Can rabbits breed with hares?

Last Updated on June 22, 2023 by Admin

Although rabbits and hares belong to the same Leporidae family of the order Lagomorpha, they’re totally different species. All the 305 domestic rabbit breeds and even cottontails (wild rabbits) are descendants of the European rabbit, while hares or jackrabbits are descendants of the Lepus genus. So can rabbits breed with hares? The short answer is no. The two species are genetically incompatible as we shall discuss in great detail.

Why rabbits can’t breed with hares

Rabbit’s DNA is totally different from that of hares or jackrabbits. To be specific, rabbits have 44 chromosomes while hares have 48. In the event that they do mate, which is highly unlikely, the resulting embryos won’t survive due to the difference in the number of pairing chromosomes which results in fewer cell divisions.


Are hares and rabbits genetically related?

No, as a matter of fact, they’re genetically incompatible. Although they’re in the same family of Leporidae, they’re totally different species. According to fossil records, the hare and rabbit’s earliest ancestors lived 55 million years ago.


What are the similarities between rabbits and hares?

Rabbits and hares are prey animals that come from the same family Leporidae. Both animals also rely on their agility to evade being captured by predators. Both rabbits and hares have powerful legs that help them bolt. Another similarity is that they each have long ears and panoramic eyesight that help them have a wide view of their surroundings.


What are the differences between rabbits and hares?


In terms of differences, rabbits tend to be smaller in size and have slightly smaller ears and hind legs compared to hares. Rabbits also live in groups mainly in underground tunnels (warrens), with the exception of one rabbit species (cottontails). Hares on the other hand are solitary or live in pairs in nests above ground.

When it comes to gestation, a rabbit’s pregnancy lasts for 30 to 31 days while hares take 42 days. After birth, the other difference between the two species of newborns is that a rabbit’s young one (kitten) is usually born undeveloped, with its eyes closed and without any fur. In other words, kittens are basically unable to regulate their temperature simply because they lack fur.

On the other hand, a hares young one (leverets) is fully developed when born, with open eyes and a body full of fur. In terms of temperament, rabbits are less skittish than hares. The latter tends to spook and get stressed easily and can never relax in the presence of humans or most animals. Therefore, unlike rabbits, hares don’t make great pets.

During mating season, rabbits are less picky when choosing their mates. On the contrary, hare’s behavior involves a lot of leaping in the air and males chasing after females in order to mate. However, if a jack (male hare) fails to catch a female after a chase, then the Jill (female hare) will turn down their advances. This is usually a clear indication of how natural selection values speed when it comes to the survival of the hare species. In the event that a female rabbit isn’t ready to mate, she may stand upright and punch a jack that wants to chase or mate with her.


Can domestic and wild rabbits breed in the US?

Wild rabbits in the United States are incapable of breeding with their domestic counterparts mainly because they’re cottontails (Sylvilagus) and not European rabbits. In other words, wild rabbits in the US are a different species from domestic rabbits due to their DNA incompatibility. To be specific, cottontails or wild American rabbits have 21 chromosome pairs while European rabbits have 22 pairs.


Can domestic and wild rabbits breed in the UK? 

Yes, domestic rabbits can breed with their wild cousins in the UK. This is simply because wild rabbits are descendants of the European rabbit ( Oryctolagus cuniculus). In other words, interbreeding is possible since both wild and domestic rabbits in the UK have similar DNA. According to recent statistics, there has been quite a number of cases where domestic rabbits that escaped or were released by their owners in the UK, have bred with wild rabbits.


Can you crossbreed a rabbit?


Yes, you can crossbreed a rabbit, however, provided that both breeds are not closely related. They should be at least 4 generations apart. The main advantage of crossbreeding is that it typically reestablishes rare breeds or good rabbit genes.

Is a jackrabbit a hare?


Yes, jackrabbits are hares and not rabbits contrary to their name. There are six different species of jackrabbits, four of which live in North America’s deserts and open plains. The other two species are mainly found in Mexico.



Can hares be domesticated?

Hares will make bad domestic animals since they’re skittish even when domesticated at a young age. In addition, keeping them cooped up in a cage often stresses them out. In addition, most hares prefer solitude and a lot of space to exercise. The other downside is that hares tend to carry diseases such as tularemia, myxomatosis, or rabbit hemorrhagic disease 2.


How do you tell if a bunny is wild or domestic?

Although the two look similar, if you’re keen enough, you can tell them apart. For starters, domestic rabbits’ cheeks are plumper and they also have round wide eyes compared to their wild cousins. In addition, the latter tend to have narrow faces and are typically more skittish than domestic rabbits.



Hopefully, we’ve answered the question, can rabbits breed with hares, in addition to drawing a distinction between hares, wild and domestic rabbits. In summary rabbits and hares are totally different species that can’t bond let alone breed.



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