Japanese hare

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Japanese hare[1]
Lepus brachyurus, March, Tsukuba, Japan.jpg
Japanese hare in March, in a park in Tsukuba, Japan
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Lagomorpha
Family: Leporidae
Genus: Lepus
Species: L. brachyurus
Binomial name
Lepus brachyurus
Temminck, 1845
Japanese Hare area.png
Japanese hare range

The Japanese hare (Lepus brachyurus) is a species of hare native to Japan.


Coenraad Jacob Temminck described the Japanese hare in 1845. The species name is derived from the Ancient Greek brachys "short" and ouros "tail".

There are four subspecies of this hare:

  • Lepus brachyurus brachyurus
  • Lepus brachyurus angustidens
  • Lepus brachyurus lyoni
  • Lepus brachyurus okiensis


The Japanese hare is reddish-brown, with a body length that ranges from 45 to 54 centimetres (18 to 21 in), and a body weight of 1.3 to 2.5 kilograms (2.9 to 5.5 lb). Its tail will grow to lengths of 2 to 5 centimetres (0.79 to 1.97 in). Its front legs can be from 10 to 15 centimetres (3.9 to 5.9 in) long and the back legs from 12 to 15 centimetres (4.7 to 5.9 in) long. The ears grow to be 6 to 8 centimetres (2.4 to 3.1 in) long, and the tail 2 to 5 centimetres (0.79 to 1.97 in) long. In areas of northern Japan, the west coast, and the island of Sado, where there is heavy snowfall, the Japanese hare loses its coloration in the autumn, remaining white until the spring, when the reddish-brown fur returns.


The Japanese hare is found across Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu, that is, all the main islands of Japan except Hokkaido,[3] up to an alitiude of 2700 m.[4] It is mostly found in mountains or hilly areas in the places they inhabit. These are the areas that it prefers to live in. It also inhabits forests or brushy areas. Due to human encroachment though, this hare has thrived in and around urban environments, so much so that it has become a nuisance in some places.


The litter size of the Japanese hare varies from 1 to 6. The age of maturity is uncertain, but females probably breed within a year of birth. Breeding continues year round. Several litters are born each year, each of which contain 2–4 individuals. Mating is promiscuous; males chase females, and box to repel rivals.


The Japanese hare, like most hares and rabbits, is nocturnal and feeds mainly in the evening and early morning. It is silent except when it is in distress and gives out a call for the distress. It can and will occupy burrows sometimes. It is a solitary animal except during mating season when males and females will gather for breeding.


Vegetation found in and around its habitat is where the Japanese hare gets most of its nutrients. Grasses, shrubs, and bushes are all eaten by the hare. The Japanese hare is one of the few hares that will eat the bark off of trees and it does so occasionally which can cause major damage to trees and forests. They will sometimes eat the bark from a bonsai tree in Asia.

Human interaction and impact[edit]

A Japanese hare in brown pelage
Japanese hare eating grass

The Japanese hare populations seem to be stable. It is so stable in some places that it has become a nuisance animal in the regions that it inhabits. It is hunted in certain regions for food, fur, pelts, and to help curb its growing numbers in the places it lives in.

The mythic Hare of Inaba has a place in the mythology of Japan as an essential part of the legend of the Shinto god Ōkuninushi.


  1. ^ Hoffman, R.S.; Smith, A.T. (2005). "Order Lagomorpha". In Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M. Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 196. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494. 
  2. ^ Lagomorph Specialist Group (1996). Lepus brachyurus. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. www.iucnredlist.org. Retrieved on 2006-06-12. Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of least concern
  3. ^ "Distribution map". IUCN. 
  4. ^ Joseph A. Chapman, John E. C. Flux. Rabbits, Hares and Pikas: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN. pp. 69–70. ISBN 9782831700199.