Petkeen is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commision. Learn More

European Hare

Emma Stenhouse

The European Hare is striking and easy to distinguish from their smaller rabbit cousins. While you might be fascinated by the thought of bringing one home, the European Hare isn’t a pet that you’ll often see for sale.

Owners usually rescue a baby hare or leveret from the wild and raise them at home, although this isn’t recommended by wildlife rescue centers.  Sometimes called Jackrabbits, European Hares are very different from your standard domesticated rabbit species! They need an experienced home and handler, as they can be shy and highly strung. Let’s find out more about these beautiful creatures!

divider-rabbitpaw1

Quick Facts about European Hare

Species Name: European or Brown Hare (Lepus europaeus)
Family: Leporidae
Care Level: High
Temperament: Shy and highly strung
Color Form: Brown, with some black and white markings
Lifespan: 5-12 years
Size: 24-30 inches in length, 6.6-11 pounds in weight
Diet: Hay, grass, and rabbit pellets
Compatibility: Should not be kept alone but may be aggressive to smaller rabbits

European Hare Overview

European Hare sitting on grass
Image Credit: pictavio, Pixabay

European Hares might look like rabbits and are even sometimes referred to as Jackrabbits, but they’re very much a wild animal. They’re also related to the Wild-tailed Jackrabbit, which is also a hare! In contrast to rabbits, who spend most of their time eating, interspersed with short bursts of sprinting if they hear or see danger, European Hares are designed for running steadily over long periods of time.

Some families find themselves caring for a baby European Hare if they come across one on a walk in the country. Hares, including White-tailed Jackrabbits, are particularly common around Alberta, Canada and can even be found in urban environments.

European Hares don’t raise their young in a burrow like rabbits, so their defense mechanism when young is to freeze. Usually, this provides enough natural camouflage to keep them safe from predators. But concerned passersby can sometimes think that a young European Hare has been abandoned, when in fact, they’re simply frozen in place waiting for their parent to return.

The Alberta Animal Health Source recommends leaving a baby hare in place unless they’re in a dangerous location, like a construction site. In this case, the hare should be moved to the nearest safe location, and their mother hare should be able to find them there.

If a family picks up a baby hare, or leveret, and decides to care for them at home, the hare may not be able to return to the wild. Don’t expect your baby hare to become easy to handle like a rabbit, though. They will remain shy, highly-strung, and even potentially aggressive.

The Belgian Hare is a crossbreed between the European Hare and European Rabbit. They have been specifically bred to resemble a hare in terms of physical characteristics but more like a rabbit in terms of handling and care.

divider-carrots

How Much Do European Hare Cost?

You won’t see European Hares for sale, as these are primarily a wild species. We haven’t found any advertised on any sites, and it’s unlikely that breeding European Hares in captivity would be possible unless the conditions and habitat were exactly right.

The main way that families find themselves caring for a European Hare is by picking a baby up, thinking that they’ve been abandoned. After a certain point, the baby hare won’t survive in the wild on their own and would be rejected by their mother if returned. Occasionally, large housecats that are prolific hunters may bring home a live leveret.

Typical Behavior & Temperament

As a wild animal, European Hares are highly strung and not used to human interaction. If you do end up caring for one of these hares, bear in mind that no matter how much time you and your family spend with them, they will never become truly acclimatized to being handled.

Hares are naturally shy and far more active during dusk and night time than during the day. They’re also built for endurance running, so they may become frustrated if they cannot expend their energy by running for long distances. The European Hare’s top running speed has been measured at 44 miles (70 kilometers) per hour.

european hare side view
Image Credit: Elsemargriet, Pixabay

Appearance & Varieties

There are up to 30 different subspecies of European Hare, which are defined by differences in body size and shape, fur coloration, external body measurements, tooth shape, and skull morphology.

European Hares were introduced to areas around New York State, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut. While they didn’t survive in all areas, they can still be found. Their close relative, the White-tailed Jackrabbit (actually a hare!), can be found across a wide area of North America.

Divider-rabbit2

How to Take Care of European Hare

Habitat, Enclosure Conditions & Setup

Enclosure

Jackrabbits or European Hares need as large an enclosure as you can manage. In the wild, hares can run at top speed for a long time. Without the ability to reach full speeds in captivity, a hare may become stressed and aggressive. If you can’t provide a large outdoor enclosure for a hare that you’ve rescued, consider speaking to an animal rescue shelter that may be able to provide a larger area.

