Animal-World’s Featured Animal for this week is:
The Jack Rabbit!
I thought that an appropriate Featured Animal of the Week would be a Jack Rabbit – in the spirit of Easter! Jack Rabbits are not typically kept as pets, however they are widespread in their natural habitats. Many people probably associate a Jack Rabbit with the famous “Tortoise and Hare” tale, where the two animals race against each other. Ultimately the tortoise wins because he is “slow and steady,” whereas the hare uses all his energy up at the beginning of the race. Jack Rabbits are hares, meaning they do not build nests like other rabbits and their babies are born with all of their fur and eyes open. This is not the case with most rabbits. I am going to focus on the Black-tailed Jack Rabbit, scientific name Lepus californicus, because this one is the most common. The Black-tailed Jack Rabbit lives in the deserts of the 4 southwestern states and Northern Mexico. They are quite adaptable and can thrive in areas inhabited by humans as well.
These Jack Rabbits usually have a salt and pepper look with colors of brown and silver and very long brown ears. There is a black stripe going down the tail. Their long ears are to help regulate their temperatures by increasing or decreasing blood flow to them. This is helpful in the desert because of the very hot days and cold nights. They have a lifespan of approximately 1-5 years in the wild (somewhat longer in captivity) and breed prolifically. They usually have four to six litters a year, averaging 2-4 young, or leverets. The mother stops nursing them after 1 month of age. These babies reach sexual maturity by about 8 to 12 months of age and can start breeding soon after this. Males can reach up to 11 pounds and females can reach up to 13 pounds at maturity. Their lengths can reach 28 inches with 5 inch tails.
They have many natural enemies who will prey on them, including coyotes, foxes, hawks, snakes, bobcats, and even human hunters. Jack Rabbits are quite fast, reaching speeds of 36 miles per hour to escape predators. They can also leap about 20 feet into the air. These are just some of the many defensive tactics to help keep themselves safe. They prefer grasslands and large empty areas so they can spot enemies before the enemies spot them. They also spend most of their days crouched down with their ears flat against their backs which helps them to blend in. They mostly are active only at night as well.
Jack Rabbits are herbivores and eat only vegetables, fruits, herbs, grasses, leaves, and shrubs. They eat some of their poop as well, which helps them retain water and get the maximum moisture from their food. In this way they don’t have to drink much water, if any, at all. It is especially helpful in the desert where there often is not much water. Jack Rabbits are considered a problem in agricultural areas because they will snack on many crops and can make huge dents in them. Fences are put up to try and keep them out, however this often does not work and poison is used instead.
Although Jack Rabbits are not kept as pets, if you would like to read more about domestic pet rabbits, check out Animal-World’s World of Pet Rabbits!
Jasmine is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.