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Black-Tailed Jackrabbit Breed Info: Pictures, Traits, & Facts

Nicole Cosgrove

Size: Standard
Weight: 3-9 pounds
Lifespan: 1-4 years
Body Type: Full arch
Temperament: Wild, Suspicious, Energetic
Best Suited For: Observing in their natural habitat
Similar Breeds: White-Tailed Jackrabbit, Antelope Jackrabbit, Belgian Hare

Did you know that Jackrabbits aren’t really rabbits at all? It’s true! Though they may look very similar, all Jackrabbits are from a different genus than the domesticated rabbits we’ve come to know and love.

More properly called hares, the Black-Tailed Jackrabbit is also commonly known as an American Desert Hare. Found abundantly in the wilds of the Southwestern United States and into Mexico, they have inhabited the deserts here since before the first human settlers.

If you’re curious to learn more about this desert-dwelling rabbit look-alike, you’re in luck – because in today’s article, we’ll be exploring their history and origins, as well as diving into their behaviors in the wild.

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History and Origin of the Black-Tailed Jackrabbit Breed

Descended from the same prehistoric giant hares as the Antelope Jackrabbit and White-Tailed Jackrabbit, this breed has been native to the American Southwest for thousands of years. Well-adapted to the heat and abundant wild grasses, they were an important source of meat and furs for early settlers to the area.

Their name is a more recent invention, though: Those same early settlers decided that their ears very much resembled those of donkey, or “jackass” – and so the combined name of a Jack Rabbit quickly took hold. These “American Desert Hares” have enjoyed a much wider range of habitats than their Antelope cousins, reaching as far as Texas and Northern California.

General Description

Smaller than both the Antelope Jackrabbit and White-Tailed Jackrabbit, most Black-Tailed Jackrabbits seldom weigh over 6 pounds. At around 2 feet long, their oversized black-tipped ears and jet-black tails are their most noticeable features.

Their muscular hips and back legs provide them with plenty of running power and endurance, and their large ears help to vent heat. These adaptations have made them particularly well-suited to life in the deserts they call home, as they are both able to out-run predators and avoid the dangerous effects of heat exhaustion and dehydration.

Habits and Habitat

With the ability to run at speeds of up to 30 miles an hour and jump over distances of up to 20 feet, the Black-Tailed Jackrabbit is perfectly adapted to the flat scrublands of the Southwest. Snacking plentifully on scrub brushes, weeds, and even the occasional cactus bloom, they’re easily able to evade predators by running in a zig-zag pattern.

Most active at night, they tend to spend most of their daytime hours lying in hollows that they’ve dug out with their powerful front feet. In the particularly strange circumstances of a desert downpour, they’ve even been known to swim by dogpaddling!

black tailed jackrabbit
Image by skeeze from Pixabay

Breeding and Young

Black-Tailed Jackrabbits breed year-round, with heightened activity during their mating season in the early spring. With females able to have anywhere from 2 to 4 litters per year, their population expands rapidly – so much so, in fact, that it’s almost impossible to get an accurate estimate of how many of these hares are alive today.

One of the major differences between hares and rabbits is the state of their newborns: Whereas newborn rabbits are entirely helpless, hares (like the Black-Tailed Jackrabbit) are born with their eyes open and functional. This allows them to leave the nest sooner and fend for themselves earlier in life – important adaptations for their harsh desert lifestyles.

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Final Thoughts on the Black-Tailed Jackrabbit Breed

As the smallest of the American Jackrabbit breeds, the Black-Tailed Jackrabbit is also a particularly handsome and fast animal. While they’re not suitable to keep as pets, observing them in the desert wilds can be a special treat.

Thank you for reading today! We hope you’ve learned plenty about this desert hare, and come away with a new appreciation for them. For more information on these animals, please see from PBS that we used as a source for this article.

Interested in learning about more rabbit breeds? Check out: 


Featured Image: skeeze from Pixabay

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.