Traditional use of hares for clothing was limited because of the fragility of the skin. The skins were used for children's clothing, for socks ('stockings') and mittens, and to make warm and comfortable sleeping bags for children.

Sometimes the hare skins were used for making pants in imitation of polar-bear-skin pants, which were the sign of a good hunter.

Arctic hare fur was used to trim traditional Copper Inuit dancing caps. It is still used in many northern communities to trim parka hoods for women, younger children and dolls.
Traditional use of hares for clothing was limited because of the fragility of the skin. The skins were used for children's clothing, for socks ('stockings') and mittens, and to make warm and comfortable sleeping bags for children.

Sometimes the hare skins were used for making pants in imitation of polar-bear-skin pants, which were the sign of a good hunter.

Arctic hare fur was used to trim traditional Copper Inuit dancing caps. It is still used in many northern communities to trim parka hoods for women, younger children and dolls.

© 2004, Canadian Museum of Nature. All Rights Reserved.

Mittens

Sealskin mittens trimmed with Arctic hare (Lepus arcticus) skins by Labrador Innu in 1914.

Canadian Museum of Civilization

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© Canadian Museum of Civilization


Headband

This headband of caribou (Rangifer tarandus) and young Arctic hare (Lepus arcticus) fur is decorated with Arctic hare ear-tips. The headband was collected near Pond Inlet in 1910 during Captain Bernier's expedition to what is now Nunavut.

Canadian Museum of Civlization

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© Canadian Museum of Civilization


A traditional Copper Inuit dancing cap, trimmed around the face with Arctic hare (Lepus arcticus) fur. The artist is June Klengenberg and the dancer is Nellie Hikok, both of Kugluktuk, Nunavut.

Image credits: David R. Gray, Artist: June Klengenberg, Dancer: Nellie Hikok
Canadian Museum of Nature

© 2004, Canadian Museum of Nature. All Rights Reserved.


Hunters in the Pond Inlet area in Nunavut used the warm and soft hare skins to keep their feet warm while standing for long hours hunting at seal holes. They would make pads out of the skins to stand on, and sometimes they made covers like slippers to wear over their kamiks (footwear).

Seal hunters would often hide from seals behind a white sail, hoping to camouflage themselves against the snowy landscape. They preferred to use Arctic hare skins because they are much whiter than Arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus), dog (Canis familiaris) or polar bear (Ursus maritimus) skins.

Tiny tufts of Arctic hare fur were sometimes used in making the delicate indicator that tells a hunter when a seal is rising in the hole.

An Arctic hare's hind foot can be used as a brush for cleaning clothes or a spotting-scope lens.
Hunters in the Pond Inlet area in Nunavut used the warm and soft hare skins to keep their feet warm while standing for long hours hunting at seal holes. They would make pads out of the skins to stand on, and sometimes they made covers like slippers to wear over their kamiks (footwear).

Seal hunters would often hide from seals behind a white sail, hoping to camouflage themselves against the snowy landscape. They preferred to use Arctic hare skins because they are much whiter than Arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus), dog (Canis familiaris) or polar bear (Ursus maritimus) skins.

Tiny tufts of Arctic hare fur were sometimes used in making the delicate indicator that tells a hunter when a seal is rising in the hole.

An Arctic hare's hind foot can be used as a brush for cleaning clothes or a spotting-scope lens.

© 2004, Canadian Museum of Nature. All Rights Reserved.

The soft pliable skins or subcutaneous membranes of the Arctic hare (Lepus arcticus) were commonly used to heal cuts and boils. The under-fur was used for bandages. The mammary glands of nursing female hares were thought to have many useful powers: they were used to help mothers produce more-nourishing milk and to counteract stomach aches.
The soft pliable skins or subcutaneous membranes of the Arctic hare (Lepus arcticus) were commonly used to heal cuts and boils. The under-fur was used for bandages. The mammary glands of nursing female hares were thought to have many useful powers: they were used to help mothers produce more-nourishing milk and to counteract stomach aches.

© 2004, Canadian Museum of Nature. All Rights Reserved.

Archaeological evidence from sites up to 1000 years old suggests that people of the Thule culture caught large numbers of Arctic hares (Lepus arcticus). Similar evidence and oral history tell us that the Inuit also hunted and used hares for food. Inuit traditionally made full use of all parts of the animals they killed.

For residents of Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and Nunavik in Quebec, the Arctic hare has never been a primary source of food, and historically, hunters seldom went out specifically to hunt hares. However, the animal is still today a welcome addition to their diet when the opportunity arises. In times when primary food sources such as caribou and seals are scarce, the Arctic hare becomes more important.

