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Home > Rabbits > Cape Hare: Facts, Lifespan & Habitat (With Pictures)

Cape Hare: Facts, Lifespan & Habitat (With Pictures)

cape hare rabbit in the wild

Hares are just as prolific as rabbits but often live in vastly different areas. The Cape Hare favors dry, arid regions and has also earned the moniker, “Desert Hare.” They are athletic, adaptable, and solitary but have never been domesticated so you won’t find them at a breeder or shelter or in the U.S.A. at all. Very few Cape Hares are kept in captivity, but there are all sorts of interesting facts about this species that you should know.

Breed Overview


12–16 inches


8.8–11 pounds


1–5 years


Light brown

Suitable for:

Rarely bred in captivity


Athletic, adaptable, solitary, alert

The Cape Hare might look like everyone’s favorite pet rabbit—without the color variations that today’s breeds have—but they’re never kept as pets. The species is completely undomesticated and remains solely in the wild, particularly in desert-like areas.

In the wild, they forage for wild grasses and mushrooms while relying on their big ears, massive eyes, natural camouflage, and powerful hindlegs for survival. Despite their solitary nature, they are common sights in the wilds of Africa and nearby areas.

Cape Hare Characteristics



The Earliest Records of the Cape Hare in History

The Cape Hare is, and likely always will be, a wild animal. There’s no way of knowing when and where the species first originated, as there are no official records of the species. Even the current population of Cape Hares is a little uncertain, though it is considered to be decreasing. Still, the species is classified as Least Concern by the IUCN Red List.

There’s little geographical movement for the Cape Hare. They remain where they have always been—in the dry, hot areas of Africa, Arabia, and India. A few might have been introduced to other places around the world, but there are no official records of a drastic change in their numbers in other areas.

Close-up of Cape Hare
Image Credit: Bryony van der Merwe, Shutterstock

How the Cape Hare Gained Popularity

Although rabbits have long since been domesticated, hares aren’t as well recognized. They’re generally mistaken for the smaller rabbit species and have never been kept as pets.

However, the Cape Hare is popular for other purposes, such as a source of food and fur. Hunting them for meat is particularly common and one of the reasons that some Cape Hares have been kept in captivity. That said, this practice has never truly caught on, and these animals primarily remain in the wild.

The Cape Hare isn’t one of the most common hares around the world, and you’ll rarely find them outside of their native habitat. In the desert regions where they live, they are just as prolific as rabbits are and often hunted by humans and other predators.


Things to Know About the Cape Hare


Also known as the Desert Hare, the Cape Hare lives in dry, arid areas, though some favor wetlands, such as marshes. You will find them in parts of South Africa like Botswana and Namibia, as well as Arabia and India.

Unlike rabbits that prefer sheltered areas, the Cape Hare prefers open land, such as meadows and pastures, though you can sometimes find them at the edges of forests and hedges. Their preference for open spaces makes their speed even more important when it comes to escaping from predators.

Cape Hare in the wild
Image Credit: 1cmathis, Pixabay


Since these animals are wild rather than domesticated, it should come as no surprise that they don’t live long. Although hares tend to be hardy and generally healthy, their survival rate beyond their first year isn’t high due to predators, humans, cars, disease, and habitat destruction.


Top 3 Unique Facts About the Cape Hare

1. The Cape Hare Is Not a Rabbit

The first thing that you’ll notice about the Cape Hare is how similar they look to rabbits, which has led to the common belief that they are the same. This isn’t the case, however. Although rabbits and hares do look similar at first glance, they have many differences. The most obvious ones are that the hare is much larger, faster, and more inclined to run from predators rather than hide.

Rabbits and hares are both part of the Lagomorpha classification, but they are different species.

2. They’re a Solitary Species

While rabbits will form family groups, the Cape Hare and other hare species prefer being on their own. Unless they’re looking for a mate, Cape Hares are solitary, and you’ll rarely see them with other hares.

3. They Can Run Up to 48mph

We all admire a pet rabbit’s ability to hop at great speeds, but the Cape Hare takes this a step further. Larger and stronger than their domesticated cousins, hares are renowned for being able to outrun their predators by reaching great speeds.

You might not expect it from their appearance, but the Cape Hare can run up to 48 miles per hour. When faced with a predator in the dry and open grasslands where they reside, their speed—and jumping ability—gives them a remarkable ability to escape danger.

cape hare rabbit playing
Image Credit: Michael Potter11. Shutterstock

Can Cape Hares Be Kept as Pets?

There are very few accounts of Cape Hares being kept in captivity or as pets. Although they look like regular bunny rabbits, they are neither rabbits nor domesticated. It’s difficult to find Cape Hares outside of Africa, Arabia, and India and next to impossible to find them at a breeder or in an animal shelter.

You also have to consider their energy and space requirements. Cape Hares are adaptable but energetic, and these large animals can reach impressive speeds. You would need enough space to devote to a sturdy enclosure and plenty of safety features. Their enclosure would have to be big enough for them to run in, be protected from predators, and be covered so they couldn’t jump out.

Ultimately, the Cape Hare is a wild animal, and their lack of domestication makes them an unsuitable pet.



Cape Hares aren’t pets, as they’ve never been domesticated, but this doesn’t mean they aren’t interesting animals. They’re adaptable and incredibly agile, with brilliant running and jumping abilities that keep them safe from predators in the wild.

Although there have been a few Cape Hares that have been kept in captivity, it’s rare for them to be found anywhere outside of their natural habitat. Their solitary nature and wild hearts mean they’re not suitable as pets, and you likely won’t find one at a breeder or a shelter.

Featured Image Credit: Cathy Withers-Clarke, Shutterstock

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