Mr Hare, the fluffy resident of the forest
Aug 29 2013
Indian hare are commonly seen in the forest areas and adjoining fields and farms. Indian hare has a rufus coat with black hair and a distinct black fur patch running along its nape and whitish under parts. The Indian hare from southern India could be easily distinguished from the one from the north: The hare in north have more brownish nape while the southern hare have black nape.
Hares weigh between two and six kilos. The females are larger than the males. They breed throughout the year, their gestation period is 40 to 45 days and monsoon is the favoured time for new litters, due to availability of nutrient rich food in an otherwise dry habitat.
Hares prefer open areas to have their litter. The young ones are called leverets and are born with eyes open. Hares re-ingest their own droppings; this is to pass food twice through the digestive system.
They are a staple prey for predators like jackals, big birds. However, its bigger threat are the small cat species like jungle cat, caracal and desert cat. To them, hare is an ideal meal; the jungle cat and caracal often hunt hares, as they are equally swift. The hare of course has a couple of tricks up its sleeve: it swerves and runs zigzag, often confusing the predator. Besides with its fantastic sense of smell, it detects predator much earlier and lies still, the drab colour of its fur coat act as a perfect camouflage in a dry and sandy forest.
They are territorial and the male defends its territory from other males. One more species of hare also found in our country called Hispid hare (Caprolagus hispidus). This is a threatened and a very rare species and distributed in UP, Nepal, Bhutan, West Bengal and Bangladesh.
As hares are favourite game meat for hunters, and as authority is not taking it as a serious offence, their population is declining sharply. They may be fast and swift, but their speed hardly matters in the face of threats like poaching, habitat destruction and apathy.
(The writer is a conservation biologist at Tiger Watch, Ranthambore)