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Jackrabbit vs Cottontail: What’s the Difference? (With Pictures)

Nicole Cosgrove

If you are from the western United States, you have probably heard of the Jackrabbit as they are native to that region. You can also find them in Mexico. The Cottontail rabbit is found all over the United States as well as Central and South America. Both belong to the same family called Leporidae. However, there are several differences between them that we will look at here and some similarities too.divider-rabbitpaw1

Visual Differences

jackrabbit vs cottontail visual
Credit: Pixabay

At a Glance

Jackrabbit
  • Average height (adult): 24 inches
  • Average weight (adult): 3 – 6 pounds
  • Lifespan: 5 years
  • Distribution: The Western United States and Mexico
  • Diet: Shrubs, small trees, grasses, and forbs
  • Predators: Hawks, eagles, coyote, bobcat, lynx, dog, cat, owl, fox
Cottontail
  • Average height (adult): 15 – 18 inches
  • Average weight (adult): 1-2 pounds
  • Lifespan: 2 years
  • Distribution: North, Central, and South America
  • Diet: 145 different plants, stems, branches, seeds
  • Predators: Hawks, cats, snakes, dogs, coyotes, owls, opossum, badger, squirrel

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Jackrabbit Overview

jackrabbit-pixabay
Credit: jmrockeman, Pixabay

Jackrabbits are not rabbits at all but are hares. They have long and powerful back legs capable of speeds up to 45 miles per hour (MPH) and long ears. Their name is a shortened version of their original name, Jackass Rabbits, that they got because of their ears. There are three kinds of Jackrabbit, the Antelope Jackrabbit, White tailed Jackrabbit, and Black-tailed Jackrabbit. Many people consider the Alaskan Hare to be the fourth type.

Health & Care

Jackrabbits can adapt to several different habitats as long as there are several different types of plants in the area. It requires various grasses, shrubs, and flowers to get the nutrients it needs and prefers open areas with tall grasses and sparse coniferous trees to closed forests, so it has room to run. Shrubs create a place to hide during the day, and tall grasses will provide food at night.

Breeding

Female Jackrabbits begin to breed in the spring of their second year or after reaching seven months of maturity. The breeding season varies by location, and northern Jackrabbits will breed from February to May. In southern states, the breeding season can start as early as January and stretch until July. More litters are born in warmer climates, while litter sizes are larger in the northern states.

Jackrabbits give birth above ground in a hastily created nest that she may or may not line with fur. The young are born with open eyes and fur and will begin hopping almost immediately. Females do not protect or stay with the young after a few weeks.

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Cottontail Overview

desert-cottontail-pixabay
Credit: ducken99, Pixabay

The Cottontail rabbit is much smaller than a hare and has a short tail with white fur on the underside that gives it its name and unique look. They usually only live about two years due largely to almost every carnivorous animal, including squirrels having them for dinner. You can find cottontail rabbits practically anywhere in the United States, Central and South America. They even survived the introduction to British Columbia, Canada.

Related Read: Mountain Cottontail

Health & Care

Unlike most rodents that use their front paws as hands while they eat, cottontail rabbits eat on all fours and use their nose to move their food around while they eat. However, they may use their paws to bring food on low lying branches into reach. They usually eat many of the same grasses, seeds, twigs, bark, and herbs that a Jackrabbit eats.

Rabbits are social animals but build underground burrows that they like to stay in, especially on windy days because the wind can affect their hearing.

Breeding

Cottontail rabbits can give birth as often as every three weeks, producing four to six offspring each time. The female cottontail rabbit will dig a shallow nest covered with fur and grass to hide the newborns when they arrive. Baby cottontails are hairless and cannot see but will be ready to leave the nest in about three weeks when the mother is ready to give birth again. The mother will begin mating again just a few hours after giving birth.Divider-rabbit2

Summary

Both the Jackrabbit and the Cottontail Rabbit have many predators. The Jackrabbit has a few more tricks to get away, like the ability to achieve high speeds. However, it prefers to stay out in the open where predators like the hawk can see it. The Cottontail Rabbit, on the other hand, likes to hide under low lying conifers and underground burrows. Unfortunately, due to its slow speed and wide distribution area, predators often catch it, and it’s one of the primary sources of food for many animals, including the house cat. You can attract them to your yard with plenty of thick vegetation and conifer trees, but if you have ever tried to grow a garden, you know these animals can also be a nuisance.

We hope you have enjoyed reading over this comparison and have learned the difference between these two related but very different species. If you know of someone else that might be interested, please share this guide to the difference between the Jackrabbit and the Cottontail rabbit on Facebook and Twitter.


Featured image credit: 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.