Vanishing Species – Hispid Hare


An Article by Mohan Pai
The Hispid Hare or Assam Rabbit

(Caprolagus hispidius)


Hispid hare is a rare and endangered species
almost on the verge of extinction.

During the mid-1960s there was speculation that the Hispid Hare had gone extinct, however, the capture of a live specimen in 1971 in the Barnadi Wildlife Sanctuary, northwest Assam, confirmed that the species was persisting. Though there is no information available on exact number of individuals in any areas of the range of the Hispid Hare, little doubt exists that the species has experienced a dramatic decline due to habitat loss in recent years.

What we call in Hindi as Khargosh and Khargorkata in Assamese is not a rabbit but a hare. True rabbits (Oryctolagus) do not occur in the Indian subcontinent. Hispid Hare, also called Assam Rabbit distributed along the foothills of the Himalayas from Uttar Pradesh to Assam and is a is a rare and critically endangered species.
A large grassland logomorph it has black hair predominantly brown dorsal coat and white belly. It has shorter or more rounded ears, and smaller hind legs and a much shorter tail than the Indian Hare.

Very little is known of the habits of this species though it has been reported sporadically from the grass jungles of Terai and Duars in Assam..The Hispid Hare was formerly widely distributed but its habitat is much reduced and degraded by deforestation, cultivation, and human settlement, and now it is confined to isolated regions in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Assam.

The hispid hare is also called the “bristly rabbit” because it has coarse, dark brown hair. It’s ears are short, and its back legs are not much larger than the front legs. It weighs about 2.5 kg (5.5 lb). It prefers tall grass-scrub savanna, in flat, well-drained and thinly forested country. It is not gregarious, but sometimes lives in pairs. Its diet consists mainly of bark, shoots and roots of grasses, including thatch species, and occasionally crops.
The hispid hare was formerly found from Uttar Pradesh to Assam (India) along the Himalayan foothills, and south to Dacca in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). In 1964, it was feared by some to be extinct, or nearly so, but by 1966 it was thought still to exist in a few isolated parts of its range along the foothills of the Himalayas in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Assam. In 1990 the areas from which it had been recently recorded included Assam, northwest Bengal, northwest Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and the Terai area of southern and southwest Nepal.
The main reasons for its decline include habitat (elephant grass land) loss, mainly for cultivation, forestry, grazing and the burning of thatch; human settlement; hunting for food and to protect crops; and predation by dogs. In addition, human-induced changes in seasonal flooding have favored the later stages of vegetation succession which the hispid hare does not prefer.
About Rabbits

0 The Hispid hare is one of the world’s rarest mammals.

0 The Hispid hare is actually a rabbit (see next item).

0 Rabbits (belonging to many different genera) vs. Hares (all in the genus Lepus):

The major differences between rabbits and hares include: 1.) their methods in avoiding predators (rabbits hide in dense vegetation or burrows; hares have longer legs and try to outrun predators), and 2.) the characteristics of their young at birth (newborn rabbits (“kittens”) are born naked and with their eyes closed; newborn hares (“leverets”) are better developed – their eyes are open and they can move around with some degree of coordination)

For an interesting and informative article of G. Maheswaran on the Hispid Hare (Sanctuary Feature) please log on to:http://www.sanctuaryasia.com/features/detailfeatures.php?id=258

 

References: Animal Info, IUCN Red List, “The Book of Indian Mammals” by S. H. Prater.

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1 Response to “Vanishing Species – Hispid Hare”


  1. 1 RRj June 2, 2009 at 3:38 am

    Thanks for your articles.


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