Black-Tailed Jackrabbit


Scientific Name

Lepus californicus

Species Survival Plan



Open grasslands and desert scrub


Coyote, fox, bobcat, snake, hawk, other birds of prey and man


Grasses and plants including cactus

Originally Native To

North America


24 inches


3 - 9 lb.


Long ears with black tips; back legs longer than front legs

Gestation Period

41 - 47 days

Birth Season

Several times per year


Wild 1 - 5 years / Captivity ?

Social Behavior

Generally solitary



Jackrabbits are not rabbits; they are actually hares, which are larger than rabbits and generally have longer ears and hind legs. Jackrabbits were named for their large ears, which help them lose heat and cool their body temperature ; black-tailed is one of six jackrabbit species.

They are fast animals, capable of running 40 miles per hour in short bursts. Those long back legs can propel them more than three feet in the air with leaps of more than 10 feet. Their habit of running in a zigzag pattern, combined with the leaps, helps in predator evasion.

Females are capable of giving birth up to four times per year with 1-6 young each time, and this rapid influx of animals with ravenous appetites can pose quite a problem to farmers. Females do not provide a nest for their young, which are raised with only the benefit of vegetative covering for protection. The babies, also called leverets, are born with hair and eyes wide open, which is characteristic of a hare.

Black-tailed jackrabbits are a common hare that inhabit American deserts, scrublands, and other open spaces, including farms. The hare’s preferred foods include grasses and other plants like cactus and sagebrush.

They will spend the hottest part of a summer’s day in a shallow depression under the shade. During the winter, they tend to seek shelter in taller grass to protect them from the chilling winds.

Feeding is carried out primarily in the late afternoon and nighttime hours. Its incisors never stop growing, so the hare must continually gnaw on vegetation to keep them worn down.

Their eyes are located on the sides of the head to allow them to see in all directions. This is mostly to detect movement rather than to get a sharp image.

Their sense of hearing and eyesight are quite developed, and observers will normally see their eyes and ears in near-constant motion, always checking out activity in their environment. This is because hares seem to be one of the most ideal food sources on the planet. Their common predators are coyotes, foxes, bobcats, hawks, and eagles.

The feces of jackrabbits include two types. The first is a softer pellet that still has vitamins and protein contained in it. This is consumed by the hare and the second time it passes through its system the protein and vitamins are absorbed before a dry pellet is excreted.

The black-tailed jackrabbit can swim by dog-paddling with all four feet.


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