Distribution

Altogether, hares and rabbits are distributed over most areas of the world: Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Europe, and have also been introduced into southern South America, Australia, New Zealand, Java, and other islands.

The natural habitat of European hares is open terrain ranging from forest steppes to arid steppes. They therefore benefit from cultivation of fields. In connection to agriculture, they spread rapidly to the east and northeast during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. They were also successfully introduced in agricultural areas in Argentina, Ireland, Scandinavia, New Zealand, Australia, and southern Siberia.

The European rabbit has a similar increase in distribution due to many introductions in suitable habitats. Before the Ice Age, it inhabited parts of Western Europe, as indicated by fossils. However, its natural post-Ice Age distribution includes only Spain and northwest Africa. But already the Romans had introduced rabbits to different parts of Europe. There were several introductions in Australia, but the successful ones came from 24 rabbits in 1859 in Victoria and in 1864 to New Zealand. Both Australia and New Zealand suffered tremendously from a gigantic rabbit population explosion. In spite

A young Arctic hare (Lepus arcticus) eating willow in Northwest Territory, Canada. (Photo by Animals Animals ©Brian Milne. Reproduced by permission.)

An antelope jackrabbit (Lepus alleni) checking for predators in Arizona, USA. (Photo by Animals Animals ©Paul Berquist. Reproduced by permission.)

A young Arctic hare (Lepus arcticus) eating willow in Northwest Territory, Canada. (Photo by Animals Animals ©Brian Milne. Reproduced by permission.)

An antelope jackrabbit (Lepus alleni) checking for predators in Arizona, USA. (Photo by Animals Animals ©Paul Berquist. Reproduced by permission.)

of the disastrous consequences, wild rabbits were later introduced into Chile and became a plague there as well.

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