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All about Hares

The sight of the graceful brown hare bounding across the fields symbolises the British countryside. Brown hares can often be seen ‘boxing’ during the mating season. These are uninterested females fighting off courting males, giving rise to the phrase ‘mad as a March hare’. The brown hare has become increasingly rare. It is second only to the water vole as the British mammal which has shown the greatest decline during the past century.

What to look for

Hares grow up to 70cm long and 7kg in weight. Their fur is yellowish-brown with grey tints. The belly and underside of the tail are white. Their ears are very long and black-tipped and their large eyes are set on either side of the head. Their hindlegs are much longer and more powerful than their forelegs.

Did you know?

  • Brown hares are easy to tell from rabbits as they are much larger, with longer ears and limbs and are  more upright in posture.
  • Brown hares are herbivores and feed on young broadleaved plants, crops, berries, fungi and roots. They normally switch from herbs in the summer to grasses in the winter.
  • Hares do not hibernate or store large amounts of fat in their bodies and so need a constant food supply throughout the year. This can only be provided by landscapes rich in biodiversity. The intensification of farming in Britain has reduced this biodiversity, lessening the brown hare’s food supply. The removal of miles of hedgerows has also reduced vital cover. These changes in agricultural practice are a major factor in the decline in their numbers. An increase in the  number of predators (principally foxes) may also be significant.
  • Female brown hares can give birth to 3 litters a year, each litter typically containing 4 young (known as leverets). These are born with a full coat of fur and open eyes. Each leveret is born in a separate ‘form’ , a shallow depression in the ground which it can leave soon after birth, and it is weaned after approximately 1 month.
  • Hares rely on running fast to put distance between themselves and danger. They are the fastest land mammal in the UK, able to reach speeds of 35 miles per hour!
  • You can assist the work of Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust in looking after the brown hare. The Trust runs an Adopt a Brown Hare scheme, where you can help provide funding to protect their habitat. If you would like more information, please contact the Adopt a Species team on 0115 958 8242.

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Hare Printable Factsheet


The brown hare used to be common in the British countryside, but a combination of loss of habitat through more intense farming aand increased predation has drastically reduced the population.


Hares prefer open habitats and are found in most flat country, particularly on arable land. They also use woodlands and hedgerows as resting areas.

Where to see

Hares live above ground and are solitary creatures for most of the year, though they sometimes feed in groups. It is usually easier to see hares during the breeding season in spring when they change their behaviour and can be seen in broad daylight chasing one another around meadows. They will be indulging in courtship or mating: several males pursuing one female and older or dominant males chasing away the competition.


Protecting Wildlife for the Future