|Body Type:||Full arch|
|Temperament:||Wild, Suspicious, Energetic|
|Best Suited For:||Observing in their natural habitat|
|Similar Breeds:||White-Tailed Jackrabbit, Antelope Jackrabbit, Belgian Hare|
Did you know that Jackrabbits aren’t really rabbits at all? It’s true! Though they may look very similar, all Jackrabbits are from a different genus than the domesticated rabbits we’ve come to know and love.
More properly called hares, the Black-Tailed Jackrabbit is also commonly known as an American Desert Hare. Found abundantly in the wilds of the Southwestern United States and into Mexico, they have inhabited the deserts here since before the first human settlers.
If you’re curious to learn more about this desert-dwelling rabbit look-alike, you’re in luck – because in today’s article, we’ll be exploring their history and origins, as well as diving into their behaviors in the wild.
History and Origin of the Black-Tailed Jackrabbit Breed
Descended from the same prehistoric giant hares as the Antelope Jackrabbit and White-Tailed Jackrabbit, this breed has been native to the American Southwest for thousands of years. Well-adapted to the heat and abundant wild grasses, they were an important source of meat and furs for early settlers to the area.
Their name is a more recent invention, though: Those same early settlers decided that their ears very much resembled those of donkey, or “jackass” – and so the combined name of a Jack Rabbit quickly took hold. These “American Desert Hares” have enjoyed a much wider range of habitats than their Antelope cousins, reaching as far as Texas and Northern California.
Smaller than both the Antelope Jackrabbit and White-Tailed Jackrabbit, most Black-Tailed Jackrabbits seldom weigh over 6 pounds. At around 2 feet long, their oversized black-tipped ears and jet-black tails are their most noticeable features.
Their muscular hips and back legs provide them with plenty of running power and endurance, and their large ears help to vent heat. These adaptations have made them particularly well-suited to life in the deserts they call home, as they are both able to out-run predators and avoid the dangerous effects of heat exhaustion and dehydration.
Habits and Habitat
With the ability to run at speeds of up to 30 miles an hour and jump over distances of up to 20 feet, the Black-Tailed Jackrabbit is perfectly adapted to the flat scrublands of the Southwest. Snacking plentifully on scrub brushes, weeds, and even the occasional cactus bloom, they’re easily able to evade predators by running in a zig-zag pattern.
Most active at night, they tend to spend most of their daytime hours lying in hollows that they’ve dug out with their powerful front feet. In the particularly strange circumstances of a desert downpour, they’ve even been known to swim by dogpaddling!
Image by skeeze from Pixabay
Breeding and Young
Black-Tailed Jackrabbits breed year-round, with heightened activity during their mating season in the early spring. With females able to have anywhere from 2 to 4 litters per year, their population expands rapidly – so much so, in fact, that it’s almost impossible to get an accurate estimate of how many of these hares are alive today.
One of the major differences between hares and rabbits is the state of their newborns: Whereas newborn rabbits are entirely helpless, hares (like the Black-Tailed Jackrabbit) are born with their eyes open and functional. This allows them to leave the nest sooner and fend for themselves earlier in life – important adaptations for their harsh desert lifestyles.
Final Thoughts on the Black-Tailed Jackrabbit Breed
As the smallest of the American Jackrabbit breeds, the Black-Tailed Jackrabbit is also a particularly handsome and fast animal. While they’re not suitable to keep as pets, observing them in the desert wilds can be a special treat.
Thank you for reading today! We hope you’ve learned plenty about this desert hare, and come away with a new appreciation for them. For more information on these animals, please see from PBS that we used as a source for this article.