Saturday, August 07, 2010

A Solitary Hare

I used to think that "hare" was a synonym for "rabbit." I also had never unpacked the fact behind the expression "mad as a March hare." I thought about both of these hare-related data points as I drove slowly home with one zig zagging along the road in front of me. The roads up here are good, if narrow, but have to be shared with all critters who happen to be passing that way. In the twilight that harbingers the long summer days conceding to the coming of the long dark, we drove home from visiting nearby. A car made its presence felt with its headlights and slid past us as we turned on to the road home.

A hard working nearly grown cat hunkered down by the side of the road--her presence manifest first by the reflective glow of her eyes. I watched as she leapt onto the nearby stone wall and watched us with what was probably annoyance. I suspect we disturbed her hunting and her erstwhile dinner had scuttled back into the safety of the tall grasses in the time it took us to slide by.

Nearby sheep had settled quietly into sleep so they showed no interest in claiming any part of the road. And then in front of me a huddled rabbit shape, or so I thought, until the tell tale long legs of the hare unfolded as he moved at an unhurried pace down the middle of the road. Since it was just this solitary hare and our car sharing the road, we moved along companionably at his speed,which in this case was remarkably un-hare like. Hares can move much much faster than their rabbit cousins. When they unfold their exaggerated back legs, it is like watching a cheetah streak across the fields--designed for an economy of motion, each stride a marvel of bioengineering. But not tonight. Our hare eventually left the road and moved off into the darkening without ever attaining hare-speed. I was only slightly disappointed as I moved the car out of first gear and accelerated toward home.

In March or April --things sometimes happen a bit later up here--I have seen hares do what is best described as boxing. Pairs of hares sit on their back legs and wave their front paws in Marquis of Queensbury fashion toward each other. As with so many apparently bizarre behaviours, this has to do with sex. It is an overeager male being told by a female not to waste his time and energy yet.

Other than a glimpse of this boxing behaviour from the train heading down south some years ago now, I have never seen more than one hare at a time. I hope that there are other hares out there loping along roadsides or fields and then whatever shares their space gives them the room to grow.


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