The Brown hare


March 2022

Material property, Font

Fast facts

Head-body length: 48 – 70cm

Ear length: About the same as their head

Weight: 2–5kg (females are slightly heavier than males)

Lifespan: Typically 2 – 3 years.
The oldest known wild hare was 12.5 years old

Brown Hare – Lepus europaeus

The brown hare’s distinctive large ears with characteristic black tips, along with their long hind legs and larger size, make them easy to recognise. Their long, loping gait also helps to differentiate them from rabbits.

Brown hares were introduced in Iron Age times from across the North Sea. They are widespread on low ground throughout Britain. The hare population is around 600,000 in the UK and they are especially abundant in East Anglia.


Once thought to be male hares fighting, recent research has shown that ‘Boxing hares’ are actually females (Jills) fending off the attentions of amorous males (Jacks) during courtship by standing upright and striking out with their front paws. This is where the phrase ‘Mad as a March hare’ comes from, even though 'boxing' occurs over several months, throughout the breeding season.


A female rears three or four litters, of two to four young, a year. The young are born fully furred with their eyes open and ready to run from predators. The female leaves them in forms a few metres from their birthplace.

Over the first four weeks, the female returns to feed the leverets at sunset but gives them no other care. This helps to shield the leverets from predators at a stage when they are especially vulnerable.


Numbers of the once common brown hare have shown a steady decline in England since the 1960s. This may be linked to changes in the way crops are grown and grasslands are managed. Shooting and hare coursing, especially in areas where the hare is already declining, may also have contributed to losses. Suffolk contains large populations of brown hares and, whilst numbers have declined, it remains a stronghold for this species.

They are very shy and prefer to live alone or as pairs. Although they will form small groups while feeding.


They eat the young shoots of grasses, cereals and some other agricultural crops, and herbs. If snow makes grazing difficult in the winter they will also browse shrubs.


Hares are usually found in open arable fields, grassland with long grass to create sheltered areas, hedgerows and pasture.


Hares can reach speeds of up to 45 miles an hour. When running from predators they will try to lose them by suddenly swerving and running in zig-zags, a technique often copied by action film car chases.

Created by: Suffolk Biodiversity Information Service

Image credits, from top to bottom:
Neil Rolph, Natural England/Allan Drewitt, Mike Rae, Neil Rolph, Chris Baines, Mike Rae, Margaret Holland (x2), all from

Material property, Font