatural causes.

Arctic hare footprint on snow.


There are four subspecies of this hare:

  • Lepus arcticus arcticus
  • Lepus arcticus banksii
  • Lepus arcticus groenlandicus
  • Lepus arcticus monstrabilis


  1. ^ Murray, D. & Smith, A.T. (2008). "Lepus arcticus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 2013-08-27.  Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of least concern.
  2. ^ Hoffman, R. S.; Smith, A. T. (2005). "Order Lagomorpha". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 195–196. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494. 
  3. ^ "Arctic Hare". National Geographic. Retrieved September 4, 2009. 
  4. ^ "Ukaliq: the Arctic Hare". About the Arctic Hare: Eat and Be Eaten. Canadian Museum of Nature. Retrieved December 21, 2011. 
  5. ^ a b "Arctic Wildlife". Arctic Wildlife. Churchill Polar Bears. 2011. Retrieved January 30, 2012. 
  6. ^ "A hare of a different color". How Arctic Hares have adapted to Gros Morne National Park of Canada. Parks Canada. December 1, 2004. Retrieved January 30, 2012. 
  7. ^ Burnie D and Wilson DE (Eds.), Animal: The Definitive Visual Guide to the World's Wildlife. DK Adult (2005), ISBN 0789477645
  8. ^ [1]
  9. ^ Best, Troy L.; Henry, Travis Hill (1994). "Lepus arcticus". Mammalian Species (American Society of Mammalogists) 457 (457): 1–9. doi:10.2307/3504088. JSTOR 3504088. 
  10. ^ "The Arctic Hare". Canadian Museum of Nature. Retrieved 2010-07-26.