Rabbits & Hares (Family Leporidae)

 

Leporids are approximately 50 species of rabbits and hares which form
Family Leporidae. The leporids, together with the pikas, constitute
the Lagomorpha Order of mammals. Leporids differ from pikas in having
short furry tails, and elongated ears and hind legs. The name leporid is
derived from Latin leporis, genitive of lepus, a hare.

 

Members of all genera except Lepus are usually referred to as rabbits,
while members of Lepus (which accounts for almost half the species) are
usually called hares. However the distinction between these two common
names does not map completely into current taxonomy, since jackrabbits
are members of Lepus, and members of the Genera Pronolagus and
Caprolagus are sometimes called hares.

 

Leporids are native across the world except Antarctica, and in Oceania
where their introduction is a significant threat for the native mammals
in Australia.

 

Leporids are small to moderately sized mammals, adapted for rapid
movement. They have long hind legs, with four toes on each foot, and
shorter fore legs, with five toes each. The soles of their feet are hairy,
to improve grip while running, and they have strong claws on all of their
toes. Leporids also have distinctive, elongated and mobile ears, and they
have an excellent sense of hearing. Their eyes are large, and their night
vision is good, reflecting their primarily nocturnal or crepuscular mode
of living.

 

Leporids range in size from the pygmy rabbit (Brachylagus idahoensis),
with a head and body length of 25–29 cm, and a weight of around 300
grams, to the European hare (Lepus europaeus), which is 50–76 cm in
head-body length, and weighs from 2.5 to 5 kilograms.

 

Both rabbits and hares are almost exclusively herbivorous (with
exceptions among the members of Lepus), feeding primarily on grasses
and herbs, although they also eat leaves, fruit, and seeds of various kinds.

 

 

Back to Inventory of Mammal Families and Species

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