Today’s animal is one I saw way back when we were in Chicago at the Field Museum. I made a list of wonderful and exotic animals, and have since blogged about many of them. But the list isn’t quite depleted, so whenever I’m stuck for an animal I just have to open my handy little list. So today let’s talk about springhares!
Springhares are not actually hares, and they aren’t even rabbits. They are in fact rodents, and there are only two species, the South African and East African springhare. Both are found in Africa, and are nocturnal, spending most of the day curled up safely in burrows. Springhares like areas with dry, sandy soil, and so are usually found in grasslands or semi-arid habitats.
Springhares may not be rabbits, but they are about the size of them, reaching lengths of 35-45 cm. They look like miniature kangaroos, with large, powerful back legs. They are reddish brown in colour, with black tips on the ends of their poofy tails.
The large back feet and legs of springhares give them incredible hopping power. They can leap up to three to four meters when escaping predators, something which is very important when you’re a rabbit sized herbivore. Springhares get all their water from their diet, which consists mainly of grass seeds and corms.
Most of springhares’ behaviour is centred around avoiding predators. Their nocturnal habits help keep them safe, and when they are above ground foraging, they usually stick together in groups of two to six animals. Their burrows are constructed to be very escapable; some springhare burrows have up to ten escape routes. Springhares will block many of the burrow entrances with soil, to foil predators that can enter burrows, such as mongooses and snakes.
Mating in springhares can occur at any time of the year. Females give birth to only one baby, but they usually have three pups a year. The babies’ eyes open after three days, and young leave their mothers after seven weeks. When the young springhares are weaned, they are almost fully grown, and are thus fairly well equipped to deal with predators.
Habitat loss and hunting pressure caused a decline in springhare populations in the 1990s, but the population has since stabilized, and they are now listed as least concern. Hooray for springhares!