Visitors to our place are always fascinated by the jackrabbits in our yard, especially city folks. In the early morning and evening, there are usually six to ten rabbits munching away at the grass. They really aren’t too bothered by people and don’t run unless you get within four feet of them. I guess they are more worried about the coyotes, foxes, bobcats, snakes, and hawks on the property. Those are real threats. But jackrabbits are ever alert and can zip off with amazing speed and long leaps.Jackrabbits are actually not rabbits but hares. Lepus californicus are the kind we have, with black tails. They do not burrow in the ground but use shallow depressions or a flattened nest of grass for sleeping and birthing. Their young are born fully furred and eyes open. Soon after birth, they must fend for themselves.
Six years ago a baby was born at the edge of our front porch. There is a step down. We found him or her up against the edge of that step. It stayed there for three days. Although the adults are pretty strange looking, this little one was cute. I’m sorry that I didn’t think to get a picture.
Even though they mate all year and have two to four in a litter, we’ve only seen that one young jackrabbit. They do grow quickly to adulthood within eight months.
Hares are generally larger than rabbits, with longer ears, and have black markings on their buff colored fur. Their ears are the same length as their hind feet. Out in the field they sit upright and still with their fur and ears blending right into the brush, or they flatten their ears against their back and scrunch down on the ground.
Jackrabbits are strict vegetarians. During the spring and summer, they feed on almost anything green that grows low on the ground. During the lean fall and winter months, they subsist on woody and dried vegetation. I don’t mind them eating our grass except for when they concentrate on one spot. One year they created a 10′ x 10′ bald spot in the yard. I tried scattering cut onions and anything else that smelled bad. Nothing stopped them.
The jackrabbit name came from their resemblance to both a jackass and a rabbit. They are nicknamed mule-eared rabbits. The cowboys used to call them muleys.
A crazy mythical character called a jackalope has the body of a jackrabbit with antlers on the head. Cowboys and early settlers told outlandish tales about jackalopes. For instance, a female jackalope could be milked and the milk used for medicinal purposes. Also, it was able to mimic sounds made by humans and other creatures. They could misdirect hunters by yelling, “Over there. It went that away.”
There are many statues of jackalopes in the western half of the US, from Wyoming to Texas. This one is in Fort Worth on Camp Bowie Boulevard. It was installed on the roof of the Jackalope Store, a pottery and gardening store, in 1982. It is 8′ tall and made of chicken wire, paper mache and fiberglass. It is now on top of a used car dealership.
The Jackrabbit embodies the summer struggle of survival in west and central Texas. The climate is harsh, extreme and not pretty, but jackrabbits and people are resilient and adaptable.
“The only difference between a tax man and a taxidermist is that the taxidermist leaves the skin.” Mark Twain