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Hispid Hare

Ashley Bates

The uniquely wonderful hispid hare is a large rabbit native to certain parts of Asia, particularly in the Himalayan mountain foothills. There isn’t a lot of complete information on just how endangered these creatures are, but researchers believe that they only encompass fragmented areas in certain Asian countries.

It’s uncertain just how many of these animals remain in the wild. But they were once flourishing, encompassing large portions of land. So, if you’re wanting to know if you can own one—you cannot. You probably won’t even see one in your lifetime. What are these elusive critters all about anyway? Read on for more details.divider-rabbitpaw1

Quick Facts about the Hispid Hare

Scientific Name: Caprolagus hispidus
Family Name: Leporidae
Average Weight: 3-5 pounds
Average Length: 15-20 inches
Habitat: Thin forests, grasslands
Lifespan: Unknown
Other Names: Assam rabbit, bristly rabbit

Overview

The hispid hare is a rare sight to behold, holding stance as one of the world’s most endangered animals. They were thought to have gone extinct in 1966, but a rare sighting occurred in 2018. Reportedly, a hispid hare made a debut on camera at the Chitwan National Park in Nepal.

While there still isn’t much evidence of hispid life, it’s evident that they still exist. Not many people have ever seen them—and may never. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classifies this species as highly endangered, last updated in 2004.

The estimation of wild hispid hares is somewhere under 5,000 and on the decline. Some scientists actually project real numbers to be in the mere hundreds.

Although they are dwindling towards extinction, they are quite remarkable creatures that deserve attention. These rabbits are also known as Assam or bristly rabbits due to their coarse, disheveled fur. They are slightly smaller than most other hares, weighing 4-5 pounds.

Currently, they might still inhabit fragmented areas of Assam, Nepal, and bordering countries. Since there was such a recent sighting, we can hold out hope that these magnificent hares are still holding on.

Reasons for Population Decline

Many reasons contributed to the loss of population—most of which are human-induced. As these areas became settlements for groups of people, hispids were pushed out, hunted, and preyed upon.

Some of these reasons include:
  • Deforestation
  • Human settlement
  • Domesticated dogs
  • Thatch fires
  • Hunting
  • Crop protection

Though humans see not many hispids, they likely still inhabit the Himalayan mountain foothills in thin forests and grassy meadows.Divider-rabbit2

Habitat

Hispid hares thrive in thick grasslands or thinned forests where they can feed and hide from predators. The meadows they hide in are also called elephant grass. They enjoy fields and tall grass on incredibly flat, well-drained soil.

If the tall grasslands get too wet or soggy, hispids will move to sparse forests to seek shelter instead. Once the grassy areas return to their dry norm, the hares will also come back to feed and hide.

Temperament

Not much is known about the temperament of hispid hares since such little research exists. But their character likely mimics their other hare cousins in many ways.

Typically, hispids prefer solitude away from other hares. Sometimes, these rabbits live in pairs—but no larger groups unless they’re seeking mates. These hares like to roam at dawn and dusk.

Like others in its family, the hispid hare might ‘drum’ its back legs to ward off threats or show dominance. Since they prefer solitude, they don’t take kindly to intruders in their territory.

Physical Traits

Hispid hares weigh 4-5 pounds and grow 15 to 21 inches in length. Hispids have wide ears, tiny eyes, and smaller frames in comparison to other hares. They have incredibly strong hind legs and claws.

Their coarse fur is a mixture of brown, black, and white colors. They have a bristly outer coat that is long and rough. The underlayer is softer and shorter, covering the skin.

Natural Predators

Surprisingly, there aren’t a lot of wild animals that prey upon hispid hares. Instead, their natural predators are much more familiar than you think.

The two most notable predators of hispid hares are:
  • Humans
  • Domesticated dogs

You can see how losing their natural habitat to people has had no benefit to the species.Divider-rabbit2

Diet

Hispid hares are herbivores, meaning they only eat plant matter. Their diets mostly consist of grasses, roots, thatch, crops, and bark. Some of their preference depends on their location and what is native to that region.

Breeding

Not a great deal of information exists when it comes to hispids and their breeding habits. However, some have discovered babies in January through March, meaning they’re early spring breeders.

Like hare cousins, hispids can have two to five babies in a litter and will have up to nine litters per year. Their gestation periods last roughly one month in duration—though none of this is verifiable by researchers since there isn’t enough supporting data.

Unsuccessful Captivity

There have been zero cases of hispid hares adapting to captivity. Humans had to release any hispid back to the wild since they couldn’t tame them. These prey animals are terrified of humans and can even hurt themselves trying to get away.

Unfortunately for the species, there is no way to replenish their numbers in captivity.

Hispid Rabbits as Pets

Hispid rabbits are both wild and endangered. You can never keep a hispid rabbit as a pet. They aren’t plentiful enough to find, and they don’t have the temperament necessary for domestication.

If you ever wind up finding a hispid rabbit, you must release it back to its natural habitat or call a wildlife center for help.divider-rabbitpaw1

Hispid Rabbit: Final Thoughts

It’s unfortunate to think of how human settlement caused such a drastic decline for the hispid hare. Once plentiful, these creatures now roam in small numbers under the radar, only popping up once every few decades.

There are plenty of domesticated rabbits that make ideal pets. Hispids aren’t on that list—so if you wanted an exotic, rare find, your search will have to continue.


Featured image credit: Masteraah, Commons Wikimedia

Ashley Bates

Ashley Bates is a freelance dog writer and pet enthusiast who is currently studying the art of animal therapy. A mother to four human children— and 23 furry and feathery kids, too – Ashley volunteers at local shelters, advocates for animal well-being, and rescues every creature she finds. Her mission is to create awareness, education, and entertainment about pets to prevent homelessness. Her specialties are cats and dogs.