Welcome to You Ask Andy

Jerry Abraham, age 14, of Beverly Hill, Cal for his question:

How do rabbits differ from hares?

The frisky Jack rabbit is a hare and so is the fluffy snowshoe rabbit. The pet Belgian Hare is a rabbit. The cuddly cottontail is not quit: a rabbit and not quite a hare. Our everyday names for these charmers do not tally with those of the experts. However, we have no call to feel embarrassed. Not so long ago the experts had all the bunnies classed with the rodents.

The rodents, or gnawing animals, are the rats, mice, beavers, squirrels and such. They are classed on the basis of their special gnawing teeth. Bunnies also gnaw, but a closer look will show that the bunny has a couple of small incisor, or cutting, teeth which the true rodent does not have. Since the experts mixed the bunnies with the rodents for a long time, we can be excused for mixing up the hares with the rabbits. Besides, it is often hard to tell the grown hares and rabbits apart.

As a rule the grown hare is larger than the grown rabbit, Both belong in the animal order Lagomorpha, which means the bare‑shaped ones. The pikas belong in one family of this order. They are small, short‑eared bunnies of the western mounta:3‑ns. The family name of the rabbits and the hares is Leporidae, a fancy name coined from an older word for hare.

Grown rabbits and hares may be hard to tell apart but there is no mistaking their babies. The differences between a rabbit and a hare depend on how they come into the world. The baby hare is born fully clothed, in a thick fur coat, and his eyes are open and alert. The baby rabbit is born naked, blind and helpless.

 The father rabbit and the father hare take no interest in their offspring, The job of feeding and bringing up the babies falls to the mothers. Mrs. Hare builds a soft nest among the grasses, often in the shade of a low hanging branch. The pretty baby hares are called leverets and they are kindled, or born, in their surface nest which is called a form.

Mrs. Rabbit finds a more sheltered place for her babies, it may be an old burrow, a crevice in the rocks or she may dig her own burrow between the sturdy roots of a tree. Her nest is lined with fur torn from her own body. As a rule she feeds by day and returns to her babies only at night.

When she leaves the snug hiding place she is careful to cover the doorway with grasses and during; the day she never strays far from the nest.

The cottontail babies, like the rabbits, are born naked and blind. But, like the leverets, they are born in a form on the ground. Bunnies are the gentlest of animals with one exception. Mrs. Bunny, whether she is a hare, rabbit or cottontail, will defend her babies like a tigress. She drives off dogs and owls and has boon known to send the blood‑thirsty stoat running off in terror.

The papas, especially the hares, tend to scrap with each other in the spring. Their fights are more like frenzied dances, from which we get the expression: mad as a March Hare.

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