Japanese hare

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Japanese hare[1]
Lepus brachyurus, March, Tsukuba, Japan.jpg
in March, in a park in Tsukuba, Japan
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Lagomorpha
Family: Leporidae
Genus: Lepus
L. brachyurus
Binomial name
Lepus brachyurus
Temminck, 1845
Japanese Hare area.png
Japanese hare range

The Japanese hare (Lepus brachyurus) is a species of hare native to Japan.


Coenraad Jacob Temminck described the Japanese hare in 1845. The specific epithet (brachyurus) is derived from the Ancient Greek brachys meaning "short"[3]:708 and oura meaning "tail".[3]:828

The four subspecies of this hare are:

  • L. b. angustidens
  • L. b. brachyurus
  • L. b. lyoni
  • L. b. okiensis


The Japanese hare is reddish-brown, with a body length that ranges from 45 to 54 cm (18 to 21 in), and a body weight of 1.3 to 2.5 kg (2.9 to 5.5 lb). Its tail grows to lengths of 2 to 5 cm (0.79 to 1.97 in). Its front legs can be from 10 to 15 cm (3.9 to 5.9 in) long and the back legs from 12 to 15 cm (4.7 to 5.9 in) long. The ears grow to be 6 to 8 cm (2.4 to 3.1 in) long, and the tail 2 to 5 cm (0.79 to 1.97 in) long. In areas of northern Japan, the west coast, and the island of Sado, where snowfall is heavy, the Japanese hare loses its coloration in the autumn, remaining white until the spring, when the reddish-brown fur returns.


The Japanese hare is found across Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu, that is, all the main islands of Japan except Hokkaido,[4] up to an altitude of 2700 m.[5] It is mostly found in mountains or hilly areas. It also inhabits forests or brushy areas. Due to human encroachment, though, this hare has thrived in and around urban environments, so much so that it has become a nuisance in some places.


The litter size of the Japanese hare varies from 1 to 6. The age of maturity is uncertain, but females probably breed within a year of birth. Breeding continues year round. Several litters are born each year, each of which contain 2–4 individuals. Mating is promiscuous; males chase females, and box to repel rivals.


The Japanese hare, like most hares and rabbits, is crepuscular (feeds mainly in the evening and early morning). It is silent except when it is in distress, and gives out a call for the distress. It can occupy burrows sometimes. It is a solitary animal except during mating season, when males and females gather for breeding.


Vegetation found in and around its habitat is where the Japanese hare gets most of its nutrients. Grasses, shrubs, and bushes are all eaten by the hare. The Japanese hare is one of the few hares that will eat the bark off of trees and it does so occasionally which can cause major damage to trees and forests. They will sometimes eat the bark from a bonsai tree in Asia.

A Japanese hare in brown pelage
Japanese hare eating grass


The Japanese hare population seems to be stable, though the quality or/and size of their habitat is decreasing. On a local level, they are used in hunting and specimen collecting. They are threatened by the creation of urban and industrial areas, water manegment systems, such as dams, hunting, trapping and invasive and non-native diseases and species. It is not known if they occur in any protected areas.[2]

Human interaction[edit]

In some places, it has become a nuisance animal. It is hunted in certain regions for food, fur, pelts, and to help curb its growing numbers.

The mythic Hare of Inaba has a place in the mythology of Japan as an essential part of the legend of the Shinto god Ōkuninushi.


  1. ^ Hoffman, R.S.; Smith, A.T. (2005). "Order Lagomorpha". In Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M (eds.). Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 196. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
  2. ^ a b Lagomorph Specialist Group (1996). "Lepus brachyurus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN. 1996. Retrieved 2006-06-12. Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of least concern
  3. ^ a b Brown, Roland Wilbur (1956). The Composition of Scientific Words. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press.
  4. ^ "Distribution map". IUCN.
  5. ^ Joseph A. Chapman; John E. C. Flux. Rabbits, Hares and Pikas: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN. pp. 69–70. ISBN 9782831700199.