Unlike the mountain hare, brown hares (Lepus europaeus) are not native to the UK but were introduced during the Iron Age. They are widespread in lowland areas of England, Wales and Scotland and have also been recently introduced to Northern Ireland. Brown hares originate from central Asia.
They do not burrow but live in exposed habitats and so rely on their strong senses and high running speeds (up to 45mph) to escape from predators. As with mountain hares, they rest in forms during the day, mainly feed (on grass shoots and cereal crops) at night and are largely solitary.
Females can have up to four litters per year, each with 2-4 leverets. For the first 4 weeks of their lives they are fed by females and are then independent. Foxes are key predators.
Why we're interested:
There is some evidence to suggest competitive exclusion of mountain hares by brown hares. In the Peak District, brown hares have been shown to expand their distribution when mountain hare numbers are low. It is unclear how climate change might affect the relationship between the brown hare and mountain hare and so gathering information about both species will help to track changes that are occurring.
Head and body size: Around 55cm
Coat: Reddy-brown all year. Tail black on top, white underneath.
Head: Very long black-tipped ears, twice length of head. Golden eyes.