Cape Hare

Lepus capensis

The Cape Hare inhabits open and dry habitats ranging from desert to grassland, requiring only a little cover in the form of clumps of tall grass or low growing shrubs in which it can hide by day. By night they feed on green grass and, to a lesser extent, the leaves and young shoots of shrubs and bushes. They do not require access to drinking water as they glean enough moisture from their food and morning dew.

Cape Hares are usually seen singly except when several males may crowd around a receptive female, which often leads to intense fighting between them. When threatened they will try to hide until the predator is almost on top of them, flushing at the last second to run away at up to 60km/h, making quick turns as they go! Cape Hares are a favourite prey of most of the larger mammalian and avian predators sharing their range, and live only about 5 years in the wild.

Female Cape Hares may give birth at any time of year following a gestation period of around 6 weeks and often have four or more litters in a year. Litters may number from 1 to 6, 2 being the norm. The leverets are able to move around shortly after birth (one of the attributes distinguishing hares from rabbits) and become independent when they’re about a month old. Fully grown they may vary in weight between 1.5 and 3kg through their range, with females in any given population being slightly heavier than the males.

In South Africa, Cape Hares are found in the dry western provinces of the country as well as in the Lowveld, extending into adjacent Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. They’re also found in eastern and northern Africa and in Asia from Arabia to northern Pakistan. Some authorities consider the isolated southern population to be a distinct species from those occurring elsewhere in Africa and Asia. The IUCN, while considering the Cape Hare in the broad sense to be of least concern, also advises that a taxonomic review of the species is urgently required.


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