112            California Hare

                           LEPUS CALIFORNICUS.--GRAY.

                               CALIFORNIAN HARE.
                           [Black-tailed Jack Rabbit]

                                  PLATE CXII.

     L. magnitudine L. glacialis, forma L. timide; supra flavescente-fuscus,
subtus albus, flavo valdetinctus.

     Nearly the size of the polar hare; dark brown on the back, light
brownish-red on the neck; lower parts deeply tinged with yellow.


     LEPUS CALIFORNICUS.  Gray, Mag. Nat. Hist. 1837, vol. i., new series,
       p. 586.
     LEPUS RICHARDSONII.  Bach. Jour. Acad. Nat. Sci., vol. viii. p. 88.
     LEPUS BENNETTII.  Gray, Zoology of the Voyage of H. M. S. Sulphur, Mamm.,
       p. 35, pl. 14, 1843.


     Head, small, and not elongated; ears, very large, much longer than the
head; eyes, very large; body, stout; limbs, long and slender; fur, of moderate
length; tail, long and flat; feet, rather small; legs and feet, thickly clothed
with short hairs nearly concealing the nails.


     The back, from the shoulder to the insertion of the tail, is strongly
marked with black and rufous-brown, the hairs being pale plumbeous for two
thirds of their length from the roots, then very pale brown, then black, then
yellowish-brown, and tipped with black.  Chest, sides of the body, and outer
surface of limbs, more or less rufous.  Abdomen, whitish tinged with buff; upper
surface of the tail blackish-brown, lower surface yellowish-white; around the
eye, pale buff; back of the neck, grayish cinnamon colour; legs and feet,
cinnamon.  The outer surface of the ears is longitudinally divided into two
colours, the anterior portion or half being grizzled reddish-brown, becoming
darker as it approaches the tip of the ear, the hairs being annulated with black
and pale yellow; the posterior portion dingy yellowish-white, growing lighter as
it approaches the tip, until it blends with the black colour which terminates
the upper half of the outside of the ear; the interior edge of the ear is pale
yellow, each hair slightly tipped with black; one half of the inner surface of
the ear is nearly naked, but covered with very delicate and short hairs, the
other portion thinly clothed with hair gradually thickening towards the outer
edge, where it is grizzly-brown; edge of the ear for two thirds from the head,
yellowish-white; the remainder to the tip, soft velvety black.  This black
colour extends in a large patch on to the outer surface of the ear at the tip.


                                                    Inches.     Lines.

     Length from point of nose to root of tail,  .  . 22           0
     Length from eye to point of nose,  .  .  .  .  .  2           1
     Height of ear, posteriorly,  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  5          10
     Heel, to point of middle claw,  .  .  .  .  .  .  4           8
     Tail, including hair,  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  3           3


     The habits of all hares are much the same; and this family is a general
favourite for the beauty, timid gentleness, and fleetness its various species
exhibit, although some of them are annoying to the gardener.  In America,
however, many species of Hare inhabit territories too far from cultivated fields
or gardens for them to be able to nibble even at a cabbage plant.
     Many pleasant evening hours have we passed, walking through forest-shaded
roads in the last rays scattered here and there by the sinking sun, observing
the playful "rabbits" leaping gracefully a few paces at a time, then stopping
and looking about, ignorant of our proximity and unconscious of danger.  But we
are now to give the habits of the Californian Hare, for which take the following
account of the animal as observed by J. W. AUDUBON:
     "The Californian Hare appears to possess just brains enough to make him the
greatest coward of all the tribe I have seen, for, once startled he is quite as
wild as a deer, and equally heedless as to the course he takes, so that as he
has not the keen sense of smell of the deer to warn him of danger in any
direction, he sometimes makes a great fool of himself in his haste, and I have
had these Hares run to within three feet of me, before I was seen, even where
there was no cover but a sparse prairie grass."
     "It was after toiling night and day through the sands of the Colorado
desert, and resting afterwards at Vallecito and San Felipe, while marching along
the streams through the rich fields of Santa Maria, that I saw the first
Californian Hare.  I knew him at sight:  he showed no white tail as he ran, and
looked almost black amongst the yellow broom-sedge as he divided it in his swift
course.  His legs seemed always under his body, for so quick was the movement
that I could not see them extended, as in other Hares, from one bound to
another; he seemed to alight on his feet perpendicularly at each leap, with a
low-squatting springy touch to the earth, and putting his enormously long ears
forward, and then back on his neck, and stretching out his head, appeared to fly
over the undulating ridges of the prairie as a swallow skims for insects the
surface of a sluggish river in summer."
     Very few of these Hares were seen by J. W. AUDUBON's party until they had
travelled some distance further north, and it was only after they had left the
plains of the San Joaquin for the mines that they became a common animal, and in
fact often their sole resource for the day's meat.
     J. W. AUDUBON says that a single Hare of this species, with a little fat
pork to fry it with, often lasted himself and a companion, as food when
travelling, for two days.  Nearly every miner has eaten of this fine Hare, which
is well known in all the hilly portions of Upper California.
     The Californian Hare brings forth about five young at a time, which are
generally littered in the latter part of April or beginning of May.  J. W.
AUDUBON says:  'I shot a female only a few days before her young would have been
born:  she had five beautiful little ones, the hair and feet perfect, and a
white spot on the forehead of each was prominent.  I never shot another
afterwards, and was sad at the havoc I had committed."
     We do not know whether this species breeds more than once in the year or
not, but it probably does, as Mr. PEALE says:  "A female killed on the
twenty-fourth of September was still suckling her young."
     The Californian Hare is more frequently met with in uplands, on mountain
sides, and in bushy places, than in other situations.  During the rainy season
it was not seen by J. W. AUDUBON in low and wet grounds, although it doubtless
resorts to them during the dry weather of summer.
     Mr. PEALE says, these Hares "when running, carry the ears erect, and make
three short and one long leap; and that the Indians catch them by setting hedges
of thorny brush, with openings at intervals, in which they set snares, so
constructed as to catch the Hares when passing, without the use of springes; the
noose is made of a substance like hemp, very strong and neatly twisted with

                           GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION.

     This species was seen by J. W. AUDUBON during his journey from Texas to
California; it was first met to the northward of the Colorado desert, and was
quite abundant as the party approached the mining districts of California, where
it was found as far north as the American fork; it was met with in the southern
parts of Oregon by the United States Exploring Expedition.  We are not informed
whether it exists to the eastward of the Nevada range of mountains.

                                GENERAL REMARKS.

     This Hare was first obtained by Mr. DOUGLAS, and scat with other animals
from California to England.  It was described by Mr. GRAY, and being, from its
large size and rich colouring, one of the most conspicuous among the North
American Hares, we regret that that eminent naturalist should have also (by some
mistake) given it the name of L. Bennettii, and for ourselves we must plead
guilty to having erroneously named it L. Richardsonii.  The identity of this
beautiful animal has been also somewhat obscured by Mr. PEALE, who confounded it
with a species from the Cape of Good Hope, which bears the name of
Longicaudatus, and was described in London.