Despite the dearth of historical documents that refer to the use of Arctic hares for food in Newfoundland and Labrador in the 20th century, we know they were commonly eaten there. A letter written to the federal government in 1948 by an experienced trapper ("Bush Man"), Harry Young, protests the decrease in prices at which trappers were able to sell Arctic hares ("Jack Rabbits") and snowshoe hares ("Rabbits"). Read More
Archaeological evidence from sites up to 1000 years old suggests that people of the Thule culture caught large numbers of Arctic hares (Lepus arcticus). Similar evidence and oral history tell us that the Inuit also hunted and used hares for food. Inuit traditionally made full use of all parts of the animals they killed.

For residents of Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and Nunavik in Quebec, the Arctic hare has never been a primary source of food, and historically, hunters seldom went out specifically to hunt hares. However, the animal is still today a welcome addition to their diet when the opportunity arises. In times when primary food sources such as caribou and seals are scarce, the Arctic hare becomes more important.

Despite the dearth of historical documents that refer to the use of Arctic hares for food in Newfoundland and Labrador in the 20th century, we know they were commonly eaten there. A letter written to the federal government in 1948 by an experienced trapper ("Bush Man"), Harry Young, protests the decrease in prices at which trappers were able to sell Arctic hares ("Jack Rabbits") and snowshoe hares ("Rabbits").

... lots of time we get a storm of snow and we are 2 and 3 day diging hour slips [snares] out of the snow it not paying very good then and Jack Rabbitts [Arctic hares] $1.20 per Brace [two hares] there very few in this cuntry he keeps on high Cuntry and foxes is very plenty full and destry them. We could get $2.00 per Brace for them, now $1.20 that not good enoft for the poor Bush Man.

The official response to Harry's letter from the Chief Game Warden expressed little sympathy for the low prices, and also cautioned Harry that he could be prosecuted for taking Arctic hares, as there was a closed season on them and had been for some time.

© 2004, Canadian Museum of Nature. All Rights Reserved.

Arctic Hare

Idlout, an Inuk hunter from Pond Inlet (now in Nunavut), peeling skins from Arctic hares (Lepus arcticus) that were shot to feed his family in 1954.

Image credits: Douglas Wilkinson
Canadian Museum of Nature

© 2004, Canadian Museum of Nature. All Rights Reserved.


The string figure known as Ukaliq or 'The Rabbit' is known from Alaska to Hudson Bay and Baffin Island, Nunavut. This is a relatively simple figure but there are at least two different methods of creating it. There is also a different form of 'Rabbit' and a more complicated figure called 'The Ptarmigan and the Rabbit', in which the rabbit is made to 'run' off after frightening the bird. (Arctic hares are known as 'rabbits' in the North).

String figures were an important pastime for Inuit during the dark period of the Arctic winter and poor weather in summer. Today, Inuit Elders and youth alike maintain the traditions of learning and sharing the joys of creating and teaching string figures and games.

An Arctic hare (Lepus arcticus) skull is the main component in one version of a traditional Inuit game called ajagak, a form of the ball-and-pin game that is also known as bilboquet. The 'pin' is a pointed long-bone. The 'ball' is a skull, and it is attached to the bone by a string. The player attempts to flip the skull so that it lands with the pin poking into a hole in the skull. The player attempts to pin the holes in a prescribed order.
The string figure known as Ukaliq or 'The Rabbit' is known from Alaska to Hudson Bay and Baffin Island, Nunavut. This is a relatively simple figure but there are at least two different methods of creating it. There is also a different form of 'Rabbit' and a more complicated figure called 'The Ptarmigan and the Rabbit', in which the rabbit is made to 'run' off after frightening the bird. (Arctic hares are known as 'rabbits' in the North).

String figures were an important pastime for Inuit during the dark period of the Arctic winter and poor weather in summer. Today, Inuit Elders and youth alike maintain the traditions of learning and sharing the joys of creating and teaching string figures and games.

An Arctic hare (Lepus arcticus) skull is the main component in one version of a traditional Inuit game called ajagak, a form of the ball-and-pin game that is also known as bilboquet. The 'pin' is a pointed long-bone. The 'ball' is a skull, and it is attached to the bone by a string. The player attempts to flip the skull so that it lands with the pin poking into a hole in the skull. The player attempts to pin the holes in a prescribed order.

© 2004, Canadian Museum of Nature. All Rights Reserved.

Arctic Hare

This game of ajagak (or bilboquet) was made from an Arctic hare (Lepus arcticus) skull and leg bone by Labrador Inuit, about 1921.

Image credits: Canadian Museum of Civilization

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© Canadian Museum of Civilization


Bilboquet

This young Inuk is playing ajagak (or bilboquet) with an Arctic hare skull and bone at the Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum in Iqaluit, Nunavut.

Image credits: David R. Gray
Canadian Museum of Nature

© 2004, Canadian Museum of Nature. All Rights Reserved.


String Game

Elder Francis Kaput forming the string figure 'Ukaliq' (Arctic hare) and making it move. Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, in 2004.

Image Credits: David R. Gray

© 2004, Canadian Museum of Nature. All Rights Reserved.


Learning Objectives

The learner will be able to:
  • name at least three traditional uses for arctic hare;
  • comment on the use of the arctic hare as food.

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