Reproductive biology

Most hares and rabbits are solitary, although they can be seen in groups around mating season when males fight each other to build social hierarchies and try to get access to females in estrous. But the European rabbit forms highly social groups with one to four males and one to nine females. They can dig complex burrows that they defend against other social groups. Both males and females are promiscuous. Like many leporids, they mate again soon after giving birth. Since

A black-tailed jackrabbit (Lepus californicus) scratching. (Photo by Gary Zahm. Bruce Coleman, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

gestation length for the European rabbit is about 30 days, they give birth to five to seven litters a year. European hares increase reproductive output by fertilizing a second litter before the first one is born (superfetation).

A snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus) in winter. (Photo by Animals Animals ©Peter Weimann. Reproduced by permission.)

A European hare (Lepus europaeus) running through a poppy field. (Photo by Animals Animals ©Robert Maier. Reproduced by permission.)

Hares give birth, after a long gestation period, to well-developed fur-covered leverets that have open eyes and that can already move around at birth. Rabbits have a shorter gestation period and build nests with fur in burrows or hollows underground or in dense cover. The newborn rabbit kittens are poorly developed with eyes closed and no fur. After birth,

An Arctic hare (Lepus arcticus) feeding in Newfoundland, Canada. (Photo by Animals Animals ©Ted Levin. Reproduced by permission.)

both hare and rabbit mothers suckle their leverets only once a day with highly nutritious milk. This lack of social contact makes it difficult for predators to find juvenile hares and rabbits. Litter size of both hares and rabbits vary with geography and climate.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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