Brown Hares In The Derbyshire Dales — Christine Gregory — 16th December 2013.

Christine has lived in the Derbyshire Dales for 22 years and has made a very detailed study of the brown hares in the region.The Front Cover Of Christine's Book

Hares were intro­duced into this coun­try by the Celts about 2000 years ago for both reli­gious reas­ons and food.  Down the years they have been asso­ci­ated with most reli­gions and even witch­craft. There are three types of hare that live in the British Isles, the moun­tain hare, the Irish hare and the brown hare. The moun­tain hare and the brown hare live in Derbyshire. In winter the moun­tain hare changes its coat and becomes white making it hard to spot in snowy con­di­tions but the brown hare does not.

As its name sug­gests it has a very col­our­ful brown coat, long poin­ted ears which are tipped with black and are white at the back. It has bright brown eyes and a black tail which it holds down when in flight. Unlike its smal­ler cousin, the rabbit, it lives above ground and almost from birth lives alone. As soon as a doe gives birth to a litter she takes each leveret (baby hare) to a dif­fer­ent part of the area for it to grow up.  The leveret knows that this is its ter­rit­ory and once a day the doe will call it for suck­ling.  Hares do not have a home but they do have a ter­rit­ory.

Hares are herb­i­vores and forage for food all night. Although they are not soci­able anim­als they will con­greg­ate for mating and can be seen in the morn­ings and even­ings during the mating season which can run from March to October. During this season they can be seen run­ning around and also stand­ing on the hind legs boxing. The female is slightly larger than the male and it is gen­er­ally the female doing the boxing to deter an amor­ous male. A doe will give birth to a litter, which on aver­age con­sists of about 3 lever­ets after a 42 day gest­a­tion period, but she can have 2 or 3 lit­ters inside her at any one time.

Its main enemies, apart from man, are the badger and the fox. In the 19th cen­tury there were about 4 mil­lion hares in the coun­try but by the year 2000 their number had dropped dra­mat­ic­ally to about 250,000, mainly due to man’s activ­it­ies in shoot­ing and farm­ing: for­tu­nately this decline is being reversed now.

The hare has almost 360o vision but does have a blind spot dir­ectly in line with its nose. It also has very power­ful, long back legs and if it spots a pred­ator from a dis­tance it is likely to stand on these to make it look bigger and it will remain in the same place. However if it has to run to escape it will always try to run to higher ground, jump­ing over walls and chan­ging dir­ec­tion many times to con­fuse and exhaust its assail­ant.

Christine’s talk was extremely inter­est­ing and I have barely skimmed the sur­face. If you would like to know more about the sub­ject and her work she has writ­ten a book called “brown hares in the Derbyshire Dales”, avail­able from Amazon, or you can find out more by going to her web­site , click­here.