Jackrabbits are also mammals in the same family as rabbits. Jackrabbits are the ones that you use to call as hares. The hare, or jackrabbit, is a small mammal found in the Northern hemisphere, but they are still quite bigger than our average bunny rabbit. Hare population, which is at least 30 different species of hare, is spread across the world, but the most common species of them are found in North America and Europe, as long as the type of Arctic Hare found inhabiting within Arctic Circle.
Although they are small, they are one of them that can run super fast, or about 45mph. The reason behind this is that they have strong hind legs and large feet. This feature helps them to run quickly and jump over a large distance easily just like how kangaroo jumps. They run and jump quickly to escape from their predators, such as large birds of prey. wild dogs, and also humans.
Another cool feature of their body is their ears. Their long ears are actually to help the sense of smell and allow them to detect any approaching predators.
Well, that is actually not the only way to protect themselves from predators. Some evidence shows that hares also eat them.
Does A Jackrabbit Classify as Herbivore?
Wait, what? We thought hares are herbivore. Do they eat meat?
We know that hare is generally a docile animal, covered with fur, and like to jumping around peacefully. They do classify as herbivores because the main part of their diet is plant matter such as grass, linches, seeds, fruits, or veggies.
So it’s such a twist to know that hares also eat meat. Researchers found that a type hare, especially Snowshoe hare eat animal meat as well, like their predators’ meat such as lynx, and even from their own kind. Yes, you read it right. They are, somehow, cannibal!
The evidence about this meat-eater hares was actually discovered by accident, while Michael Peers, a researcher, setting up cameras next to hare carcasses on Mount St. Elias, Alaska. He expected some bigger predators to drop in and pick at the free offerings, but instead, he found hare, enjoying its meals. Can you imagine how strange it was?
Wow okay. This is getting out of hand. Who is this Snowshoe hare, anyway?
The Snowshoe hare, or Lepus americanus, is s species of hare that is found in North America. They can survive in a snowy environment with freezing temperatures because of their thick coat fur. As you can guess from the name, Snowshoe hare has large hind feet that prevent them from sinking into the snow when they walk or hop around (they like to travel!).
The cool thing about their feature is that Snowshoe hares can change their color to camouflage. Their fur turns into white during winter and becomes rusty brown during spring and summer. During summer, when plenty of food provides, Snowshoe hares eat plant matter such as grass, leaves, or fern. While during the winter, they survive without hibernating like most of animal. From here, researchers found that Snowshoe hares might eat meat or become carnivores in order to boost their protein intake because the nutrients and protein source is hard to find during this cold weather. They are also known as animal who are active more at night as well.
We got it. They need to eat meat to fulfill their needs. But why eat from their own kind?
Another interesting behavior from Snowshoe hares is that they are also territorial with their carrion. They will fight to protect their places from others. Researchers also suggested that they eat their own kind because of the competition among predators. Snowshoe hares are too small to have a chance to feed on a kill that has bigger animals like bears or wolverines on it. So something similar size with them like another hare is just perfect for them.
So, not only a meat-eater but they also do the kill?
Well, not really. Remember that Snowshoe hare change their color into white to blend in with the snow? They do this so they can hide from a predator. This means they don’t directly hunt or attack them. Snowshoe only eat the small carcasses. Moreover, there is no evidence that they are able to eat a bigger animal than reindeer. They only found to eat small predators such as small birds, lynxes, and owls. But… who knows?
But they are herbivores! They do not design to be meat-eater!
Many scientists believed that herbivores, such as hares or rabbits, would not have enough digestive tracts to process meat. But guess what? these acts of eating meat seem consistent enough to prove otherwise. Still, because rabbits’ or hares’ teeth are not designed to rip off flesh like any other carnivores, they have to rely on gnawing bits off of the carcasses.
As for the conclusion…
Do jackrabbit, or hare count as herbivore? Yes, yes they are. The main portion of their diet is still plants or grass, or any other vegetation. The study about some species of hares, especially Snowshoe hare who lives in a harsh cold environment, is a carnivore because they are somehow able to enjoy meat is pretty new and shocking. A lot of possibilities and more evidence is still needed, though. But knowing that hares can eat meat and even cannibalistic is interesting to know, even though the information like this is kind of ruining our image about a gentle and cute wild rabbit that we usually find in a fairytale… But we still love them, right?
Of course, we are! We do still love our cats even though they bring us dead mice that they hunted. So loving hares who eat their dead predators just to keep their body healthy by fulfilling their protein intake during extreme weather is not that hard, isn’t it?