Hares are social creatures, so they may not adapt well to being kept on their own. It’s generally not recommended to keep them with rabbits, though, as they are larger, and buck Jackrabbits may become aggressive toward a rabbit in the same enclosure.

Bedding

European Hares in the wild tend to live in open fields and farmland. They don’t create burrows or beds, but instead, they spend time during the day hiding in something called a “form.” This is a slight depression that they make in the ground, where they can sleep partially concealed.

If you’re keeping a European Hare at home, they may make their own form in hay or straw or grass if you’ve provided them with a large outdoor enclosure.

Temperature

European Hares can tolerate a wide range of temperatures, as long as they have enough food to stay warm. If temperatures in your area fall very low, you may want to provide them with a covered shelter filled with hay or straw that they can use if they wish.

european hare sitting outdoors
Image Credit: J Assen, Flickr

Do European Hares Get Along With Other Pets?

European Hares can be territorial and highly-strung, particularly the male bucks. Don’t expect them to turn into a gentle pet that your children can handle, because this won’t happen. European Hares will always retain their wild characteristics, no matter how long they’ve been kept in a home environment.

They can live alongside other pets like dogs and cats, but they should always be kept in their enclosure rather than allowed to wander free.

European Hares are sociable animals and in the wild, they aren’t territorial. Ideally, hares should be given company, but if you’ve rescued one and decided to raise it at home, this may not be possible or recommended.

They can be too big and aggressive to consider keeping in the same enclosure as rabbits, and their specific needs for shelter and space are quite different too.

What to Feed Your European Hare

European Hare are herbivorous, and in the wild, they eat a diet consisting of:
  • Wild grasses
  • Weeds
  • Clover
  • Corn poppies
  • Herbs
  • Winter wheat
  • Sugar beet
  • Carrots
  • Twigs
  • Buds
  • Bark

Providing a varied diet incorporating at least some of these items will help your hare thrive. They can also eat hay, rabbit pellets, and other fresh vegetables in limited quantities.

Provide your European Hare with unlimited fresh water. It’s probably best to offer a shallow bowl and a plastic bottle feeder and see which your hare prefers.

european hare eating grass
Image Credit: Moraig deWitt, Pixabay

Keeping Your European Hare Healthy

European Hares in the wild are generally healthy, but they can suffer from parasites, both external and internal. Canine tapeworms can infect them, as can liver flukes, nematodes, and coccidia. You’ll need to speak to your vet in order to develop an anti-parasite regime designed for your hare’s particular needs.

Hares can also become infected by fleas, although treating these can be challenging if your hare is not used to being handled.

Wild European Hares can also suffer from European Brown Hare Syndrome (EBHS), which is caused by a calicivirus.

As there isn’t as much known about the health of the European Hare compared to a species like the domestic rabbit, it’s important to work with a vet to make sure your hare stays as healthy and happy as possible.

Breeding

European Hares aren’t usually suitable for home breeding.

leaves divider leaf

Are European Hares Suitable for You?

European Hares are wild animals. They’re not generally available for purchase, although some people do keep them as pets. This will generally be a wild hare that was brought in from the wild when they were only a baby.

Some hares will adapt to being kept in a large enclosure, but they do need space to run and won’t ever become truly tame or easy to handle. Their feeding needs are similar to rabbits, although you’ll need to provide more roughage, like bark and twigs.

If you find a baby European Hare in the wild, it’s always best to call your local wildlife rescue service and ask them for advice before you bring the hare home. It may be that they are simply waiting for their mother to return and do not need help.

There’s no doubt that they’re beautiful to look at, but the best place for a European Hare is truly in the wild.


Featured Image: Siegfried Potrykus, Flickr

Emma Stenhouse

Emma is a freelance writer, specializing in writing about pets, outdoor pursuits, and the environment. Originally from the UK, she has lived in Costa Rica and New Zealand before moving to a smallholding in Spain with her husband, their 4-year-old daughter, and their dogs, cats, horses, and poultry. When she's not writing, Emma can be found taking her dogs for walks in the rolling fields around their home...and usually, at least some of the cats come along, too! Emma is passionate about rescuing animals and providing them with a new life after being abandoned or abused. As well as their own four rescue dogs, she also fosters dogs for re-homing, providing them with love and training while searching for their forever homes.