Wednesday, April 03, 2013


No group of mammals has established their place in world folklore so firmly as the Lagomorph Family. People talk being “Mad as March Hares”, carry lucky Rabbit’s feet, or tell tall tales of crafty Rabbits. Moreover, children’s stories about Bunnies abound. In addition, it seems that everyone has a version of the “Tortoise and the Hare Story”.

An Asian Rabbit story goes as follows: to feed Buddha, Rabbit threw himself into the fire. As a reward for his sacrifice, He was given a new home on the moon. In China, Moon Hare is the guardian of all wild animals. Also, the Japanese see a Rabbit in the Moon.

Once considered Rodents, Lagomorphs (“hare-shape”) are now in their own family. They grow two pairs of upper incisor teeth, that rodents do not. These small furry animals are more closely related to Deer than to Rodents. In fact, Lagomorphs are descended from the same ancestors as Deer.

Lagomorphs are divided into two families – Leporidae (Rabbits and Hares) and Ochotonidae (Pikas). Pikas look like Guinea Pigs with short round ears. They live where many other Mammals would freeze to death – above the tree line of mountains in Asia, Europe, and North America.
a pika
Rabbits and Hares (Leporidae) are more familiar to people. However, Hares and Rabbits belong in their own Sub-families.  Cottontail Rabbits (Sylvilagus) and European Rabbits (Oryctalgus) live in underground burrows. Cottontails have elaborate nests lined with fur and grass. European Rabbit lives in large colonies, which is a complex network of nests and tunnels. Hares (Lepus), in contrast, live solitary lives in their shallow depressions called forms. Their young, born with fur and eyes open, are ready to hop away at birth without a mother’s care.

Many people think that Lagomorphs are fearful animals. People see Them freeze at a moment of danger or dash away quickly. However, Pikas are hearty animals, well adapted to the cold and high altitudes. Hares run zigzag to confuse predators. Jackrabbits taunt their pursuers by flashing a white patch on their rump. Rabbits box their pursuers with their hind legs.

Although Lagomorphs are preyed upon by a wide variety of animals, They manage to cope and thrive. Pikas live among mountain boulders, that have chinks to hide in. Cottontails flash their white tails in warning. To hide in plain sight, European Rabbits freeze. Hares run zigzag to confuse their pursuers. Learn coping strategies from Rabbits, Hares, and Pikas.

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