Friday, Feb. 8, 2002
* Japanese name: Nihon-nousagi
* Scientific name: Lepus brachyurus
* Description: Hares are like rabbits, only bigger and faster, with longer legs and ears. In winter, their fur is thick and white (with black tips to the ears), but as the weather gets warmer, hares molt and grow a lightweight brown coat, more more suitable for the summer. Body length is 45-54 cm. There are four subspecies living in different parts of Japan.
* Where to find them: Forests, woods, fields and farms.
* Food: Grass, leaves and young shoots. Hares are herbivores, with broad molars for chewing, a long intestine and a single stomach. Unlike cows, they can't hang around slowly digesting food because they might get eaten themselves. So they chew their food once and process it quickly (cows regurgitate their food and chew it again). Despite having microorganisms in their stomach to help digest the tough cellulose of plant material, the food doesn't stay around for long. To solve the problem, hares reingest their feces. They produce two types: soft green or black mucus-covered pellets, containing vitamins, minerals and fiber, which are eaten directly from the anus; and hard brown or tan pellets, which are fully digested. If hares are prevented from eating their feces, they suffer a 15-25 percent reduction in growth.
* Special features: Like rabbits, hares can breed quickly. Hares are strong runners, so they don't need to live in burrows. They give birth to one or two leverets (baby hares) in "forms" -- shallow depressions in grass. The leverets are precocious, which means that, unlike rabbits, the babies are born with fur, with their eyes open and with the ability to run.