Why Do Hares Box?

Photograph: J Bohdal / naturephoto-cz.com

Hares are often mistaken for rabbits, but are magnificent animals in their own right. It is often obvious to tell a hare apart from a rabbit when it moves – hares ‘sprint’ whereas rabbits ‘hop’. The ears of a hare are also considerably longer than those of a rabbit and have black fur on the tips. Additionally, their legs are much longer, so allowing the hare to sprint, its acceleration speed making even that of Usain Bolt look pathetic in comparison. Unfortunately despite their brilliant running ability hare populations are estimated to have decreased by up to 80% in the last century. This is most likely due to hare coursing and other means of human intervention.

The most iconic images of hares are often images of them boxing. Although most often seen in March – hence the term ‘mad March hare’ – this happens several times a year and is to do with reproduction.

Hares are typically solitary creatures, living the majority of their lives alone, only coming together to reproduce, mating ‘season’ happening several times a year.

So why do hares box? The obvious answer seems to be that males (bucks) will box each other over mating rights, the winner mating with the female (doe). This is definitely not the case though as boxing matches take place between a buck and a doe. It is widely regarded that a female will fend off an ‘overexcited’ male’s amorous advances by throwing a couple of punches.

Male hares partake in what is known as ‘mate guarding’, during which they closely follow a female to prevent them from being ‘stolen’ by another male. If a male is too persistent, for example if they chase her in an attempt to mate, she will ‘box’ with them in an attempt to fend off the male.

Sources:

http://www.avonwildlifetrust.org.uk/blog/wildblog/2016/03/11/here-hare-here

https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/blogs/woodland-trust/2016/03/why-do-hares-box/

http://www.rspb.org.uk/community/wildlife/b/notesonnature/archive/2012/03/09/this-weekend-watch-hares-boxing.aspx

https://www.norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk/wildlife-in-norfolk/species-explorer/mammals/brown-hare

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