|Body Type:||Full arch|
|Temperament:||Wild, quick witted, suspicious|
|Best Suited For:||Observing in the wild|
|Similar Breeds:||Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Antelope Jackrabbit, Belgian Hare|
Rounding out our series of “rabbits that aren’t really rabbits”, the White-Tailed Jackrabbit is in good company with its Black-Tailed and Antelope Brethren. Also known as the “white jack” or “prairie hare”, it inhabits an area much wider and further northeast than its desert-dwelling cousins.
These beefy hares are well-known for their sometimes-exceptional sizes, and had once been an important source of meat and fur for early settlers to the United States and Canada. If you’re curious to know more about these North American natives, you’re in luck! Because today, we’re going to be covering their history and origins, as well as looking at how they live and breed in the wild.
History and Origin of the White-Tailed Jackrabbit Breed
Like the other North American hares, the White-Tailed Jackrabbit is speculated to have come from a far-distant ancestor that lived long before the first human settlers. These giant, prehistoric jackrabbits would pave the way for the proliferation of smaller, faster hares that can be seen across the Americas today.
With their ears strongly resembling those of a donkey, or “jackass”, settlers were quick to combine their names into the common “Jackrabbit” by which we refer to them today. At some point in their evolutionary history, the White-Tailed Jackrabbit began to adapt to colder climates better than their desert-preferring ancestors – leading to their eventual spread across a much wider area, and much further North.
Lacking the oversized ears of many other American Jackrabbits, the White-Tailed Jackrabbit traded in that heat-centric adaptation for a thicker coat of lighter colored fur. In the winter, this fur grows longer, thicker, and almost snow white – a perfect way to hide from predators in the snowy wilds.
Because they are more concerned with cold than heat, it’s not uncommon to find White-Tailed Jackrabbits weighing much more than is usually indicated for the breed. Where food is abundant and predators scarce, they have even been seen to weigh up to 20 pounds!
Habitats and Habits
Vastly preferring colder climates, this breed of hare can be found from the Pacific Northwest, through central Canada, and even into the Northern and Midwestern plains of the US. Sticking to higher elevations, they often avoid competing with other rabbits by choosing to retreat into the colder reaches of their habitats.
Dedicated nocturnal animals, these Jackrabbits prefer to spend their days nestled in shallow holes that they dig. A solitary species, they will wander far and wide to feed on grasses, plants, and cultivated crops. As the winter sets in, their diet trends more towards twigs and low-lying tree barks.
Image Credit: Norma G. Chambers, Shutterstock
Breeding and Young
Compared to hares from warmer climates, the White-Tailed Jackrabbit has a much shorter breeding season: Far from the year-round breeding of the Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, they’ll often spend only 5 months, from February to July, in breeding. Competition is fierce at these times, and male rabbits will box and fight with each other to secure access to females.
As a result of their being hares (and not rabbits), newborns of this breed already have their eyes open and are basically functional. Within a few short days, they’ll already be foraging on their own… And ready to leave the nest within a week.
Final Thoughts on the White-Tailed Jackrabbit Breed
The largest and most adapted to cold weather of all the American Jackrabbits, these beautiful creatures are a wonder to observe in the wild. We hope you’ve enjoyed reading today, and learned plenty about the wild animals that may call your part of the country home!