Rabbits are small furry mammals that belong to the family Leporidae. This family consists of around eleven genera with almost 50 species of rabbits and hares. The genus Lepus in this family is composed of hares, which are distinguished from rabbits with their large body size, big ears and long hind legs. Unlike rabbits, hares give birth to young ones with fur and open eyes. The genus Lepus has ten sub-species and Macrotolagus is one among them. This sub genus has a single species, which is named Lepus alleni or antelope jackrabbit. Though it is named as rabbit, the animal is actually a hare and is found in North America.
What is an Antelope Jackrabbit
As mentioned above, antelope jackrabbit is a hare that is native to North America and is found in regions like Sinaloa, Sonora, Nayarit, Chihuahua and Arizona. The hare is named after antelopes, which are fast-running animals. Antelope jackrabbits too are known for their ability to run and leap fast. Like antelopes, these hares are also found to show flashes of their white underside, as they run. Antelope jackrabbit is one of the five species of jackrabbits that are found in different parts of North America. In fact, this species is among the largest hares in this region.
The name jackrabbit is said to be derived from the large size of their ears. According to the locals, the large ears of these mammals resemble donkey ears. So, the early settlers called this animal jackass rabbit, which was later shortened to jackrabbit. In short, a jackrabbit is a hare with large ears and long hind legs. They are larger in size, as compared to rabbits and make their nests above the ground.
Being a hare, antelope jackrabbits have large ears and long hind legs. The ears of an adult can be as long as eight inches. Whitish in color, the ears are almost devoid of hair. However, the upper edges of the ears have white hair and so the ear tips appear whitish. This is uncommon in most hares, which are found with blackish ear tips. These animals have a sandy coat with whitish or grayish flanks and underside. Their body length may range form 18 to 25 inches and they may grow to a weight of around 3 to 5 kilograms. While, the length of the front legs may range from 4 to 8 inches, in case of hind legs, it is around 8 to 12 inches. The tail of antelope jackrabbits are found to have a blackish color on the dorsal side.
Some Antelope Jackrabbit Facts
Though, these animals are found to thrive in a wide range of habitats, they are mainly seen in plains and small grassy hills. Even deserts with grass and shrubs are found to be inhabited with these animals.
These animals mainly feed on fresh grass and other vegetation. During drought, they include cacti and shrubs, like mesquite and creosote in their diet. Antelope jackrabbits are not found to consume water actively, as most of the required water is absorbed from their food.
There are certain antelope jackrabbit adaptations that are vital for their survival in the above said habitat. Apart from hearing, their ears help in regulating body heat. Even the fur of the animal has reflecting and insulating properties that save them from heat.
Though, there is very less information about their communication, it is said that sounds are not usually used. They release some pheromones that are used for marking their shelter. Scents released by their body glands are also used for sexual communication. Even drumming of feet could be a part of their communication.
Reproduction: During the mating season, the males may fight with each other using their hind feet for kicking and forefeet for boxing. The gestation period for these animals is around six weeks and an average female antelope rabbit may produce three to four litters per year.
A litter may contain 1 to 5 young ones. The young ones are referred to as leverets that are weaned within a few days after birth. Males do not have any role in taking care of the young.
The above said is only a brief overview about some antelope jackrabbit facts. Very less information is available about these animals, as it is difficult to raise them in captivity. If you are interested in knowing more about these animals, you may conduct a deeper study about them.