South Africa is home to 3 species of hare and 5 species of rabbit, including the European Rabbit which is now occurring naturally on a few small islands off our coast. When watching hares and rabbits going about their ways, one can see how it was first mistaken for a rodent, but this has been proven to not be the case. Hares and rabbits form their own special group of creatures, along with the lesser-known pikas which are native to mountainous regions of western North America, and Central Asia.
Although they are more closely related to rodents than any other mammals, the two orders still have some major differences. Lagomorphs have four incisors in the upper jaw (not two, as in the Rodentia) and have enamel on the front and back of the incisors, whereas rodents have enamel only on the front. Lagomorphs are also strict vegetarians.
Hares and rabbits are very similar, and many people find it difficult to distinguish between them. Rabbits are born in deep burrows and they start life as blind, naked and helpless. On the other hand, young hares are able to fend for themselves very quickly after birth. A young hare is known as a leveret and a young rabbit is called a kitten, kit, or more commonly but least correct, a bunny.
As stated earlier, there are 3 different Hares; The Cape Hare, Scrub Hare and the Savannah Hare. The Cape hare is quite different to the other two, but the Scrub and the Savannah hare are almost indistinguishable. The rabbits of South Africa are not much more easy to identify, and taxonomists are still debating their differences. The 5 species are known as the Smith’s Red Rock Rabbit, Natal Red Rock Rabbit, Jameson’s Red Rock Rabbit, and last but not least the critically endangered Riverine Rabbit.
See how many of them you can find this Easter!!
Written by Vaughan Jessnitz