The Cape, common or brown hare (Lepus capensis) is a hare natively found throughout Africa, and has spread to many parts of Europe, the Middle East and Asia. The Cape hare is a nocturnal herbivore. It is known in French as lièvre du Cap and in Spanish as liebre del Cabo.
There are twelve subspecies that exist in Africa. These include:
- Lepus capensis capensis
- Lepus capensis aquilo
- Lepus capensis carpi
- Lepus capensis granti
- Lepus capensis aegyptius
- Lepus capensis hawkeri
- Lepus capensis isabellinus
- Lepus capensis sinaiticus
- Lepus capensis arabicus
- Lepus capensis atlanticus
- Lepus capensis whitakeri
- Lepus capensis schlumbergi
The Cape Hare is a typical hare, with well-developed legs for leaping and running, and large eyes and ears to look out for threats from its environment. There is usually a white ring around the eye. It has a fine, soft coat which varies in colour from light brown to reddish to sandy grey. Unusually among mammals, the female is larger than the male; this phenomenon is called sexual dimorphism.
The Cape Hare is a herbivore, typically eating grass and shrubs of various types. Coprophagy, the consumption of an organism's own fecal material to double the amount of time food spends in the digestive tract, is a common behaviour amongst rabbits and hares. This habit allows the animal to extract the maximum nourishment from its diet, and microbes present in the pellets also provide nutrients.
Like other hares, they are fast. The only predator which is capable of outrunning them is the cheetah. All other predators are ambush and/or opportunistic hunters; examples of these are leopards, caracals, and black-backed jackals.
After a 42-day-long pregnancy, the female gives birth to from one to three young, termed leverets, per litter and may have as many as 4 litters per year. A characteristic of hares which differentiates them from rabbits is that the young are born precocial; that is, the young are born with eyes open and are able to move about shortly after birth. The Cape Hare is no exception in this regard.
Because of its large range, the Cape Hare is evaluated by IUCN as "Least Concern", although the population trend is decreasing.
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- 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. 196–197. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
- Lagomorph Specialist Group (1996). Lepus capensis. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. www.iucnredlist.org. Retrieved on 2006-05-06. Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of least concern
- "Cape Hare". Retrieved 14 August 2012.
- "IUCN Red List for Cape Hare". Retrieved 14 August 2012.