The Cape hare is a typical hare, with well-developed legs for leaping and running, and large eyes and ears to look for threats from its environment. Usually, a white ring surrounds 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, an example of sexual dimorphism.
The Cape hare is a nocturnal herbivore, feeding on grass and various shrubs. 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 run 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.
Currently, 12 subspecies are recognised:
- 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
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