Zoology

The Difference between Hares Rabbits and Pikas



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Although most people have watched cartoons with the rascally rabbit, Bugs Bunny, and have read the story of Peter Cottontail, we probably haven't spent much time considering if they are rabbits, hares or even pikas. Society tends to lump all of the the members of this species together as one, but actually there are several distinguishing characteristics between rabbits, hares and pikas.

COMMON CHARACTERISTICS OF THE HARE AND RABBIT

1) They both breed prolifically with 4-8 litters per year with 3-8 young per litter.

2) Gestation period is one month

3) Sexual maturity comes in 6 months.

4) Weigh 2-11 pounds and are 12-24 inches in length

5) Feed on herbs, tree bark, and vegetables

6) Prefer to live in regions with loose soil to burrow in

7) They are pests to farmers and valued by hunters

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE HARE AND RABBIT

1) The rabbit has helpless offspring that are born naked with closed eyes. The hare's offspring is born with fur and open eyes.

2) The rabbit tends to live in colonies in burrows underground while the hare constructs simple nests and rarely live socially.

3) The hare is larger than the rabbit and has longer ears and black markings.

COMPARISONS OF HARES AND RABBITS WITH PIKAS

Although Pikas are in the same zoological family of the order Lagomorpha, they are very dissimilar to hares and rabbits.

1) Pikas are small about the size of a hamster. They are much smaller than rabbits and certainly hares.

2) Pikes have small rounded ears while hares and rabbits have long ears.

3) Pikas have much more luxurious whiskers than the hare or rabbit and has no visible tail.

4) Habitat is much different for the pika which lives in rugged mountain regions called talus in the western United States and southwest Canada. Rabbits and hares are found in nearly every region of the world and prefer soft loose ground to rugged rocks. The rabbit will live in burrows or shelters while the pika prefers crevices in rocks.

5) Rabbits, hares and pikas all live on a vegetarian diet. The pika are known for carrying long stems of plants and flowers and create hay piles to make stores for the winter when there is no food in the mountainous region. Rabbits and hares tend to forage for bark, berries, grass during the winter months.

6) Rabbits and hares breed prolifically and there is no shortage of the species. Although they do not live long lives in the wild, the natural predation is necessary to avoid their becoming an annoyance to humans. Pika, on the other hand, may be the first victims of global warming. Many scientists feel that the loss of pika is the first sign of more losses to come to the animal kingdom due to global warming. In many areas pika have suffered extinction.

Pikas, hares and rabbits do come from the same zoological order, but there are important and recognizable characteristics that set them apart as unique members of the animal kingdom.

Sources consulted in the writing of this article include:
www.worldwildlife.org
http://encarta.msn.com
www.pikaworks.com
www.animalomnibus.com

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