by Jacquie Rogers
Jackrabbits are ubiquitous all throughout central and western North America, but they’re not rabbits—they’re hares. Hares stand taller than rabbits and are generally more sleek, with quite long ears. Originally, they were called “jackass rabbits” because of their ears (Mark Twain used this reference in Roughing It) and eventually that was shortened to jackrabbit.
|Jim Harper – Wikipedia Commons|
Jackrabbits are essential to the food chain. They’re a prey animal, but the predator has to be pretty wily (and fast) to catch them. Wolves, coyotes, and badgers are their main enemies.
They’re herbivores, and eat a lot, have been known to wipe out entire crops; hence, Old West farmers considered them varmints and often kill them to keep the population down. Jackrabbits also provided a lot of meat for the stew pot, especially in lean times. So whether a blessing or a curse, jackrabbits do what jackrabbits do.
And what they do is multiply. Does can birth several litters of kits each year (gestation is 42 days), and a litter can have one to seven kits. The kits can hop within minutes of birth and their eyes are open, unlike rabbits. Camouflage is their friend and they instinctively freeze when danger is near. Unlike other mammals, the kits don’t need constant nursing, and the doe usually only feeds them at dawn and dusk. They don’t dig dens, but make nests in the grasses and bushes.
White-tailed jackrabbits are also prevalent in Owyhee County, where my Hearts of Owyhee series is set. They, as all jackrabbits, are nocturnal and stay in their nests during the day, emerging to feed at night. An adult jackrabbit can eat a pound of grasses and vegetation a day, which would be the equivalent of a 120-pound person eating 20 pounds of food a day. That is why they’re considered a nuisance.
|Wikipedia Commons – Connormah|
Who knows... jackrabbits just may show up in my next book, Much Ado About Mustangs, Hearts of Owyhee #5. I'll never tell.
Much Ado About Mustangs