Cape hare

The Cape hare (Lepus capensis), also called the desert hare, is a hare native to Africa and Arabia extending into India.[1]

Cape hare
Brown Hare444.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Lagomorpha
Family: Leporidae
Genus: Lepus
L. capensis
Binomial name
Lepus capensis
Lepus capensis distribution.svg
Geographic range
Cape hare in hieroglyphs

"Cape/desert hare" in Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs


The Cape hare is a typical hare, with well-developed legs for leaping and running, and large eyes and ears to look for threats from its environment. Usually, a white ring surrounds the eye. It has a fine, soft coat which varies in colour from light brown to reddish to sandy grey. Unusually among mammals, the female is larger than the male, an example of sexual dimorphism.


It inhabits macchia-type vegetation, grassland, bushveld, the Sahara Desert and semi-desert areas. It is also common in parts of the Ethiopian highlands, such as Degua Tembien.[2]


A Cape hare caught by an Asiatic cheetah in Miandasht Wildlife Refuge, Iran.

The Cape hare is a nocturnal herbivore, feeding on grass and various shrubs. Coprophagy, the consumption of an organism's own fecal material to double the amount of time food spends in the digestive tract, is a common behaviour amongst rabbits and hares. This habit allows the animal to extract the maximum nourishment from its diet, and microbes present in the pellets also provide nutrients.

Like other hares, they run fast. The only predator which is capable of outrunning them is the cheetah. All other predators are ambush and/or opportunistic hunters; examples of these are leopards, caracals, and black-backed jackals.

After a 42-day-long pregnancy, the female gives birth to from one to three young, termed leverets, per litter and may have as many as 4 litters per year. A characteristic of hares which differentiates them from rabbits is that the young are born precocial; that is, the young are born with eyes open and are able to move about shortly after birth. The Cape hare is no exception in this regard.



Currently, 12 subspecies are recognised:[3]


  1. ^ a b Johnston, C.H.; Robinson, T.J.; Child, M.F. & Relton, C. (2019). "Lepus capensis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2019: e.T41277A45186750.
  2. ^ Aerts, R. (2019). "Forest and woodland vegetation in the highlands of Dogu'a Tembien". In Nyssen J.; Jacob, M.; Frankl, A. (eds.). Geo-trekking in Ethiopia’s Tropical Mountains: The Dogu’a Tembien District. Springer International Publishing. ISBN 9783030049546.
  3. ^ Hoffman, R.S.; Smith, A.T. (2005). "Order Lagomorpha". In Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M (eds.). Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 196–197. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.