FOCUS: European hare

The Focus series

French word of the day: lièvre = hare

When I arrived in Finland, I lived in Lauttasaari before moving to my appartment in the city center. On this quiet island, there are many parks, and I was surprised to see hares roaming on the grass, in plain sight. Moreover, one could get quite close to them without seeing it move. In France, I can spot rabbits from the terrace of my house, but hares are usually shier.


The species we’re talking about is the European hare (Lepus europaeus). Native from a region including Europe and parts of Central Asia, it has been introduced to many parts of the world, such as Patagonia or Australia.

It is related to the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), and people often mistake one for the other. The hare is larger and has longer ears and hind legs. Because of these long legs, when it walks, it kinda looks like a kangaroo…


Moreover, hares breed in a hollow on the ground rather than in burrows. In Europe, the European hare has a cousin called Mountain hare (Lepus timidus). Smaller, it turns completely white during winter, like a Stoat or an Arctic fox. I currently have no picture of rabbit nor Mountain hare, but I found this nice picture (unknown author) on the almighty Internet which shows well the differences between hare and rabbit.



In June, I was walking in Otaniemi (in Espoo, near Helsinki) in the end of a rainy afternoon, when I met three hares foraging near a small parking. They were not overly afraid of me (like most Finnish animals, it seems), and I spent a lot of time shooting them. I was delighted to discover how they devour tall grass: they cut one blade of grass, and then swallow it bit by bit, like spaghetti! Funny…

Eating green spaghetti
Eating green spaghetti


BONUS: in Saint Petersburg, there’s an island called Hare Island. It’s situated in the Peter and Paul Fortress, and is supposed to shelter hares. I saw none alive, but met a larger kind of hare…


> Wildlife gallery

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