Springhare | African Wildlife Foundation

The springhare looks like a
kangaroo and rabbit hybrid

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Springhare

Conservation Status:

Least Threatened

  • Native to 8 African countries
  • Listed in 1996 as 'vulnerable'
  • Concentrations of 40 springhares are common

Quick Facts

Scientific name

Pedetes capensis

Weight

6 to 8 lb.

Size

17 in. long

Life span

Up to 8 years in captivity

Habitat

Dry savannas

Diet

Herbivorous

Gestation

2 to 3 months

Predators

Serval cats, caracals, wild cats, genets, mongooses, ratels, jackals, large owls

Habitat

Where do springhares live?

Springhares are found locally in the semiarid steppes and dry savannas of Kenya and Tanzania as well as in Southwestern Africa. Their distribution is scattered and limited to open areas free of rocks and large bushes (which would interfere with their leaping) and with sandy soil.

Tags: DRC, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Kazungula, Limpopo, Southern Africa, West/Central Africa View Africa | Habitat

Physical Characteristics

What is a springhare?

The unusual springhare, which appears to be a cross between a kangaroo and a rabbit, has caused scientists much confusion. It was once grouped with jerboas (jumping rodents), then with porcupines, then with scaly-tailed squirrels, until finally it was allotted its own family. The springhare’s large back legs enable it to make gigantic leaps, using its long tail for balance. Its much smaller forelimbs have very sharp claws, which it uses to dig. The springhare also possesses a flap of skin at the base of the ear that can be completely closed to prevent sand from getting into the inner ear.

Behavior & Diet

Spring hares are homebodies.

Spring hares eat the stems, roots, and sprouts of many plants as well as herbs and fruit. Normally, they do not roam more than 300 or 400 yards from their burrows; during periods of severe drought, springhares have been reported to travel 6 to 12 miles a night in search of food and water.

They are territorial.

Spring hares usually live in burrows, the entrance of which they plug up with sand once inside. Little is known about the social life of the springhare. Each burrow is inhabited by one animal, a female with its young or, at most, a pair with their young. Sometimes, fairly large concentrations of 30 to 40 springhares are found in an area, and their burrows may be linked. 

They are big babies. 

Three babies are usually born to a female per year. An infant at birth is well-developed, fully furred, and weighs about one-third the weight of an adult. It can sit on its hind legs immediately and can even run on the second day. Even so, the young are rarely seen when small and remain in the burrow until about half grown.

Spring hares can be awkward. 

Spring hares have a strange resting posture. They sit with their hind legs stretching forward and bodies bent between them, with the flat top of the head and ears in direct contact with the ground. This position seems to enable springhares to detect vibrations.

Gallery
  • Spring Hare Daryl and Sharna Balfour
  • Spring Hare Daryl and Sharna Balfour
  • Springhare AWF
  • Springhare AWF
Challenges

The springhare is losing living space.

Human settlement, ranching, and fencing of land results in loss of the springhare’s habitat.

They are often killed as pests.

As human settlement and agriculture expand and encroach on springhares’ habitats, hares may take to crop raiding and eat sweet potatoes, groundnuts, pumpkins, and the shoots of maize and wheat. In those cases, snaring and shooting can cause localized population depletion. 

Solutions

Our solutions to protecting the springhare:

  • Provide agricultural training.

    African Wildlife Foundation engages communities living near wildlife to create sustainable practices for agricultural and settlement growth by providing training on best practices and incentivizing conservation agriculture when appropriate. This helps increase agricultural and economic productivity while minimizing the land used for agriculture, giving wildlife more space to live.

  • Use technology to foster conservation.

    AWF uses technology to identify critical landscapes in need of intervention and then set sustainable development plans that will both improve the lives of people and protect wildlife. In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), we used Geographic Information System (GIS) technology and satellite images to determine what forest areas have been disturbed due to human activity.

Projects

Will you show the springhare your support?

With your help, AWF can work on critical initiatives like providing education for sustainable agriculture and using GIS technology to identify areas that need our intervention. Donate for a cause that will help with wildlife conservation and ensure the springhare does not become an endangered species. 

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