Hares are just as prolific as rabbits but often live in vastly different areas. The Cape Hare favors dry, arid regions and has also earned the moniker, “Desert Hare.” They are athletic, adaptable, and solitary but have never been domesticated so you won’t find them at a breeder or shelter or in the U.S.A. at all. Very few Cape Hares are kept in captivity, but there are all sorts of interesting facts about this species that you should know.

Height:12–16 inches
Weight:8.8–11 pounds
Lifespan:1–5 years
Colors:Light brown
Suitable for:Rarely bred in captivity
Temperament:Athletic, adaptable, solitary, alert

The Cape Hare might look like everyone’s favorite pet rabbit—without the color variations that today’s breeds have—but they’re never kept as pets. The species is completely undomesticated and remains solely in the wild, particularly in desert-like areas.

In the wild, they forage for wild grasses and mushrooms while relying on their big ears, massive eyes, natural camouflage, and powerful hindlegs for survival. Despite their solitary nature, they are common sights in the wilds of Africa and nearby areas.

Cape Hare Characteristics

[yasr_multiset setid=7]


Temperament & Intelligence of the Cape Hare

Like most hares, Cape hares are timid animals known for being athletic and solitary. They do not tolerate being near humans for too long and usually flee at first sight. Their well-developed legs make them swift runners and their sharp hearing allows them to pick up even the slightest disturbance.

Cape hares will rest during the day in a secure place with their bodies resting on their legs. They only close their eyes when they feel safe enough to do so and keep their other senses alert. They hardly enter a deep sleep for very long and wake up periodically to be on the lookout for predators. Their coat color helps them blend into the surrounding vegetation and brown or sandy substrates.

When the Cape hare feels threatened, they usually stay still in their hiding place. They will leap and run very fast when they have been spotted in a safer area.

Do These Rabbits Make Good Pets?

Cape hares do not make good pets because they are not domesticated animals. There are few accounts of these hares being kept as pets and even fewer breeders or shelters that sell them. Cape hares can be found in a few wildlife rehabilitation centers, but they are not kept for companionship purposes. Those centers usually take in injured or abandoned Cape hares and rehabilitate them before returning them to their native habitats.

You should never capture Cape hares from the wild to keep them as pets. Aside from the legal issues, Cape hares do not belong in captivity where they will be highly stressed. They are nocturnal animals so it will be difficult to interact with them as pets. Cape hares are incredibly fast and easily stressed and will not enjoy being kept in a cage or room.

Does This Rabbit Get Along with Other Animals?

As prey animals, Cape hares do not get along well with other animals. Cape hares face predators like owls, foxes, and wild dogs in the wild so they need to be cautious and act quickly to survive. Furthermore, they are solitary animals that only pair together for mating purposes. Cape hares prefer to live alone where they roam their habitat in search of food at night.

Lepus capensis_Cape Hare
Image Credit: Shah Jahan, Wikimedia Commons


Things to Know About Cape Hare:

Food & Diet

Cape hares are herbivorous animals that eat various short grasses, twigs, mushrooms, vegetables, and berries. Their diet is considered low-quality but rich in fiber which they need for proper digestion. They graze throughout the night and lay under shrubs or in shallow depressions in the ground surrounded by bushes and short grass. Cape hares will eat their feces for additional nourishment. This behavior, known as coprophagy, is normal for most hares and rabbits and an important part of their digestive process.


Cape hares are located in different parts of the world—including South Africa, Asia, Cypress, and the Italian Sardinia islands. However, their most extensive habitat is in southern parts of Africa. Their native habitat consists of bushveld, grasslands, semi-deserts, and the Sahara desert.

They prefer a more arid and open terrain with short grasses and scrub-like vegetation. However, populations of Cape hares can be found in meadows, farmland, and sandy moors. Cape hares have been introduced into the United States and the United Kingdom, but they are not native species.

Population Threats

According to the IUCN red list, Cape hares are listed as the least concern. However, their population numbers are decreasing because of the following threats:

  • Hunting and trapping
  • Habitat loss
  • Road kills
  • Urban infrastructure developments
  • Invasive species and diseases

The exact population size of Cape hares altogether is unknown, but they are a widespread species. There seems to be a decreasing population of Cape hares in the southern region of Africa at around 10%. Their population size is high in southern Africa with an estimation of 100,000 or more Cape hares. They can be found in large populations throughout South Africa, where their numbers are least concerning. However, there is concern over Cape hare populations on Persian Gulf islands.

Humans are the main threat to Cape hares by road kills, urban developments, and hunting. Cape hares are also captured and killed for meat by the locals, as they are a source of fur and food. Sometimes, Cape hares will be captured and bred specifically to be eaten so that they do not need to be captured from the wild.

Close-up of Cape Hare
Image Credit: Bryony van der Merwe, Shutterstock

Mating Habits

Cape hares breed year-round, although they breed more prolifically during the rainy seasons. They are ready to breed as young as males and will follow female Cape hares during their oestrus cycle to mate. Otherwise, Cape hares will live a solitary lifestyle. These hares are ready to mate at around 6 to 8 months old. Their offspring are independent as young as 3 weeks old. Female Cape hares have a gestation period of around 42 days and give birth to one to six leverets (offspring) per litter.

Females may have four litters per year, but three is more common. The leverets are born with their eyes open and suckle on the mother for a few minutes each night. After 2 days, the leverets can move around and hear properly.

Male vs Female

The differences between male and female Cape hares are subtle. The jills are slightly larger than the jacks, which is a classic sign of sexual dimorphism. In terms of behavior, jacks can be observed following females to mate.


3 Little-Known Facts About Care Hares

1. Cape hares can run up to 48 miles per hour (m/h).

Capes hares are fast runners and great leapers, which is necessary if they want to escape predators quickly. They can run up to 48 m/h and leap 9 feet across using their powerful hind legs.

2. Cape hares should not be confused with rabbits.

Hares and rabbits are two different species of animals and cannot be used interchangeably. The Cape hare is not a type of rabbit and has different features and behaviors. One of the easiest ways to spot a hare is by looking at their ears. Hares often have longer ears than rabbits and a slenderer appearance.

3. There are numerous sub-species of Cape hares.

While the Cape hare refers to a species scientifically known as Lepus capensis, there are 12 known subspecies and possibly many more. Common subspecies of the Cape hare include the L. c. aquilo, L. c. capensis, and L. c. granti.


Final Thoughts

Cape hares are wild animals that have an extensive habitat range. Although Cape hares are interesting animals with an adorable appearance, they are not kept as pets and belong in the wild. These medium-sized hares are nocturnal and active at night, but they spend a good portion of their day alert.

Their long hind legs make them excellent runners and leapers, while their sharp eyes and hearing make them quick to react. Cape hares have a short lifespan of only 1 to 5 years in the wild.

Featured Image Credit: Cathy Withers-Clarke, Shutterstock