The hare is easy to distinguish from a rabbit; the hare is larger than a rabbit with proportionally longer back legs than a rabbit. Its ears are noticeably longer and have a black tip.
The brown hare evolved in Europe and was likely to have been introduced to the UK by the Romans 2,000 years ago. During the late 1800s there were about four million brown hares in Britain. But recent surveys show the brown hare has declined by more than 80% during the past 100 years and the decline is ongoing.
In many parts of the UK hare sightings are rare, which made seeing them several mornings on a recent break in the Yorkshire countryside a very special experience. It was both a joy and a privilege to wake early on late spring mornings and to look out across the field of growing crops to spot Mr hare sat out in the field.
Disappointingly after the first few days sightings the farmer came through the filed crop spraying and this kept Mr Hare away for the next few days. But I was fortunate enough to see sight of him again before the end of my break.
Brown Hares graze on vegetation and nibble bark from young trees and bushes. Hares shelter in a ‘form’, which is simply a shallow depression in the ground or grasses, but when disturbed, can be seen bounding across fields using their powerful hind legs to propel them forwards, often in a zigzag pattern. They are commonest in grassland and at woodland edges. In early spring, Brown Hares are at their most visible as the breeding season encourages fighting or ‘boxing’.
Despite the declining population the hare has very limited protection and although included under the Hunting Act 2004 is allowed to be shot with no closed season.